June 19, 2013

June 18 - PR Run!

Total time: 50 minutes
Total distance: 4.13 miles

Yesterday was my "day off" from softball for the week and as much as I absolutely love that sport and I enjoy coaching my team, it's gotten to be exhausting. We lost almost the first half of the season to bad weather - rain, snow, flooding, you name it. The result is that we're cramming all of that missed time in, now. It's running me ragged. It pains me to admit it, but it's really starting to take a toll on me. But I'm trying not to let it show because my team will pick up on it if I even give the slightest indication of not wanting to be there - I have to be excited so they stay excited. And that's hard work too, in a way. Which is a roundabout way of saying that I've been exhausted lately, to the point where I am feeling physically awful, but we're in the home stretch, near the end of the tunnel.

All of which is another roundabout way of saying that I haven't had much energy for running, but I've been making myself do it anyway, because I've got some great momentum going and I don't want to lose that. All I need to do is get started and my feet take it from there.

I was on the fence about if I wanted to try to squeeze in a run last night. There are so many other things that I've been neglecting that I should have probably done instead. I got dinner with a friend and decided to leave my options open so I got a salad... that way if I wanted to run when I got home, I could probably do it without making myself sick.

Which is why I was really surprised to find that my entire body was in the mood for a run. As soon as I started moving, I was almost startled at how good it felt. I had my pace back under control (or at least back to normal) and so I settled in for a long one. I am really worried about my inconsistency in distance right now - I am running a 5K next Saturday and it's still so hit-or-miss with how far I can go on any given day, that I'm worried I'm going to get to that actual race setting and then not be able to complete the whole thing. Today's run is only the third time I've made it at least 3 miles, ever. I guess it's good that the two 5Ks I'm signed up for right now are more "fun runs" than actual races, but even so. I want to run a full one so badly! I failed at both attempts last year, but then again, I'm in better shape this year. I don't know. We'll see.

At one point along the way (because I had a lot of time for my mind to wander, which is always preferable to spending the time thinking about my legs and the fact that they kind of just want to fall off), I started to contemplate my reason for doing this. Why was I pushing myself so hard? Why did I even take up this hobby? I guess, at the root of things, I started running because I wanted to lose weight. I was getting bored of everything else and while running isn't particularly riveting, it's different every day. Even if you take the same path every day (which I usually do), something is different. The weather, the temperature, the people on the trail, how I feel, what order my music plays in, something is always different, and no two runs are ever the same.

I don't think I've really experienced the oft-talked about "runner's high" (though I did do a celebratory fist pump when I watched the numbers on my watch click over to 5-0), but it always feels good to settle into a run and see what I can do. The first ten minutes are nice, because they have started to pass relatively painlessly; it's the eleven to nineteen minute stretch that's the worst. That's the stretch where I frequently have to remind my legs to keep moving, where I am mostly likely to want to quit. Once I reach minute 20, though, something changes in my brain. Maybe because twenty minutes just seems like a long time, at that's kind of my checkpoint for having truly achieved something, and everything else on top of that is just icing on the proverbial cake. From there, it's just a matter of seeing how much further I can go. I decided last night that 25 minutes should really be my new base marker (25 is the new 20!) because at that point, I've locked in two complete miles, and that's nothing to shake a stick at.

What's really interesting, though, is the psychology of what happens at Minute 30. At Minute 30, I'm pretty much all-in. If I can make it thirty minutes, I'm more likely to believe that I can go 35, or 40, I can reach that 5K mark, I can reach whatever goal I set for the day, if not surpass it.

That's kind of what happened last night. I kept reassuring myself that I only had "a few more minutes to go" and coaxed myself to that 30 minute mark. From there, each five minute interval seemed attainable, so I just... kept going. When I reached 40, though, I decided to go for it. I decided to reach for the PR. I would have only needed to make it to 46 for it to count, but that's not how I roll. I measure my runs in terms of five-minute increments, as I've mentioned before, so it was 50 minutes or bust. At this point in my game, due to my tendency to just round up, I can pretty much determine that for every ten minutes I add to my run, I add a mile. Because 2 miles is really around Minute 24, but I go to 25 to make sure; 3 miles is roughly around Minute 37, but I go to 40 because 37 is a weird place to stop; 4 miles would then be around 49 minutes. It's not an exact science, and it will work better when I get my pace down to an even 12 minute mile instead of the random 12.2ish that it seems to be, but following this trend... if I can make myself run for a full hour, that will almost be 5 miles. And by the time I am able to run for an hour, maybe my pace will be a little better. (because, technically, 5 miles would take me about 61 or 62 minutes. Do you know how much it would suck to run for 60 minutes and then be THAT CLOSE to 5 miles and not make it? I guess I'll have to shoot for 65 just to be safe...)  But that's probably a few weeks away.

But to answer my original question of why: I don't really know. I guess I'm competing with myself, in a way. I'm not competing against anyone else or anyone else's times, I'm just out there doing my thing to see how far I can go. Posting about my runs online afterward is sort of a way to keep me accountable, but I think it's more of a reward. I don't give myself ice cream afterward (usually), but I do get to document it and share it and I think the encouragement and support I've been getting from my friends is far better than any sort of food-related treat I could bribe myself with.

At any rate, I ran for 50 whole minutes yesterday and I had a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that I ran for four miles. FOUR MILES. This is something that I never, ever thought I would be able to do, ever. Even running for two miles felt like an accomplishment. There's something incredibly exciting about not only running farther than you have ever run before, but farther than you even ever set out to do. My goal has always been the 3.1 miles of a 5K, but now? Who knows! Maybe by next year I'll be running 10Ks!

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