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In Good Company (or, It’s All in the Hips)

January 31, 2011

This was an interesting week. After a week of being unable to run, I decided to jump-start my running week with an easy run on Sunday. I don’t usually run on Sunday, choosing instead to dedicate the entire day to family and worship. But I wanted to see how my body was feeling, and the day was cool-ish, and I had some things on my mind that had resulted in pent-up energy.

I ran four miles that day, and they weren’t particularly speedy, or particularly easy. There was more than one moment during that run when I felt like I had to hit the reset button, stopping to regroup before starting again. The entire four miles, not counting stops, took 39:17.

I got up early on Monday and went out again, ratcheting up the distance to five miles. Again, the running didn’t feel easy or smooth. I struggled to run from one mile marker to the next, and had to be satisfied to run close to ten-minute miles. But I was determined to finish the distance, and I accomplished that.

In the middle of my frustration at how difficult the miles felt, it felt good to be running at all, and I worked at embracing that feeling. No, I certainly didn’t feel like the runner I used to be, but running means a lot.

I took Tuesday off from running, doing some cross-training instead. On Wednesday I ran another 5 early in the morning before my physical therapy appointment. Again, my pace hovered right at ten-minute miles.

I thought about running Thursday so I could isolate the Saturday long run, but as I’m supposed to be training for a back-to-back event, I decided that it would probably be to my advantage to run on back-to back days. I texted Little G to see if she was running on Friday morning, and she was.

We met at “our” corner at 5am Friday and put in 6 miles. I was a little worried about bringing Little G’s pace down, but she told me I didn’t need to be concerned. She was planning to put in her long run that night so she could take Saturday off, so going slowly would work to her advantage. We started running and talking, and, like magic, the miles started ticking off. Not only did we log a 9:28 pace overall, mile 4 came in at 9:12—I remember the conversation we were talking about, and I guess I got a little overexcited. After I dropped her off at her place and ran the last mile on my own, I still did that one at 9:09 pace.

I couldn’t believe how much just having good company changed everything about the run for me. It’s not like my shins had been hurting the rest of the week; it was just a mental attitude about the sport. I was distracted from the amount of effort required to keep moving, and reminded of the blessing of good health and good friendship.

I ran on my own yesterday, a long run of 10 miles. Since I have a meeting on Saturday mornings, I didn’t get to the beachfront road until 10am. It was a beautiful day in South Florida, about 55 as I started, and clear and sunny. I changed into my running clothes and got going. Having run a grand total of 20 miles on the week, facing down 10 miles was tough. It just seemed like a long way. But I remembered that ten miles get run one mile at a time.

I planned a route that had me running two miles south, then returning to where I parked the car for my first drink of water and gel stop at mile four. Then I’d turn north for the next three miles and turn at the mile 7 marker to come back.

As I started I felt better than I thought. I never felt like I had to stop to gather my strength, though the beauty of the day meant that the road was full of bikers, walkers, and dogs, and I did have to walk at times to get through traffic. At times I looked down at Garmie and was shocked at the quickness of my pace; I felt like I had to remind myself that ten miles was a really long way, and I’d better slow down.

I took my first Hammer gel at mile 4. As I headed back out for the next three miles I wondered whether I’d have the steam for the next segment, and reminded myself to just run the mile I was in. Three miles passed quickly, and I turned at mile 7. I was still trying to keep an eye on my pace, though I knew I was on my way home. I took a gel at mile 8, and started to let my legs go faster. At mile 9 I stopped for water and gave my legs permission to push hard for home. My splits: 9:46, 9:48, 9:44, 9:24, 9:43, 9:49, 9:40, 9:14, 9:07, 8:00. Now, considering that my average pace during the week was 9:41 . . .

I know. Your pace for the long run is supposed to be a minute slower than your easy pace, not some fifteen seconds faster.

I’m incredibly encouraged by this run. Four weeks before race day, I ran ten miles at a decent pace, and I still managed to run a fast-paced last mile.

I do have a new secret. PT Doreen has discovered that part of my issue is a very tight IT band. So we’re working on loosening up and strengthening my hips. Some of the work is on weight machines that will help me get stronger; some of it is on the foam roller that will help me get looser. In addition to three-times weekly ab routines that will give me a stronger core, I’m also taking a weekly Pilates class. Our instructor asked us to think of our legs as starting just under our ribcage instead of at our hips, so that our stride gets its strength out of our core instead of just the legs. I’ve been working on this during my runs, especially the last third of the distance, and have discovered that it not only tends to speed me imperceptibly, but also changes my form—my posture improves and my foot falls much more naturally on my forefoot instead of my heel.

All these small changes will help me become, I hope, not only healthier but more competitive.

In the meantime, Little G and I made a horrible discovery when we went to register for Gasparilla yesterday—the Michelob Ultra challenge has sold out. Horror! We hurriedly signed up for the Bud Light challenge instead before that one could sell out. This is the same series I ran last year: 15k and 5k on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday. Though I would have liked to run the 8k as well and get the cooler, Ultra medal, I have to admit I’d been nervous about the challenge: the 8k starts only 2 and a half hours after the half marathon, so in order to run both races, I absolutely had to run the half sub-2, and that would be a challenge at my current level of fitness. I also know running that extra race really ups the chance of re-injury for me right now. So though initially I was very disappointed, I’m choosing to see this as a blessing. I’m still looking forward to doing this, especially with such a great training partner.

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