Thursday, September 8, 2011

For love or running

What makes two people in the same household running compatible? The fact that they can run well together or that they don't?

This past weekend my husband Andy and I did something together that we haven't done in at least two years - we ran together. Now, when we first started running some eight years ago or so, we ran together all the time. We didn't have "paces" we preferred or distances we had to cover. We just put on our shoes, headed out the door, and ran. Eventually, I wanted more, so it was my idea for us to sign up for our first real distance event – a half marathon. And, actually, I didn't even ask him to come along; it was simply a goal I had set up for myself. In fact, he said it couldn't be done. We hadn't been running that long, and he didn't think we could train ourselves enough over the course of the summer to cover the distance. But, being the competitive soul that he is, or maybe he just doesn't like to be left out, he signed up, too. We trained diligently that summer, and both finished the half marathon several months later. As things would have it, I was much irritated when Andy beat my time by a good half hour on that event. The only satisfaction I got out of it was the fact that I could then rub it in (and still do) that he hadn't even thought finishing was possible.

Now, six years and two children later, Andy and I are both running again. In those six years, though, my husband has blossomed as a runner – completing over 15 marathons, including Boston this year, and two 50-milers. To say he is comfortable running is an understatement.

As he has become faster, it has become clear that we are no longer compatible running partners. Whereas his lack of desire to run with me used to irritate me, as I have matured – as both a runner and an individual – I have found the wisdom in this. I have no more desire to hold him back than he has to be held back. I also don't want to be dragged along faster than I want to go, which is what inevitably happens when I run with someone faster.

So, when Andy suggested that we run together this past weekend so that he could show me one of his favorite trails, I was dubious. However, skepticism aside, I wanted to do the run, so I dropped the kids off at my dad's and headed to our local state park to meet up with him.

The run itself was challenging. Following a trail at our local state park that then wends its way to our county park, we experienced just about every terrain you can experience: wooded trail; grass bridle trails; pavement; and rocky, technical trail. Aside from the typical roots and rocks dotting the path, there were bigger obstacles to overcome as well. Two days prior we had had one of the worst storms of the summer with straight-line winds coming off the lake of some 70 mph. Along our path, trees were uprooted or knocked down, and tree debris littered the path. Having never run hurdles before, I can only guess at the similarity between the run we did and that event. Jumping over logs became pretty much the norm, as well as leaving the trail to pick our way around trees that had fallen over. I torqued my ankles more than once stepping wrong on stuff. To top it all off, two good hills along the way had me walking. Three weeks after the Pikes Peak Ascent, my legs were still feeling it. Strangely, walking uphill seems to be the biggest issue (go figure! I did that for over five hours on the mountain).

Despite all that, the run was actually great. I had worried that my slower pace would be a cause for consternation, but Andy mitigated that by heading out two hours early and doing his own run. By the time I met up with him, he was ready to do a slower pace for another two hours. As I have been doing a Galloway-style run/walk for most of my longer runs ever since injuring myself over the winter, we integrated that into the day. We started out running for three miles and then went to a 6:1 run-walk ratio. Except for the hills, which took me four minutes and well over five minutes to walk, respectively, we stuck with that for the rest of the run. It took us two hours to cover 11 miles, which brought us back to our cars. Andy was ready to head home by then, but I was determined to get in 13 for the day, so I headed out for another two miles. That really was not worthwhile, as the loss of momentum and tired legs made those last two miles painfully slow. Shouldn't have bothered.

I played around a bit with my nutrition intake on the run, as I had recently read where I need to be taking in 250 calories of quality carbs per hour to prevent fatigue from setting in. Up to this point, I have managed perhaps half that. What this translates into for me is that I need to be eating a GU or 3 Cliff Blocks (what I am used to) every half hour. I gave it a go, and I have to admit, I think it might have helped. Unfortunately, I can really only stomach these concentrated sugars for so long. While it was fine doing this for the two hours, I shudder to think what will happen during my marathon in four weeks. I am still looking for a nutrition formula that works for me. I don't really like the GUs and such for longer than a couple of hours, and yet I have yet to do a run over three hours (even with those products) where I don't start to feel hungry towards the end. I think I need to start learning to run with real food. Something to tweak after the marathon.

Shoe-wise, I wore my New Balance WT101s, and they were fine. I love those shoes.

Running with Andy turned out to be very enjoyable. It's fun to watch him pick his way along the trails. He's very graceful and confident, rarely misstepping. Having him wear himself out with a two-hour run first before running with me seemed to be a formula that worked. I guess next time he needs an easy run and I need a workout, we might even try this again.

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