No wimpy runs

I start­ed off with calves that still hurt from Sun­day’s run. I start­ed by going uphill instead of down. I only got about three blocks before I had to drop down to a walk to make the top of the hill I was on. By all indi­ca­tions at the start, this should have been a very short run — maybe two miles — with a dec­la­ra­tion of vic­to­ry just for get­ting out on the road and doing a lit­tle hillclimbing.

I did­n’t have a pre­set route or tar­get dis­tance. I made deci­sions about whether to go far­ther or back based only on how I felt, and then at around the three mile mark based on pru­dence. I know that jump­ing into five mile runs after five months of not get­ting out on the road at all is over­do­ing it, but I don’t want to over-over­do it.

What I found — I don’t know why this sur­pris­es me any­more — is that short runs are no fun. It takes me two and a half miles to warm up, and that’s two and a half most­ly mis­er­able miles. Once those two and a half miles are behind me, I start to feel great. The log bears this out: for the first two and a half miles I most­ly main­tained a 13 – 14 minute/mile pace, even going down­hill. But the last two miles were almost all more like 11 – 12 minutes/mile. The only walk­ing I did was going up the hill at the begin­ning and a lit­tle to cool down for the last twen­ti­eth of a mile.

Even eleven minute miles seem like a snail’s pace but it’s the dif­fer­ence between strug­gling along and actu­al­ly hav­ing a fun run. Those last two miles were bet­ter than the begin­ning of the run in every way, too: my cadence was up around 90rpm (right where it should be) instead of down around 70rpm. My heartrate was up to 170 for miles four and five, while it was more like 155 – 160 for miles two and three.

(There are those who would say that 170 is too high. 220 minus my age puts my the­o­ret­i­cal max HR at 179 and almost no one rec­om­mends run­ning two miles — or any dis­tance — at 95% of max HR. How­ev­er, sev­en years ago when my the­o­ret­i­cal max HR would have been 186 I rou­tine­ly ran at 195bpm and even saw it as high as 206bpm. That may not have been smart and my body is both old­er and in much poor­er shape than it was in those days, but the point is that the 220 minus age for­mu­la is useless.)

Though I expect­ed it to be a tougher and short­er run than Sun­day’s, I end­ed up doing near­ly the same mileage (5.04 miles ver­sus 5.10 miles), includ­ing around 200 feet more climb­ing, aver­ag­ing a bet­ter pace (13:10/mile ver­sus 13:30/mile) with my aver­age heartrate and max heartrate both slight­ly low­er than on Sun­day. That tight­ness in my calves? It hurt when I was walk­ing before the run, but dur­ing and after my calves felt great. If I did­n’t have so much work to do, I’d be tempt­ed to go out for anoth­er five miles. I feel great.

Sure, this is incre­men­tal progress, but is there any oth­er kind? Would I like to be back to run­ning eight minute miles and wear­ing a 32 belt? Of course. The num­bers don’t mat­ter, though. How I feel and how much fun I have are what mat­ter. The things I can’t count are the only things that count.

After all, the more I enjoy it, the eas­i­er it will be to get out the door and do it again. More impor­tant­ly the more I enjoy it, the more I enjoy it. So what does this mean for the future? I think it means that if I want to do few­er than four miles, I ought to walk them, and when I run, always push through to the three mile mark before think­ing about giv­ing up.