Running excitement waning, but not the commitment to run

Today’s route

Yesterday’s run (street): 4.25 miles
Today’s run (street): 5.6 miles

I just passed 1,800 posts and it took me a lot longer to get to that milestone than I would have expected. That is due to a drop in my blogging frequency and it relates directly to my reduced number of runs per week. This year has brought changes to my running, both in terms of outlook and performance. It’s not a matter of losing interest, but my level of excitement has definitely waned.

Yesterday’s run in my neighborhood was the first I’d done since last Sunday’s trail run. I went out only because I had to. My schedule allows just three days a week for running and I need to make those runs count. But instead of feeling the joy of the run, these days I’m only feeling the obligation. Still, I didn’t hesitate to prepare and get outside. While I no longer question my commitment, I miss the excitement and anticipation of the experience.

This morning I targeted five miles and went a little longer than that. I couldn’t face another run through my neighborhood. After a loop around some nearby roads, I headed over to a nearby business park. My level of engagement was higher today than yesterday. The weather at 7:00 AM was nearly perfect. I did a couple of loops around the park and noticed a wooded section that reminded me of the Central Park lower path.

I ended up running through an adjacent neighborhood before returning home. Tomorrow I hope to run a little longer, perhaps at Bethpage. I do like running there and with the long straight trail, I can detach from the run and think about things (or, better still, not think about anything). I usually gain back more interest in my running by the end of my Sunday workouts. Too bad I have these long gaps between Sunday and Friday.

Fighting the sleep fog for the good of the run

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Am I done yet?

Every evening I follow a process to prepare for my morning workout. This involves a  few steps, beginning with check of the morning weather on the local news channel. I then select my running gear based on expected conditions at 4 AM. My favorite part of this process has nothing to do with running. It’s the discussions I have with my son and daughter who talk to me while I get my gear ready. It only takes fifteen minutes from start to finish, but I’ve had some of my best conversations with my kids during those times.

Last night my son and I were discussing sleep. I asked him if he ever looks forward going to bed and he said that he doesn’t like to sleep. He recognizes the need for sleep, but doesn’t like that it takes away from his (many) interests. I had to agree, to a point. As it happens, I typically get 5 to 6 hours sleep on weekdays and 7 to 8 hours on the weekends. Even with those brief interruptions there never seems to be enough time.

But sleep is seductive. Getting up and out of bed after a deep sleep is very hard to do. It’s especially difficult to maintain a commitment to run while your brain is still suppressing histamines, norephinephrine, and serotonin. The only way to break through the fog is to give yourself an ultimatum: “Regardless of how I feel, I’m running.”

That’s what it took today to get me on the treadmill. Once the machine began to turn, I was able to distract my focus from sleepiness to being semi-alert. I’m afraid of the treadmill so my safety instinct took over and, by the three minute point, I was running at target for the first phase of a progressive speed run. All residual effects from sleeping had passed, and I thought about pushing harder to get my heart rate up into zone 4. I ended up meeting my goals and felt energized throughout the run.

In the end, I’m always happy that I followed through on my commitment to run. It’s almost an act of faith to go through the motions of putting on running clothes while eyeing the bed that they sit on. But every time I run when I want to rest, I feel better mentally, physically and emotionally. You just have to believe that you’ll get past the fog.

Compared to my friends, my training is easy!

Today’s run (street): 4.2

My friend and colleague KWL completed his first Olympic length triathlon this morning. This event is comprised of three segments: a .9 mile ocean swim, a 24 mile bike ride and a 10K distance run. He’s been training with a team for this event as part of our company’s wellness program. The commitment to this triathlon was fairly extreme, with coach-led training sessions three or more times a week. I’m sure all that work will pay off for those participants who followed that rigorous program.

As I went out on my run today, I thought about other friends who are training for the NYC Marathon in November. This is the weekend that most of them are doing their 18 to 22 mile long runs. I wondered how they manage to fit in all the training miles that they need run every week. Even training for the half marathon required that I step up my mileage 20% for the eight weeks preceding the race. That was hard enough, I can’t imagine what it would be like to train for double that distance.

My cold has stuck around and I’m also dealing with a mild cough but I felt fine on the road this morning. The temperature was in the low 60’s with no noticeable humidity, a great combination. Though I felt a little stiff at the start, I got up to speed fairly quickly and followed a new route, just for a change of scenery. It wasn’t lost on me that I’d be done after 4 miles, while my friends would just be warming up for the distances they would travel.

I admire anyone that takes on the challenge of triathlon or a marathon. I love my workouts and my competitions, but I’m not looking to move up into the ranks of Olympic-length triathletes and marathon racers. I hope everyone comes through their long runs today satisfied with their results. I was certainly happy to cover my 10 this weekend.

Committed to Cow Harbor 2012

What made skipping Dirty Sock so easy for me this year was that I put off registering until it was one week before the race. Since I had no financial obligation, I made my decision to stand down without needing to consider that I’d already spent the money. That worked great for this past weekend, and I’m still happy with my decision. Still, I didn’t want the same thing to happen next month so I signed up for Cow Harbor this morning.

With so many people running this race, the Cow Harbor organizers ask registrants to list their expected finish time. This is so runners can be placed into appropriate pace groups, called waves, at the start. It makes perfect sense and I always wonder if I’m under or overestimating my performance when I do that. Last year I finished in around 57 minutes and I’m hoping to do as well this year. I’ve run 10Ks faster than that, but not ones that have a hill as challenging as James Street.

The lessons that taught me commitment

Back in 2008, when I returned to running, I needed to view it with absolute commitment. 15 years prior to then, I was running regularly with a friend who was very passionate about the sport. At that time, my running was a novelty. I didn’t really embrace it as a lifestyle. When my friend left NYC for a few weeks on business, I found every reason not to go out for my daily run. When she returned, I told her I was no longer a runner.

Like anything that’s beneficial (but hard) full commitment is the key. But commitment is a slippery slope and my earlier efforts as a runner failed because I did not commit to the required discipline. I carried the lessons I learned from that earlier experience through my first weeks as a re-engaged runner:

  • Run at your own pace, not other’s
  • Run only on clear roads or trails, it’s far better than dodging pedestrians or traffic
  • Cover only the distances you can handle
  • Use the right gear, wear the right shoes
  • Benchmark your progress
  • In for a penny, in for a pound

It took me months to finally take one rest day every week, because I feared the slippery slope. After three and a half years of serious commitment, I know that every day I rest is merely a temporary respite from the work I’ll be doing the next day. I’m currently experiencing some symptoms of a cold that has dragged me down a little. I chose to rest today instead of doing my morning run. Tomorrow I’ll go out for 10 miles. Why? Because I’m committed.