Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Change is in the air

Today is the first day in my now 104-day running streak that I am actually disappointed after a run. I am not referring to being a little disappointed. I mean, I experienced that queasy, greasy feeling of deep disappointment in my gut, and I couldn't shake it for much of the day. I am sure there was no real need to feel that way, but I couldn't seem to help myself.

Throughout this experiment, I have had overwhelmingly good runs. Mostly, I put that down to a willingness to go slow when necessary, as well as knowing that if I do have a less-than-stellar day I only have to wait about 24 hours before getting a chance to redeem myself.

Today was different somehow and I don't know exactly why. I realize that I'm a bit tired from a couple of build-up weeks. In fact, thinking about it, I had something similar happen about a month ago. A week of simple three-milers snapped me out of that rut, so maybe that's what I need to be doing this week. The problem is that I really wanted this to be one more week of higher mileage - not more, just maintaining last week's mileage - before starting my slow descent towards my first half marathon race day in a few weeks.

In any event, when I got to the treadmill this morning, despite feeling awake and ready to do something, I just kind of locked up. Physically, my body wasn't too enthused, and mentally I was already upstairs drinking my coffee. I had checked out. If I had a bit more flexibility in my day - or, more accurately, if I were willing to be more flexible - I would have just gotten off the treadmill and determined to try again later. After all, 5:45 a.m. is a tough hour to commit to anything anyway. And, I've noticed that giving myself even 30 hours of recovery (versus 24 hours) can sometimes make a big difference.

But, that's not what I did. Instead, I started out at my easy run pace hoping that I might perk up. I started upping my pace each quarter mile, hoping to capture some of the magic I had experienced with this same workout just the week before. Didn't happen. My body and mind were just not buying it.

So, after completing my one mile of running (technically what would be required to continue a running streak), I dropped my pace and raised the incline until I ended up at a doable 3.2 mph walk at 12-percent incline.  And that was hard. Both physically and mentally.

Having started walking, I decided to just fill in the rest of my normal easy pace run time with that walk, and by the time I was done I was dripping sweat and my breathing was definitely showing me I had a workout in. (And then, seeing as I was at 2.7 miles, of course I felt compelled to run out the remainder of my typical three miles. Maybe I am a bit OCD after all.)

So, really....that's not a bad workout. I KNOW that. But, while I did technically move for three miles, I am somehow disappointed with myself that half of that was spent walking. Even if it was at a hefty incline. And even if incline walking was something that was in my original training plan way back when anyhow.

So, what's the deal? Why the disappointment, when really if it were anyone else I would be applauding their adaptability and reminding them that with big hill-hiking type trail runs in the not-so-distant future incline walking on the treadmill should be part of the routine anyway.

What am I afraid of?

The answer is inconsistency. Because as crazy as this streak running sounds, there has been a kind of magic wrapped around the whole thing. I have not been plagued by injuries, and the few niggling issues I have had have dissipated within a day or two of cropping up. I have been in a happier place mentally for doing this daily exercise as well. And, doing the same things day in and day out, there has been no decision-making. No question of what I am doing, which also means no question of what I am not doing.

Being inconsistent, even to such a small degree, feels a lot like gently touching my big toe to a very slippery slope, one that could lead to somewhere I don't want to be. After all, it wasn't too long ago that I would intend to take one day off from running only to have it morph into two days off ... or three ... or five. I felt like I was constantly starting over, whereas now I feel I am finally in a place where I am building off of something, and I don't want to lose that.

Hmm, I wonder if that means that I have completed a successful base building phase of training. I have never done that before, so I am not exactly sure what that would feel like. However, if I had to guess, I would think it would be exactly that - feeling like I had gotten to a place from which I could build and do more.

Well, then maybe it's time to reconsider what running looks like for me. Maybe today's nod towards inconsistency isn't meant to launch me down that slippery slope after all. In fact, maybe it just means I am ready for something more, ready to change things up a bit and start some more specified race training. Interesting. All of the sudden, things don't look so disappointing after all.

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