Last week I hit South Mountain four times. I said I needed more trail time and I meant it.
The trail is approximately a four mile loop and I tried to run it better and faster on each visit. Except for the last time. By then I was tired, beat up. I needed to go slowly and enjoy myself. I needed to sit on a rock every so often and stop to soak it all in. I feel so fortunate to have this little piece of paradise only minutes from my house. When I’m feeling a bit stronger I hope to be able to run there and back from home.
I returned Thursday afternoon for the first time this week. I really thought it was going to be a good run but instead, I felt tired and was forced to take it slowly.
I didn’t mind.
A million thoughts rushed through my head and I wished I had a voice recorder to capture my mental meanderings. In my head I eloquently rattled off analogies about life and nature, I fashioned an entire story while out there on the trail. And I left it there.
What I took away with me is the fact that I have really missed that hour or two of alone time, away from everything else, just me and my thoughts. It doesn’t matter if I do something grand with my thoughts and ideas, or let them dissolve into the time that has passed. What does matter, though, is that I finish up feeling calm and at peace.
The way it should be.
Last Thursday’s run up at South Mountain left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Sorry, Chris. I didn’t mind walking it in with you for the last quarter of the run but my legs just wanted to GO! Friday left me feeling frustrated and Saturday I found myself busy for the majority of the day, so no working out for me.
I asked Muffin to join me for a run on the mountain Sunday morning. It felt like ages since we last ran together and I was ready to rock it. I rocked it all right. I rocked it so hard on the last leg heading down the mountain, sailing over rocks and picking up speed as I descended past the boulder field … and then it happened. I gracefully navigated some large rocks only to trip over a tree stub which blended into the trail and stood about two inches straight up. My toe caught the one-inch diameter protrusion and down I went. I actually slid to a stop.
I popped up, gave myself a quick once over, picking a leaf fragment or two off my elbow. No gushing blood, that was a good sign. On we went. A tiny bit slower and not in any serious pain, I sidestepped a frog who had wandered from the frog pond which is hidden amongst the woods to which no path leads, joking in my head about making a meal of it and grossing my kids out by eating frog legs. (As if!)
Once we finished the run I took a better look at the damages I had sustained. Not bad, really. “It’s just a flesh wound,” ran through my head as I decided the fall had only caused two minor brush burns. Later, my leg would begin to bruise, turning a lovely shade of purple.
I’ll tell you what that fall REALLY means. It means I’m back in it! I fell and aside from the two little scrapes, it didn’t hurt. My back did not send a stop-in-my-tracks shooting pain throughout my body as would have happened a few months earlier. I’m back in the game and ready for more.
So ready, in fact, that I hit the trails, again, the very next day. This time running solo, I timed myself. It took forty-seven minutes to loop the trails, not much slower than the amount of time it used to take me to run the same exact loop. I’m feeling stronger and getting my trail legs back.
I have got to get back to my cross-training. Running 2-3 times a week is not easy if you aren’t doing some other form of exercise on the non-running days.
Today I procrastinated like a mad woman. There was something more important to be doing all morning long, or so I thought. When I finally gave myself a good kick in the butt it was already 80 degrees outside and my run felt even harder because of it. There was walking involved, a stop at the water fountain and yes, some running. Every single step felt difficult. Labored. I kept wondering whether or not an earlier run would have felt any better. There were many moments along the way when I considered my form, wondering if I looked as miserable as I felt to those I passed on the path. This selfie (below) proves that, yes, I did look miserable.
And then something happened. Instead of berating myself for not being the runner I was three years ago, instead of comparing the current me to the old me, I decided to be grateful. Grateful to be able to run again after a back surgery and worries over whether or not I would ever be able to play with my children again, much less run. Grateful that I am finally able to put one foot in front or the other in a forward motion. Grateful that I am nearly pain-free after more than two years doped up on pills and pouring alcohol down my throat in order to deal with the pain levels.
I may not be there yet, but there is no reason in the world why I won’t be where I want to be in another year or so.
And then something happened … I felt happier. And my run ended much better than the way it had begun.
First things first: Friday’s group run sucked. There is no other way to say it. I started off with the group – there were six of us. Within the first 200 feet everyone was so far ahead of me that I quickly decided this was going to be a solo run for the evening. At one point a friend held pace with me and I expressed my frustration and fear that I might never be back to where I was when I left off three years ago. His comment that I wouldn’t want to reinjure myself if I weren’t careful caught me a little off-guard because my injury was not due to running. I suppose some people still assume that my disc injury was a result of running. I don’t think I care enough to correct them.
I ended up running about a mile and a half before giving up and turning across the bridge to the clubhouse. I grabbed a water and sat at the picnic table feeling sorry for myself. As I posted to my training group on Facebook (“Short run in the Parkway this evening. Everyone in the group smoked me. Sucks climbing back to my old running self sometimes.“) a different friend ran by and stopped to say ‘hi’. I guess I was feeling more emotional about the whole situation than I thought because I nearly broke out in tears relaying my frustration to him. He did make me feel better when he told me how he had been away from running for five years due to injury. “Finally, somebody understands!” I thought to myself.
Saturday and Sunday came and went and again, no exercising on the weekend. I had all the time in the world on Sunday to get a run in but after going, going, going all week long the only thing I wanted to do was relax. So, I took a nap and then hung out in the hammock. I really needed that.
Monday’s exercises consisted of a walk with the dog through the neighborhood (2 miles) in 85 degree heat. That sucked out all of my energy since I’m not acclimated to that level of warmth yet. Today I ran that same 2 mile loop and because the temperature is slightly cooler I actually felt good. I haven’t bothered with a Garmin in years and have no desire to fall back into that addiction of pace and time and mileage. I know that my pace falls somewhere between 10 and 11 minute miles but on my good days I wonder how I’m doing in comparison to the bad days. That thought, however, is very brief. Who cares how I’m doing! I’m running again, and that’s all that matters.
After slacking off and skipping my workouts for a few days, I gave myself a good censure and vowed to start running more than one or two times a week. Looking back, apparently I only missed Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but it sure felt longer. So far I have made it out to run for the past three days with another run scheduled for this evening. This is a huge deal because I have not run that many days in a row for nearly three years!
On Tuesday I went out for an easy 2-mile run through the neighborhood at what I call my Ultra Pace. On Wednesday I met up with my friend and neighbor for a 5-mile run in Lehigh Parkway. This is the second time I’ve run this far in the past month and even though it felt tough I am so grateful to even be out running at all. Yesterday was another 2-mile run in the neighborhood.
While I’m not sure how tonight’s run will go, I’m excited to go four for four and roll with it. I need to get this body of mine back in racing shape because I really miss that feeling you get when you train for a race and toe the line. The adrenaline rush that takes over in the milliseconds before the starting gun goes off is a feeling that is seldom matched in the regularity of my life. The skip of my heartbeat as I prepare to experience the training pay off (or not) is something I truly miss and I am working hard to get that back.
I knew that I wanted to head out for a run the moment I stepped outside this morning to walk the girls to the bus stop. The air was cool with the perfect breeze. It was a few hours more until I actually laced up and headed outdoors for my run. That is the bonus of working at home, I get to take a break as is convenient to me without wasting too much time. Today’s run was an easy, mid-morning recovery run through the neighborhood.
Quiet streets and sunshine. Easy pace and thoughts of whether or not running a half marathon in September is even feasible. I’m up to five miles and I only need to be able to run 13, so why not? The steep entry fee is tough for me to swallow. Gulp. All in the name of fun, right?
My May goal is to move every, single day. That means on top of the strength training I want to either run or walk for thirty days. No excuses. So far so good, but I’m only two days in.
Where did this month go? I may not have been posting but I have been working out. I’m averaging two runs a week and four to five at-home workouts based on the P90X3 videos I recently finished. I am trying to get out to South Mountain Preserve once a week for about an hour. I also log a 30-minute run either in the neighborhood or in Lehigh Parkway where the trails are softer and the views much prettier. The effort has been easy and I’m working back slowly because each time in the past that I’ve started running after an injury I have dealt with Achilles tendinitis. I am dealing with this again so I need to play things smart.
I’m three weeks out from my first trail race in three years; Coventry Woods 10K. With the at-home strength training I’m not too concerned about being able to complete the 10K distance, especially because last week I totally kicked butt up at South Mountain. That had me soaring for an entire day. What I am a tiny bit concerned about is a race that may possibly be on my schedule for September. You see, some smack talk went down on Twitter the other day between a co-worker at Running Times and someone from Competitor Magazine. Apparently, we have been challenged to race them at this year’s Rock ‘n Roll Philadelphia half marathon using cross country scoring for the top three finishers from each magazine. I agreed to be a part of it so that means I need to get this body back into half marathon racing shape. I have four and half months to make that happen. I’m pretty excited and it just might be the fire I needed to get moving again. Hey, it’s doable.