Sunday, December 09, 2012

I may be crazy, but I'm not nuts!

Are you ready for it? Here it is: I have a secret man-crush on Justin Timberlake. Actually had it for a while. He's just so damn talented. And here's something else, something amazing I discovered, or more accurately re-discovered, over the past 5 weeks or so: I love running.
I set off on this little mini challenge, this quest, with no real expectations. The goal was simple: run every day for 5 weeks...no excuses. The runs were not training runs. There were no "rules" for minimum distance, duration, etc... I just had to go out and run every day. Make time, even just 12min with the dog, every single day for 5 weeks. I had no idea what, if anything, I would discover. Frankly I figured there was a 50/50 chance I would get tired, and then get more tired, and it would feel like work and even if I made it that would be all she wrote. I did expect little nagging injuries to creep in. I expected soreness in my ankle and feet. Maybe numbness in my toe, the usual things I felt during my "training." To mitigate this I spent a large percentage of the time on trails, well for that reason and because I need to run more trails to get ready for the North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain, NY.
A typical week was a few runs in Fairhaven at lunchtime, a few runs with Laddie, one very long run on the Sakonnet Greenway, and a moderate run again in Middletown either road, trail, or mixed. Total mileage was roughly 25-30 miles per week, so nothing drastic. Mileage began to creep up towards the end of the 5 weeks as I started stretching the 2nd run of the weekend. Also towards the end of this time I decided to try full-on minimal running in Vibram 5 finger Bikilas. More on that in a future post.
So what did I discover? In short, Joy. Yes joy. It didn't happen all at once, in fact the first two weeks were the most difficult, especially Tuesday and Wednesday. I was getting more and more tired, though interestingly it was not the long Saturday trail run that left me the most tired. It was the faster runs in Fairhaven. It took me about a day longer to get 3.57 miles @ 6:16/mile out of my legs than it did 13 miles on the trail @7:55/mile. What the trail runs did tax far more than the road were my core and shoulders. By the end of the 5 weeks my legs more or less ran on autopilot, not even noticing the miles whereas I still feel fatigue in my core and shoulders because of the far greater stabilization requirements when running on the trails. That discomfort peaked in the third week. Other than that my body actually started functioning better, not worse as the miles accumulated.
The "Ah ha" moment occurred over Thanksgiving. I was out running on a wonderful trail in Shelton, CT. I was a bit fatigued and would have had no complaints if I had found a gel packet lying on the ground somewhere. Then I hit this section that passed through a large stand of pine trees. Maybe it was the lack of nutrition or maybe something else, but I suddenly flashed back to childhood. I mean not just a "I remember when I was a kid," but rather I was no longer a 46 year old running on a trail in Connecticut. I was backpacking with my Dad.
When my Dad and I went backpacking, or canoe camping, I would often run ahead down the trail to the next stopping point to see how far away it was, and then run back. There were no thoughts of conserving energy, avoiding bonk, etc... just the pure joy of being out in the wilderness. I liked getting to places where there were no more human noises and stopping and then trying to see how many distinct sounds I could hear and if I could locate the source of those sounds. I'd image all sorts of things. I loved those moments and I hadn't had one of those moments in literally decades...until that run in Connecticut.
It only lasted a brief time, only until the group of walkers with their dogs came around a bend, but for a moment all cares were gone. And the best part is "the hangover" from that run. I remember.
Equally significant was the run before that run. It was the first time in years that Leanna and I have run together, this time with Laddie. The last time was when we lived in Newport and we ran from our apartment to 1st beach. Didn't go so well. This one was different. It was very special.
The 35 days ended Wednesday. I took the next day off, but that was it. I've run the last 3 and will be going again today. I don't feel I "have to" go out. I want to. I'm not technically "training", though obviously this will transfer into preparation for Bear Mountain. My running stride is incredibly smooth right now and I'm very efficient as evidenced by the fact that despite all the miles I still gained a few pounds!
But I love going out on the trails, and am content. I'm actually passing on a running race today, to go run elsewhere. I'm not feeling the need to compete. Actually I'm not even feeling a "need" to run. I just want to...