18 December 2010

People Do This for Fun?!

Today I ran longer than I ever have before.

22 miles.  (Austin folks: for a sense of the distance, it's like running from downtown to the Ikea in Round Rock.)

I have no desire to do that again...much less add 4.2 more mile to make it to a marathon.  But for reasons I won't get into here, I am doing just that.  In less than two months, I am running the Austin Marathon.

I have run races of all distances up to half marathons, but running isn't really my thing.  My love of swimming got me into triathlons a few years ago, and I was quickly hooked.  Running is an essential element of triathlons, so I reluctantly started running, at first able to run only about a mile.  Within a few months, it went from being so unbelievably hard and slow that I wanted to quit at every step to being hard only when I made it so by pushing myself but otherwise mostly comfortable.

What has been wonderful about running, though, is seeking the hard work turn into improvement.  I never -- never -- thought I could become a decent runner.  My outlook is pretty much that I'm good at some things and not good at other things, and there are enough things I'm good at that I don't need to bother with the others except for fun (hence my trips to the driving range every year or two for an hour of failure to connect with the ball).  Anyway, I don't devote much energy to areas in which I'm lacking...but maybe I should.  Hmmmm, I'll have to think about that.

But back to running.  Earlier this week we did a 2-mile timetrial to gauge our progress from a couple of months ago.  We were running on a track, and I planned my pace per lap based on the improvement I thought I should have made by now (because, again, the only joy I get from running is in seeing the progress).  I hit my pace for the first two laps (half a mile) and then started to slide.  I still cut seventeen seconds off of my time, but I was shooting for more than double that.  The timetrial is a predictor of marathon performance, but I'm not too concerned about it.

Today's 22-miler has me more concerned.  What we did today looks a lot more like the marathon (we even used much of the marathon course, but in reverse), and it was so hard.  I know it will get easier, but it's hard to imagine two or three more training runs of similar difficulty...and the marathon itself.  Around mile 19, my buddies and I compared notes on which body parts were hurting the most.  Feet, ankles, knees, calves, hamstrings, quads -- they were all on the list.  Now, 12 hours later, I'm feeling pretty good, except that one of my knees doesn't seem to be working quite right.  I estimate that my knee joints each opened and closed about 20,000 times over the course of the run, and it feels like it's on strike.  Or maybe it's the muscles that expand and contract to open the knee joint -- which also had to  do their thing 20,000 times -- that aren't happy about what I put them through this morning.  Either way,  I hope it is short-lived so I can get back to the agony of marathon training.

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