Sunday, December 18, 2011

“The person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”

Spartan Shape-Up, Day 151:

Good Afternoon, BlogLand! Despite the extreme craziness of this holiday season, it was a good day. It was Long Run Day. Yep, the official plan for LRD is to get out there and run more than my usual 3ish miles. 

I didn't run yesterday, as I was overtaken by holiday craziness... so I was determined to go today. Plus, when I got up and looked out the window, it looked like a pleasant, sunny day. ... Right until I looked at the thermometer. A balmy 15 degrees. High of 20 today, supposedly. Not to be deterred, I reminded myself that people DO run outside in the winter, without turning into popsicles, and I would warm up if I got moving. I put on a bunch of layers (Seriously, Santa, I need Under Armour Cold Gear. PLEASE? I've been GOOD!), laced up the sneakers and got in the car. I was smart enough, though, to bring a super warm sweatshirt for post-run, cold sweaty me. 

I was cold, already. This does not bode well, I thought to myself. It was noon and I could see my breath, my car was angry about moving, and I was going to go RUN?! A LONG RUN?! WTF. 

And then I remembered. Several of my Spartan homies (Remember Guest GT, Todd? and Margo the Great? to name just a couple!) were in NJ, competing in the World's Toughest Mudder Competition. While I do not yet know all the details, I know that it was COLD there, and it involved them doing laps of the course (swimming it wetsuits, obstacles, etc.), for more than 24 hours. Apparently, several times they had to break the ice to get through the obstacles. Many people pulled out for hypothermia, or close to it. Margo and Todd did 30+ hours of that. Despite my badassness not even being CLOSE to theirs (yet!), surely I could handle ONE HOUR outside, in dry clothes, right? 

Yes. The only answer was yes. 

So, I STFU and drove to my Long Run spot. It's an indefinitely long out and back... which is good, because then I feel like I have no choice but to run back, however far I run out... because I have to get back to my car and all. haha... 

I got out of the car, shivered in the cold breeze (Oh yeah, I was running next to a large, frozen body of water... there was a cold breeze!), walked over to my starting line, started the tracker and I was off. I've elected to go without music the last few times, as it seems to help me pay a little better attention to the technicality of my running; I pay more attention to my breathing, how my feet are falling, my strides, etc. Plus, it conserves the battery on my stupid old phone (new one this week! ee!), so it doesn't die halfway into my run....

So, I ran. The first mile was COLD. My muscles were not warm, I was not warm, the wind was not warm... I was like, WHY am I here?.... and then I saw another runner. Cue my competitive streak. Clearly, if THEY could do this, so could I. I was feeling really badass, right about a mile and a half in, when I realize that the icy wind was making my eyes water..... which was then promptly freezing to my face. Yes, folks, I had frozen tear-cicles on my face. AWESOME. You're sad you didn't go running today, now aren't you?

I kept running, my legs started to loosen up a bit and I warmed up... I even stuck my hands actually OUT of the sleeves I had them balled up inside of! Running down a sunny stretch of road wasn't all that bad, for the most part... I was sweating, breathing pretty evenly, and all was well.

... and then I hit the shade, around mile 2. Still running. Only in the shade, with the wind, I swear it was 10 degrees colder. I could feel the outsides of my legs, and my butt go a little cold (the numbness didn't come until later...), and decided that hey, no big deal... if they went numb, then it wouldn't hurt so much later? No different than sitting in an ice bath!!

Back into the sun I ran, and I was starting to feel a little tired. I ran and shook out my arms, to try and release the inadvertent shoulder tension that I was building up.... Shake arms, concentrate on breathing, turn over my feet. Just. Keep. Moving.

You see, BlogLand, I had a goal today. Must run an entire 3 miles with no break. Absolutely. Then, the goal would be to see how far I could go past that 3 miles, without a break. I had no idea where that would be.

At around 2 and a half miles, I trotted a U-turn in the road, and began my trek back. Still running. Okay, I was feeling like I was on track. I was not a speed demon, but I was chugging along steadily. I looked at the scenic VT dirt road stretched out in front of me and had a sudden realization: The damn road is a slight rolling incline from here, as far as my eye could see. I'd never noticed that before (see what happens when you go without music?). But, I was working for a long, non-stop run, and refused to be deterred by tiny rolling hills!

At mile 3.5ish, I was back in the shade. My neck was cold (yes. I need a scarf or something, I've determined), but I was warm with the exertion. My legs were warm in the big muscles, but the outside were pretty damn cold. It was also at this point I noticed the most fabulous part - running in the shade, with the wind, being really sweaty, had caused the sweat to form tiny ice beads on all the tiny hairs on my face. Yep, I had a tiny shield of sweat-ice-beads all over my face.

At that realization, I decided I was not going to stop running. Partially because a) I'd come this far, and damnit, 5 miles sounded a lot better than 4.25 or something... and b) if I stopped running now and had to walk the rest of the way back to the car, it was going to be really, really cold.

Still running.

By running, I mean, after I passed the 4 mile mark (feeling pretty awesome, at that, because I still hadn't stopped for a break!), I was pushing. Digging really deep and keeping my eye on the prize. I could do 5 miles. All I had to do was keep my legs moving. They were strong (I thought of the awesome squats I can do at Crossfit!), they'd been conditioned (I thought of all the time I'd put pounding the pavement from the summer time)... 5 miles was nothing. I just had to keep. moving. I found myself counting to ten, with my foot falls. Get to ten, then the next ten. I paid close attention to my breathing, remembering the GT's words that I would tire more quickly if I didn't get enough oxygen to my muscles.

The last mile was a bit zombie-like. I was tired. I was cold. All my head was thinking was 1,2,3, DEEEP BREATH.......4,5,6, BREAAAAATHE.....7, 8, 9, 10. AGAIN. 1, 2, 3.... and so on.

Then I had a little bit of a tiny epiphany. I had successfully run (thus far) more than 4 miles without stopping. I assessed my physical state. I still had more gas in the tank. I was doing it. Feeling a bit more uplifted by that thought, and a few quick thoughts of the wind-free car I could get in, and the giant warm sweatshirt that awaited me, I picked up the pace a little bit. I was in the homestretch.

The evil part about the homestretch is that in the particular way that I ran the route, I have to run BY my (nice, warm...) car for a quarter of a mile, before turning back to it. But, run I did. WAHA. STILL running. I admit, at this point, I had the phone out and was checking the mileage every few minutes, to watch for when it it 5 miles.

As I checked it the last time, I saw 5.04 on the tracker. YES. Trotted down to a walk. Ahhhhh..... My first walk in almost an hour. Felt nice. Stretched out my legs at a walk, and was recovering and walking back to the card. AND FREEZING. Shortly after you stop running, your body isn't quite as warm. But you're wet and sweaty. And Cold. I couldn't get back to the car fast enough. I jogged a little bit to get there.

Sitting in the car, warming up (it, and me!) and sipping some water, I texted the GT with the good news. My first long run that was a smashing success. It looked like this:

Summary00:55:215.0 mi11:00
SplitTimeDistancePace (avg)
100:10:081.0 mi10:11
200:10:551.0 mi10:54
300:11:321.0 mi11:31
400:11:081.0 mi11:07
500:10:561.0 mi10:58
600:00:290.1 mi10:11
Not bad, if I do say so myself. I averaged an exactly 11 min/mi, with the majority of my miles faster than that (it was that damn mile three that got really cold and tiring, that blew the average!). That is a HUGE accomplishment. Typically, on these long runs, I'd be lucky to get around an 11:40min/mi. average. YEEHAW.

The 11 min/mile average wasn't the big victory though... There was NO WALKING. I RAN FIVE MILES.

Holy shit.

Now, to keep it real, at the end of those 5 miles, I'm not sure I had a lot left in me. I might've gotten to 6 miles, but it would've not been pretty, and I would've been really drained. But that is inconsequential - for the first time, I really feel like maybe I'll be able to handle these Spartan Races and what not after all.

It seems like last weeks' 5K was a real game-changer. I'm not sure if it was the mental wall destruction, or it just happened at about the same time that my body decided to jump on board with everything. For months it's felt like I was just pushing hard and unsuccessfully at a physical wall that I just couldn't get past. Somewhere around last week, that went away. On my runs, I haven't walked at all... and today, I ran a consecutive 5 miles. My legs didn't feel heavy. Sure, they were tired, but they kept going. My body felt better about today's freakin' cold run, than it did about a nice, pleasantly warm one a few weeks ago. I barely got through a mile without walking. Yeah, remember that one? Tears and all. I do.

This is where I take a moment to say, Dear Body. THANK you for finally jumping on the bandwagon. My Workouts - particularly my runs - are so much more do-able when you decide to cooperate. It's almost like you're actually improving!!

The other component here, that I'm happy to report, is that the weight-loss is going well. I'm down another couple of pounds as of the morning, thanks to No Bread. I weighed in at 211 this morning (I still hate saying that.). That is officially 74 pounds down from my starting weight over a year ago. Rawr. I can't help but wonder if the weight-reduction is playing a factor in my success. Like, maybe because my body has to move less mass, it's working more efficiently, etc?

So, overall, the GT is pleased with today's outcome (I fear the new-improved, adapted training plan that may come of this...), and I'm thrilled out of my mind. FIVE MILES. Yep.

The best part of the day, however, was definitely the subsequent LONG. HOT. SHOWER. Me and my shivering self were reallllllyyyy glad for it. My knees are feeling a little stiff (no cartilage. Grr.), but a couple of ice packs and a wee nap seem to have rectified that. All is well. AND I RAN FIVE MILES.

That said. It's bedtime. Crossfit comes early in the morning... 

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