Today I ventured out on run #2. It is still odd to wake up on Saturday morning... at 8am, no less (I had awakened at 6 actually, but forced myself to go back to sleep since this is just about the last time I can enjoy such an opportunity) and not have hours and hours of training staring me in the face. Soon enough, though. Anyway, after a few hours of extended pajama time, I put on some running tights and headed out on a crisp, sunny, 40-degree morning to run 2 miles or so.
I opted to run on the road this time, since this is where 99% of my training and so far 100% of my racing takes place. I was pleased to discover that it didn't feel that bad. First, there was no pain at all from my foot. So as far as injuries go - not that I'd like another one for say, 10 years or so - the stress fracture I guess isn't so bad. First, it is a definitive diagnosis. It's either broken or it's not. And it is easy to tell when it is healed. Did the bone fuse back together? Yes, go run. No? Wait longer. It's not the same kind of guessing game as, say, a strained hamstring or something of that nature. You don't go out and run on it only to have it creep up on you again, always wondering if it will go away or if it will bother you for an eternity. It broke. It healed. All done.
I overdressed for the occasion because I have completely forgotten how to dress for running in general, let alone running in temps in the 40's. Before Wednesday's run, the last run workout I had done was the one when "the incident" occurred, September 13th. It was a lot warmer then. Anyway, since it was only for 20 minutes, it didn't make much of a difference anyway. I headed out on the shortest actual loop I can do from home. I spent some time attempting to find my heart rate monitor strap, but instead of spending more time looking for the stupid thing than it would take to actually do the workout, I decided to go on without it.
I'm familiar enough with this loop that I know where the first mile marker is. I know, everyone else I know trains with a Garmin and always knows their exact pace at any given moment. I think given my running "ability" I might actually wind up quitting running entirely if I was too aware of my pace at every moment of a run. And also maybe someday I'll have enough spare cash to justify spending $200 or so on what I consider to be a non-essential toy for racing, especially given the fact that now I'll have to buy a new wetsuit for next season. Did you see that 2XU is coming out with a new wetsuit that costs $900? Does it seem startling to anyone else that the cost of wetsuits has seemingly doubled in the past few years? Are they motorized? Kayaks are cheaper than that, and they come with paddles. But anyway...
Where was I? Oh yeah, the first mile. I hit it in 9:05. I know, wicked fast, right? Actually, to be honest, I was expecting something more in the 10:30 range. I'm not kidding about that, either. It seems like in the past 18 months, whenever I have come back to running after some layoff due to one injury or another, or time off, even my worst-case scenario isn't as bad as what things turn out to be. I've learned to set my expectations low. So after not just taking 3 weeks nearly completely off, but not running a step in over 7 weeks and managing to adequately fatten up due to inactivity and simple sugar and carb consumption, I figured 10:30 was a reasonable guess. For most, that's not even running. Even for me it hardly feels like running. Truthfully, that's about the pace I started at last fall after the season of rock bottom. So to look down at the watch and see 9:05, I actually thought that maybe this time things would be different. Only time will tell, but it's not a bad start.
I finished out the run likely slightly slower than that, but not by too much. 20 minutes of running. Does that even count? At this point it sure as heck does. My throat burned and my joints are aching already, which is both annoying and wonderful all at the same time. Annoying because it seems ridiculous that I've gotten to the point where a 20-minute run can make me tired and sore and make my throat burn. Wonderful because at least I am out there running. And again, my foot didn't hurt, and that's about all I'm looking for right now.
For other workouts this week, one of the days I actually dusted off my old mountain bike. Ok, I didn't dust it off, but I did take off the race number that was still on it from the only off-road tri I've ever done, also the last time I rode that bike... a little over 5 years ago. So if you can't tell, I'm not an avid mountain biker. The bike got plenty of use for the first several years I had it. I got the thing in 1992, when I was in 7th grade, about 10 years before I even considered attempting a triathlon and just wanted something to ride around town. But once the road biking began, the mountain bike was pretty under-utilized, until that off-road race, and it has been sitting in the garage ever since.
Until this week. I don't know why I suddenly decided to ride it, I just felt like doing something different. It was only going to be a 30-minute ride, and there is a nice little trail less than a mile from home, and what difference did it make what bike I was on? I went to the garage and picked up the old Specialized Hard Rock, tore off the old number and checked the tires - the same tires that have been on the bike for 17-and-a-half years (wow, that makes me feel old!) - and found that yep, they needed some air. I used that other hole on my bike pump and checked to make sure that the brakes worked. They were unbelievably squeaky, but they still worked. Ok, I guess it's time to ride.
It felt a little weird to be on a bike other than my tri bike. Although it felt even weirder last week when I went out on my road bike. It also felt weird not to have my feet attached to the pedals. I just wore sneakers and used the regular old pedals like the 12-year old kid I was when I got it. I felt a little silly, like my bike clothes were more like a Halloween costume on a person pretending to be a biker. After a brief ride on the road, I was happy to turn onto the trail and get away from the cars. Initially, I was a little nervous as my off-road skills haven't exactly been tested in a while. That, and the shifting on the bike wasn't exactly working perfectly. Hey, when the chain and cables on a bike haven't been oiled, well, possibly ever, you can't expect much in that area.
After a few minutes of cautious, nervous riding, I quickly remembered how fun it was and just relaxed and let go and didn't worry about every little root or what obstacles might be hiding under the piles of leaves on the trail. It was a fun way to spend my 30-minute bike ride, and I enjoyed the change of pace. My only regret was that I went out pretty much exactly 30 minutes before the sun was going to set (sadly, darkness begins to fall not long after 4pm these days) which left me no room to stay out and play any longer. I'd love to get a real mountain bike and ride it more often. Maybe someday. But for now, I guess I'll settle for a short ride here and there on the old bike I got in junior high. Come on, I already mentioned earlier I wouldn't shell out the money for a Garmin, no way I'm going to do it for a mountain bike that might get ridden a couple of times a month, if that. Fun anyway.
One last thing I feel I must share is my little encounter yesterday on a walking workout I was doing. Yes, I said walking workout. I'll be doing some extra walking to help strengthen the weakened soft tissue in my foot. The bone will be fine now that it's healed, it's just the soft tissue we have to be careful with while I come back. Anyway, I was finishing up the walk coming back through the parking lot of a shopping plaza near home. At the end of the lot near the Dunkin' Donuts I spotted a woman holding up her camera to take a picture. Posing for the picture was what appeared to be her husband and 2 kids. Ok, fine, not often you see someone taking family pictures in a parking lot outside Dunkin' Donuts, but no big deal. Oh, except then I noticed behind them the giant dead deer head sticking out of the trunk of their white sedan with blood apparently intentionally smeared on the side of the car. The deer was so huge it didn't fit in the trunk. Upon closer inspection, they were dressed for hunting, so this was not a road kill find. My stomach immediately started to feel queasy. People hunt around here, that's not unusual. I guess I just never really considered what happens when someone actually kills a deer. I didn't realize that you had to haul its carcass to your car, stuff it in the trunk and drive around with its giant head poking out while the drivers of other cars on the highway try not to puke up their breakfast. And really? A family photo? Look, momma, daddy dun' killed a deer! Take my picture! Let's smear its blood on the paint! I think I just found the image I will conjure up anytime I am feeling tempted to cheat on the core diet while I try to lose my off-season weight.
However, not long after this incident, I finally hit that feeling. The eagerness to really get back into training. Honestly, I had gotten kind of used to not training like crazy every day. I've been sleeping great, not anxious to get to bed at 8pm, and not exhausted walking up a flight of stairs. However, I finally hit that point where I felt like I was ready to jump out of my skin I wanted to train so badly. By the time I got the stress fracture, all I wanted was to stop training. I wanted to start over with a clean slate after a break. Well, I got my break a little earlier than intended and I missed out on the biggest race of the year, causing my season to fizzle out without every really hitting that high point. But the result is the same. I've got that clean slate. I'm anxious to get out there and train again. Presumably I'm healed and at the moment injury-free. We just have to see where things will take me this time around.
Tomorrow I have my meeting with coach Jesse. We will plan out the whole season and go over my goals. I'm excited and scared all at the same time. A year ago we did the same thing. I was pretty much hopeless at that point, but I was giving it one last shot. I had a threshold test that resulted in numbers that were embarrassingly low for wattage, and way too high as far as heart rate was concerned. He laid out my year goals with numbers I didn't believe were possible even if somewhere inside I wanted to believe they could be achieved, I just didn't think it was going to happen. Truthfully, after shattering my initial goal for California back in April, I failed to meet any of the other long-term goals. I'm not quite sure what happened between April and the rest of the season, but I just couldn't quite come around to where I needed to be. Lake Placid was probably more my own fault, not the optimal race execution on my part, but I'm not really sure what happened in the other races. Well, I suppose we can blame St. Croix on spending most of the day before the race sitting in the airport hoping my bike would arrive and not eating or drinking or lying with my feet up. So anyway, that's what makes me nervous about setting out the goals for this year. On one hand, I don't want to once again set up goals that I don't quite wind up reaching. On the other hand, I don't want to see goals that don't excite me to get out and train. I want to know I'm capable of doing something great. Only time will tell.
All I can say is that I'm ready to do everything perfect to make this season the great one. I feel like a broken record and I've been saying that every year since 2006, the actual great season before every race result became disappointing. But hey, now that I'm in my 30's maybe I've matured enough to actually make it happen. One more week of super easy ridiculously short stuff, and then it's time to get back at it!