Out for a test run

Seri­ous­ly, that’s exact­ly what today’s short run was: a test. I want­ed to know if I feel good enough to run a race tomor­row. Until yes­ter­day I’d been plan­ning on rep­re­sent­ing my neigh­bor­hood at the DSE Potrero Hill 4 Mil­er, a real­ly fun course around my neigh­bor­hood and up San Fran­cis­co’s real twisti­est (or at least most sin­u­ous) street, Ver­mont Street. It’s a course that gets run only once a year and I’ve been look­ing for­ward to run­ning it this year.

Two things got in the way of that plan this year. First is the knee trou­ble I’ve been hav­ing for the past cou­ple weeks. The Potrero race is only four miles but the hill is fair­ly chal­leng­ing and I’m not sure that run­ning a hilly course is the best thing for me right now. I already took three days in a row off from run­ning and today was the first day I haven’t been limp­ing when I walk. Tak­ing it easy is indicated.

But with every option that dis­ap­pears, anoth­er becomes avail­able (you can insert your own hallway/window/door metaphor here.) Tomor­row there is a 5K race in Alame­da called the Alame­da R.A.C.E (or Ralph Appez­za­to Char­i­ty Event.) Alame­da is entire­ly flat, and this course is a 5K, a lit­tle over three-fourths the length of the Potrero run. As much as I like dis­tances, now isn’t the time. Fur­ther, it’s a chance to get out of the City and prac­tice a lit­tle road-rac­ing tourism. OK, Alame­da isn’t exact­ly far away, but a race out of town still has its appeal.

I was­n’t even cer­tain that I should run any race tomor­row con­sid­er­ing that my knee was hurt­ing, so I planned this short run today. I’d go out for about a mile, that’s all. Just a mile with­out any hills, just an easy neigh­bor­hood jog just to test out the knee. Then see how I feel after­ward and make a deci­sion based on that. Remem­ber, the prob­lem has not been how my knee feels dur­ing a run, the prob­lem has been walk­ing on the knee after a run. I think that if I can do a mile with­out a prob­lem I can prob­a­bly do three miles with­out a prob­lem, but if a mile caus­es trou­ble then I need to stay off the knee. That might be faulty log­ic but it’s what I’ve got for now.

I also decid­ed to make this a bare­foot run for two rea­sons. First because I’m hop­ing that in addi­tion to rest what I need to do is strength­en those parts of my feet and legs that will keep me from injur­ing myself. That means prac­tic­ing good form and run­ning bare­foot makes at least some kinds of bad form painful enough that it’s nat­ur­al to avoid. Sec­ond, because one of the rea­sons I haven’t done much bare­foot run­ning late­ly is because start­ing out with bare­foot run­ning it’s a good idea to run short dis­tances and build up to longer dis­tances. I usu­al­ly don’t have an excuse to keep myself to just a mile. In fact usu­al­ly when I get myself psy­ched up to go for a run I won’t be sat­is­fied with a short run like that. So I think today when I was only going to go for a mile run was a good time to take the oppor­tu­ni­ty to run barefoot.

I said I was­n’t going to run any hills, but where I live that’s not real­ly an option. I took off down­hill in the shal­low­est descent I could, but it was enough that I felt awk­ward on the descent. It’s tough to let myself go and let grav­i­ty pull me along. It’s some­thing I’d learned to do bet­ter a few year back, but in those days I was run­ning eight minute miles, not plod­ding along at twelve min­utes and more to the mile.

I went along the flats until I had a choice to go uphill or turn. I decid­ed to take a shal­low uphill incline (8%) for a block and back, then run around the perime­ter of Jack­son Park and back. As I turned the cor­ner onto 17th Street I saw that there was a group of kids loi­ter­ing by the bus stop ahead. They were all around 13 or 14 years old—just old enough that they could be hav­ing fun goof­ing around or want­i­ng to look tough. Well, doing any­thing to dis­play fear would only feed any poten­tial to the lat­ter, so I stuck to my path on the sidewalk.

As I got clos­er, I heard the words, «ain’t got no shoes!» Anoth­er kid said, «hey, does­n’t that hurt?» I said, «not a bit! It feels good!» and ran on past, real­ly glad that I’d got­ten the chance to inter­act briefly, which beats the heck out of either avoid­ance or con­fronta­tion. Maybe it’s sad that I even have to think that way liv­ing in the City, but this was a good result.

Just a block fur­ther a guy cross­ing the street asked me for direc­tions to the near­est BART sta­tion. I stopped run­ning long enough to give him walk­ing direc­tions and to tell him which bus he could catch, then con­tin­ued up the hill toward home.

Tonight was my night for chat­ty neigh­bors, I guess because on the very next block a woman walk­ing down the hill said to me, «I hope it still feels warm to you!» It did­n’t feel chilly to me at all but this run was right after the sun went below the hori­zon, so I can see how some­one who was out in the warm sun all day might sud­den­ly feel a bit of a chill.

I did­n’t stop until I got to my doorstep, which came to just slight­ly more than a mile, exact­ly as planned. I expe­ri­enced only slight twinges of knee and foot pain on the run, and adjust­ed my stride to smooth my foot­fall which took care of it. I’ve been back inside for over an hour now and I’m hav­ing no trou­ble with walk­ing or stand­ing, so I think that with some stretch­ing and warm­ing up tomor­row I should be fine to make it a race day.

I’ll report back here as to how it goes.