Last Sunday after my 8k LSD (Long Slow Distance...not the drug ;) ), I decided to try getting onto the Valley Harvest Half Marathon schedule so I'd have some kind of goal for the fall to work towards. Unfortunately, this means that I am entering the program in week 8 of an 18 week program, so just about halfway, but I figure what the heck -- at the worst, I'll do a slow half. It beats doing nothing at all.
So on Wednesday of last week after work, I was about to head out for a 4k tempo run when hubby (who was cooking us supper) realised that we were fresh out of garlic. Funny how some things, you seem to always have in the cupboard, until you need it. Same with olive oil, at least in our household, for some reason.
No worries, I said, I'll just run to the grocery store to pick it up and run home (the kitchen was already full of the smells of cooking, so time was of the essence).
I popped my ear buds into my ears, turned on my music, and headed up the hill out of our neighbourhood. The thing about that hill is, it's a long steep gradual incline that doesn't seem like much, but once you get to the top, you usually realise you're only running around 7:20 or slower. Good hill training, I guess.
But once I got to the top and the music was playing, I started to get into a groove. The lactic acid started wearing off, then gradually I picked up the pace till I felt as though it was eight weeks ago and I felt great (my Garmin, of course, reminded me that I was a little slower, but who cares!)!
The grocery store is only about 1.3 kms away from our house, so it was a brief burst of tempo there, but I pushed myself a little harder knowing that.
Once there, I picked up a three-pack of garlic, paid, and ran back across the parking lot and in the direction of home, my garlic safely in my hand. Part of me thought I must have looked like some paranoid runner looking to ward off vampires, and the other part of me wondered if I was be one of the only runners to have ever run with garlic before. It actually felt pretty great being the only person running out of that parking lot when everyone else was driving.
The rest of the route home was mostly downhill with a little uphill, so again I pushed it past the "talking while running" point. It was probably a little fast for a tempo, but given that it was the first fast run I'd had in a couple of months, I just decided to breathe hard, push myself and enjoy it.
Dinner with hubby that night was, as usual, yummy!
The following day, according to my schedule, called for hills. I was a little nervous because again -- I hadn't done hills in a couple of months (actually, I hadn't done hill repeats in at least three months, if not four). But I dropped off the car early at hubby's work, changed into my running gear and stood in the parking lot to try and catch a signal on my Garmin. For some reason in that parking lot it seems to take forever and I constantly get glances from people why I'm standing in the middle of a parking lot with my arm sticking up straight, but you get used to the stares and eventually it always kicks in (unless it's raining or foggy).
Not knowing what my legs could handle, and given that I was supposed to do four hills, I decided to run up and down the Citadel instead of our usual Point Pleasant Drive hill. It's a little shorter and probably not quite as steep, but when you haven't done hills in a while, four times up and down that historic landmark feels like a good enough workout.
And lo and behold, I made it up and down -- not just once, but four times! Although the first one felt like I was just limping up the last 50 metres and I wanted to lie down at the end, I knew from previous experience that often times, once you warm up, the second and third hill feels a little easier. And looking around me as I climbed that hill, and as a Harbour Hopper drove by with the tour guide proclaiming all of the city's wonderful landmarks to the group of tourists (perhaps pointing out that the Citadel hill is well-used by local runners, I thought, huffing and puffing behind another couple of runners), I felt some of the awe for this place that I felt four summers ago the first time I visited Halifax and decided to head out for a run around the city. Halifax really is a pretty special place to live and run in.
That night, as we drove home, I told hubby I was planning to run home the next day. He glanced over at me and looked impressed. "You're really getting back into it, aren't you?" he said. With so many false starts over the course of the last couple of months, I think he was measuring his enthusiasm to see if I'd give up or hurt myself. But three runs in a row somehow convinced him that this time, I was serious.
The following day, which was a Friday, I must admit that I wasn't overly keen to run 5k home after what had been a long week. I was tired when I arrived at the parking lot to hubby's work. But I also knew that so often when I've felt tired and pushed myself out the door, I've come home refreshed and energized. Gotta love those endorphins!
I was a little nervous again because I didn't know what I could handle and hadn't run home in some time. Let alone the fact that it was 5k, there are also two massive hills on our way home, and there's no way to avoid them. I'd also noticed that my left achilles tendon was a little sore and swollen the previous night and had iced it with a bag of freezer burned frozen strawberries (I knew I wouldn't be using them for anything else as I couldn't even remember when I'd put them in the freezer) in the hopes of coaxing the swelling down.
Nevertheless, I made sure to take my cell phone and credit card with me just in case I needed to head out. At worst, I could always walk it.
The nice part about that run is that before you start climbing the hills, there's a very gradual downhill along Quinpool road, and then a pretty significant downhill to where it wraps around the Arm, stretches flat for about 800 metres, and then begins to climb. After all, what goes up must come down.
That initial stretch allowed me to warm up and get into the groove. For some reason it always seems to take a good 13-18 minutes before I the tension in my legs from the previous day's run has dissipated and my breathing is regular. I still felt some tension in my left Achilles, but it was manageable and I was hoping that it too would go away after I was warm.
Rounding the bend around the Arm, I once again felt lucky to be in such a picturesque city. Running by the Arm isn't a travel destination -- it's home. How great is that.
Anyways, long story short, I made it up those two hills, and eventually all the way home. Although it was so tempting to walk them (I was hobbling uphill a hair's breadth above walking in any case), I forced myself to run them all the way up. I knew that only persistence and perseverance will make those hills seem easier, week after week.
The following day, which was a Saturday, I took the day off from running and went back to yoga. For some reason today the class was quite boisterous and chatty with the instructor, and although I don't like to be a yoga snob, I had a really hard time getting into the zone and at the end of it just didn't quite feel the yoga glow of the previous week. I was glad that people were getting out and being active, perhaps trying yoga for the first time, but I was really hoping I could have just focused on my practice and my breathing. Ah well, next time.
The week wrapped up with a 12k LSD run. I decided to run part of it on Rails to Trails, although my husband said he'd feel safer if I was running in a more populated area. It's true -- once you get about 3k in from Joe Howe, you're in the middle of nowhere and anything could happen.
So I did 3k out, 3k back, and then another six around the city. The first 13 minutes were once again tough, and I worked to ignore the niggling doubt in my head that wondered -- "why am I doing this again?" And then I remembered all the reasons, including feeling good, losing the weight I'd put on since surgery, being fit, and the feeling of amazing accomplishment when you cross the finish line at a race.
Long run story short, I did the run. Maybe a little slower than usual, but my goal these days is just to get out there and put the distances on my legs. Speed will come a little later (if at all) as I get fit again. And if it doesn't, well then I'll just do a slow half marathon in the fall. And there's nothing wrong with that.
I am well and truly into training mode for the Valley Half, and it is so great having a goal to look forward to again! I can't wait to be standing at the start line in Wolfville on Thanksgiving morning, our breaths rising foggy in the chilly air, the music blaring and adrenaline flowing. And that final great victory lap around the track at the university makes anyone feel like the world's greatest athlete.
This week's schedule: 4k tempo/5xhills/5 steady/4k (or cross-training)/14k LSD
Wolfville, here I come!