September 28, 2010

The view from my discomfort zone

While I've said time and again that I don't enjoy the actual RUNNING part of running, there are certain specifics which make it... well... less uncomfortable. I stepped away from some of those tonight, in a little 3 miler that pushed me in ways I don't often push.

First, I don't like to run in the dark. I've done it once or twice, but don't like feeling I can't see where I'm going, even with street lights. Mainly, I don't like feeling I can't see the cracks in the sidewalks. Seeing as I don't have a headlamp, or a treadmill, this is something I'm going to have to get used to if I want to run more than weekends through the winter. I had a date to run with Superman tonight, and he arrived after dark, so there was my first dip outside my comfort zone. 

Wish I could tell you who took this.
Beautiful!  (Not like my neighborhood tonight)

I also don't like running in the rain.  I can't breathe through my nose because my sinuses fill and drain down my throat.  I'm still working on that deep breathing through my mouth thing.  I'm not sure how I've avoided rain running this year (except for that one race I DNF'd, in part because of the wet).  It'd been raining on and off most of the day, so I was in for a wet one regardless. It wasn't actively raining when we started. There was some mist, but halfway round the route the drops started getting larger, until it was full on rain. I was completely in the discomfort zone by this point. 

My first race, I ran 5K at an 11-minute-mile pace.  My 10K PR is at just above 11 minutes per mile.  Somewhere between then and now, my pace has increased to somewhere around a 13-minute-mile. Granted, I am going longer distances, but that is still a hefty increase. Superman runs closer to a 10-minute mile, and has suggested several times we work on speed. He suggested it again tonight, and this time I agreed. We decided on a 3 mile run (I originally wanted to do 4). He wanted to do it at the 11-minute-mile pace I used to run. No Garmen, but he's pretty sure he can gauge our speed accurately. I suggested, since my thighs were still feeling the 11-miler we did Sunday, he give me the first mile to warm up. He agreed, we determined where we would pick up the pace, and we were off.

As usual, my ankle didn't want to loosen up right away, which causes my knee to be complain. I thought we started out a bit faster than normal, but went with it because speed was the plan for the evening. I was able to loosen up within that first mile, though I could tell my thighs were still tired. We hit the turn and Superman started to pull ahead. I dug in and tried to keep up. He asked if the pace was ok, and it being an uphill I wasn't able to give him a valid answer. "Maybe after the uphill" I panted.  

The pace actually was OK, and I held it for about a mile and a half (providing Superman didn't slow down for me without my noticing). I did have to catch up to him once or twice, but even when I dropped back I was at a faster than 13-minute-mile pace. With about half a mile to go my thighs started really bothering me (I built some muscle tonight!) and my diaphragm was also not happy. I'd been running bent over, looking for cracks in the sidewalk, which crunches things I really need open. I also spent a lot of time blowing hard out my nose to clear rain-induced snot, and apparently worked my trunk harder than normal. Even when we slowed down, Superman said we were running faster than I have lately.  

Oh, and since I didn't charge my headphones after Sunday's run, I used earbuds that kept falling out of my ears. Running without music is definitely going way deep into my discomfort zone!

Elite runners say it's more difficult to run slow, because you're running for a longer period of time. Maybe my races won't be so difficult and uncomfortable if I can get my speed up. Then again, I'll probably find other ways to push, so they will still be difficult and uncomfortable. That is part of why I do things like running. Stepping into my discomfort zone makes me grow. I grew more than muscle tonight. I grew the realization I will have to run in the dark, like it or not. I grew belief in my ability to run in the rain. I grew some muscle in my legs, and in my backbone.

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