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 oldjust 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.