Monday, January 27, 2014

It was a cold one...

Photo from Marshalltown Chamber of Commerce

I'm a strong believer in Violating The Comfort Zone. And that happened, big time, this past weekend.

I had heard of a nearby race, the Marshalltown Chamburrr Scurry.  It was a 5K (my least favorite distance), so it didn't really grab my attention. I do, however, have a goal of doing 14 "official " events in 2014, so I reconsidered  and discovered it took place on a cross country course . Hmmm, that might make it interesting.
A runner friend, Barb, was interested in doing it, too.  Hmmmm....

The race was this past Saturday, and Barb and I didn't start talking about until last week. Neither of us wanted to commit to it, so it wasn't until Friday evening when we (officially) agreed to do it.

Kim and Barb, all nice and warm....before the race

This was a Comfort Zone Violation on many levels.  First of all, it was the dreaded 5K distance. I am not afraid of the 5K distance, but I detest racing it. Second, I'm not a sprinter. And third, my body typically needs a couple miles to get warmed up and even then I'm not running very fast.

This also was a trail race, which I have never done on frozen terrain. I love trail running because it's different from the usual pavement I run most of my miles upon. Trails, this time of year  (especially in Iowa), are covered with snow and ice. Hmmmmm....I am familiar with the elements. Bring it!

Another comfort zone issue was the spur-of-the-moment aspect. I usually have every event registered, paid for and documented on my calendar  well in advance. I'm also mentally prepared. Registering on site would be a new adventure.

The forcasted temps for Saturday were to be in the mid-20's, which would feel like a small heat wave given the single digit/subzero temps we have been experiencing for most of 2014. Let's just say Momma N had a different agenda. The temps actually were in the high teens, but with the extreme wind felt closer to zero (or colder).

Am I really gonna run a 5K in these Artic temps?

Thankfully, this was held on a community college campus so we had indoor accommodations prior to the start of the race. Check in went very smooth.  We received bags with decent swag (navy long-sleeved shirts, stocking hat, coupons, energy chews, etc.) and timing chips (a big plus for a relatively small race). Due to the extreme weather (plentiful ice patches), they shortened the course to 2.5 miles, so we'd be finished a tiny bit sooner. Not a problem.

The first mile or so was on the cross country trail (frozen ground).  We were headed east, with the wind at our backs, so it didn't feel so cold after all.  I could feel myself going a little faster than "normal," but it felt great.  There were maybe 15 people ahead of me (and several behind me), so I tried to keep up with them.

Then we hit the turn-around.  And we were headed back to the campus. Going west.  Directly into the wind. UGH.  Almost instantly, I had that sinking feeling where I really regret starting out too fast.  Damn 5K's, why do I attempt to run them?  I always end up frustrated and deflated.

This return trip was probably the worst running experience I have ever known.  The wind was an enormous force to run against, it felt like I was running in place because it took so much effort to just keep moving forward.  The frozen ground was very rough, making it difficult to maintain my balance.  I could feel (and hear) my breathing, my eyes were a blurry mess from the cold air, and my scarf kept deflecting my labored breaths up towards my sunglasses...and they were a fogged up mess as well.

I finally allowed myself to walk briefly, I was so winded (no pun intended) and my body felt like it was about to fall over from the wind.  As soon as I hit the pavement, and the course turned and went south, I almost yelled a big scream of victory.  Instantly, my legs sprung back to life.  I could feel the sun on my face.  All was right with the world again.

The final 1/2 mile was a giant loop around some of the campus buildings.  There was another brief  stint with the wind in my face, but knowing the finish line was near made it bearable.  Finally, I crossed the mat and promptly headed inside.  It took several minutes for my breathing to return back to normal.  I didn't realize how much I had been pushing myself.  I usually finish races somewhat out of breath, but I was really out of it this time.  And my headband had pushed itself (or maybe it was from the wind) almost off my head. My hair was sticking up in a most interesting, though amusing, fashion.

My official finish time was 20:02, which translates to an 8-minute pace.  I have not run an 8-minute pace ever in my life, especially for a short race.  Damn.  I finished second in my age group, the gal ahead of me finished in 17:40, so she was never in my sight LOL.  Normally, I'd be disappointed to miss that 1st place finish, but to finish with an 8-minute pace (in the wind, cold temps, with a brief walk thrown in there) felt pretty amazing.  Barb also finished second in her age group, so it was a grand day for both of us!  Maybe 5K's aren't so bad after all.

WHEW!  We finished!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kim vs. Treadmill....Truce?

(( light bulb ))

Yes, I think I had a light bulb moment recently.

I have had a most severe love/hate thing going on with my treadmill.  I LOVED it dearly 8 years ago, when I first discovered the magic of running.  It was my best friend, and I ran on it exclusively and faithfully for an entire year.  Things were great.

Then I ventured outside.  It took some getting used to, but I grew to really LOVE the great outdoors even more than the treadmill inside.  Fresh air, beautiful scenery and the open road.  Perfection.

When the weather grew cold, I went back inside and fired up the 'mill......and things were never the same. I could not get the speed setting to feel right. It was too fast, then too slow, then way too fast.  It was hot inside, too, and oh so boring.  My solution? Run outside, year-round.  Problem solved.

I have tried to re-kindle my friendship with my treadmill, several times, all of them unsuccessful.  After doing so many miles outside with constantly changing scenery, the confines of the treadmill  were just too restrictive for me.  No matter how fast my legs carried me on the treadmill....I never really went anywhere, you know?  It felt like a constant stepping motion, but not really "running."  And, for me, if the scenery isn't really moving, then I'm not either.

I know many people can surrender themselves to the 'mill, and just go through the motions.  I'm not one of them. For it to feel like a "real run,"  I have to be running somewhere, not just running in place. 

Until this week.

It's been very cold in Iowa the past couple weeks, and I've been battling a nasty head cold.  In hopes of recovering (and not rebounding), I've taken my running inside. UGH.  I can make it 4 miles before I start hallucinating on the treadmill (no exaggeration), so it has not been an enjoyable experience...until one night I played with the speed settings.

I've heard of interval training, but have never tried it.  I know the treadmill is great for intervals, though, because it controls the speed of the runner, and keeps the speed consistent.

I put the incline on 3, set the speed to 6 (10-minute pace) and started going.  After one loop (1/4 mile), I bumped the speed up to 7 (about 8:30 pace) and did a loop at that speed.  I  then did the third loop back at the 6 setting.  I continued, alternating between the 6 and 7 settings for the duration of 2 miles, changing the speed after each loop (basically, changing the speed every 1/4 mile).  A 10-minute pace is pretty easy for me, but it always seems more difficult on the treadmill than it does outside.  An 8:30 pace wasn't much of a challenge either, but it was a good speed to experiment with for my first time doing  intervals. I know I can go faster, but my piriformis issue has slowed me down this past year, and I don't want to go too fast too soon and complicate the problem further.

It felt so good to be in control of my run.  Usually, when I'm on the treadmill, I feel a prisoner being forced to do something totally unnatural.  I'm always worried about stubbing my toes or losing my balance.  And I get so frustrated watching the little red dots going around (ever-so-slowly) on the display as I (ever so slowly) work my way around each imaginary loop on this imaginary track.  Changing the speed put me back in control, and the time went much faster than I could have imagined.  Before I knew it, the two miles were complete and I felt great.

For the first time in almost seven years, I stepped off the treadmill with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.  Since I just cannot wrap my head around the concept that treadmill running is "real" running, I'm just gonna call it speed work (for now) and treat it as a "workout" and not a "run."  That's the best I can do with my anti-treadmill attitude.  I doubt I'll do any long distances on the treadmill, but I think I can handle a lot of short distances at varying speeds.  And the speed work will enhance my long-distance this is really a win-win for me.

Finally!  I think I can call the treadmill my friend....again.