Saturday, October 23, 2010

Thoughts on Running

This morning, Stephanie and I met out at Valley Forge to run ten miles.

Fun fact: I've only run this distance three times in my entire life, including today. One was Broad Street 2008; the other was Broad Street 2010. That means that Stephanie has done two thirds of my ten milers with me.

Valley Forge is an amazing place. When I was in high school, my brother and I would go there with our mom and the dog to walk the trails, explore the little log cabins, and generally wander aimlessly. Before today, I hadn't been there in...probably six or seven years? It's hard to remember the last time I went out there, but I'm pretty sure it was during the Summer of the Atkins Diet. AKA, when I was at my thinnest EVER, was really starting to appreciate fitness and physical activity for the first time, and doing things like ordering a cheesesteak and eating only the middle and leaving the bread.

But I digress. Anyway, I knew, vaguely, that this run was going to involve hills. What I didn't know was just how MANY hills there were going to be. And I also didn't know what it was like to be running up a hill and giving it your all, and having your legs just stop listening to you when you commanded them to keep turning over.

We did one loop, starting from the Visitor's Center, and hopping off of the 5.6 mile paved Joseph Plumb Martin trail to the Valley Creek area. We ran through the woods on gravel trails for a while, ran on the roads, and then picked up the JPM trail again. By the time we made it back to the parking lot, we'd covered almost 6.7 miles. With only 3.3-ish miles to go, we decided to double back out the way we'd just came. It meant some rough uphills on the 1.75-ish miles out, but we got to cruise the last mile or so back.

Those. Hills. Were. Awful. Splits:

You can clearly see our uphill struggles, and the flat/downhill cruises that followed. Altogether, it took us about 1:50 to cover ten miles, and I was SPENT.

I've been thinking a lot about running - this has been one of my most successful training periods yet. I'm feeling very confident about running the half next month. I'm recovering well from my weekly long runs, and my knees are feeling good.

I think I've found the "magic" combination, for now. I do my weekly long run, of course. And I run one other day during the week...that's it. My second run is usually some form of interval work, and it's short - 30 minutes or so.

Otherwise, I crosstrain - I've been spending a lot of time on the recumbent bike. It's a great combination: no impact (so, good for my knees) and it strengthens my quads (also good for my knees). I lift a few days - usually two, even though I would prefer it to be three. I do a lot of the P90X workouts...either a chest/back vs. arms/shoulders split, or a back/biceps vs. chest/shoulders/tris split.

Now, let's be clear. I'm not running my fastest times, that's for sure. Broad Street 08, I came in at 1:30.59, and ran the majority of my long training runs at a 9:00 or slightly better pace. I could knock out a 5K in under 25 minutes without too much effort. I'd run 20-mile weeks without blinking. I sure as SHIT am not there right now.

But when I was doing was inconsistent. I'd train hard and be great for a couple months and then find myself injured. I'd spend a shitload of time on the elliptical until my knee stopped hurting, and I'd be back on the treadmill again. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Now...I don't want to speak prematurely, because god knows it's only been a few months since I was last hobbling around like an old lady. But I'm feeling good, and strong. This is my first half marathon, so all I really care about is finishing - and I'm confident I can do that. Once I'm past that, I'll probably go back to worrying about recovering some of my old speed, because I really did LIKE running fast. Mile repeats are pretty much my favorite thing ever.

And it's funny what a little perspective can do. When I was running my 24:50-something 5Ks, I was frustrated that I couldn't break 24:30. Then, I did, and I was frustrated because I couldn't break 24:00. When I was running my 9:00-paced long runs, I thought I was pretty slow. Now that my pace has slowed by a minute or more, I'm starting to appreciate what I used to be able to accomplish.

OK - time to do a little more foam rolling and get back to the Phils. Happy weekend!


  1. Ahh, the Atkins diet. I remember when my ex-mother-in-law was on that and used to order a giant burger from Hardee's wrapped in somehow that was better than getting it on a bun.'re still eating a giant disgusting burger from Hardee's! lol

  2. I ran in VF Park last Saturday! It was my first run there (I'm training the Philly half too!) and I could not believe how hard those hills were!! YIKES! Good luck with the rest of your training!

  3. Hi! I'm a new reader from the Philly area.

    Valley Forge hills are the worst.hills.ever!! I tried them once this summer and literally started to cry at one point. It's no wonder George Washington hid his troops there. Or whatever he did that makes it historical.

    I firmly believe in quality training over quanity training. You're going to kill that half next weekend. :)