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Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'm finding that it's harder for me to come up with writing topics than for me to get myself out to go for a run. And first thing in the morning, it's awfully hard for me to get out for a run.

This morning, it was not happening. The aforementioned craziness of the last 96 hours caught up with me, and I was seriously beat. I stayed in bed until the last possible moment.

I did my work for the day and then headed to the gym for my treadmill 5K.

There were two new aspects to today's workout that made it unusual. First, yesterday was the first day in a while that I had started a run and not been able to finish it. Second, my wife (who is restarting her own fitness program) was at the gym with me. I love having her there during workouts, because it's that much more incentive to do well. It's the like the adrenaline rush of the crowd at a race, but in a much smaller and more specific dose.

So, despite the fact that my leg had been seriously acting up on Sunday, I decided to push on with my drive to outrun the treadmill. Most treadmills will go up to 10.0 mph, which, for a 5K is a time of 18:36. Back in high school, this would have been a poor time for me, but now it would really go a long way toward increasing my confidence in my speed again. Today's goal was to complete in under 19 minutes.

This meant that I was starting out at around 9.5, and I quickly found a stride. My plan was to increase speed by .1 every quarter mile, which I did for the first 3/4 of mile one. As I neared the mile marker (6:16), I figured that I could probably afford to slow my acceleration just a little bit, and decided to go by half miles instead. My legs were still very tired from all the running around, and I didn't want to risk injury.

At 1.25 miles, I bumped up to 9.9 mph, and this is where it really started to get tough. I knew I wasn't quite halfway done yet, and that I was going almost as fast as the treadmill would allow. At the halfway point, I was just barely over pace (9:33), and the back end was supposed to be quicker than the front end. Shortly before 1.75, I debated briefly putting off the final increase another quarter mile, but then realized how mad I'd be at myself if I missed the goal by one second, and I pushed the button.

If I didn't have a choice in pace, I wonder how long I could actually run. People say things like "I couldn't run a mile if my life depended on it," but I wonder if that's true. I mean, if your life really depended on it, how fast could you go? Hopefully I'll never have to find out, but if the treadmill can force me to go so fast for so long, mortal peril's got to be up there too, right?

For the final 1.35 miles, I ran like my life depended on it, watching the clock for the pacing the whole way. The two mile split (12:20) told me I was right on speed, and I just stared into the wall as hard as I can. Apparently at one point my wife, riding the stationary bike right in front of me, tried to catch my eye. My eye was uncatchable. I went into tunnel vision focus mode and started counting minutes. As long as I didn't touch the speed button, I was going to make it.

The last tenth of a mile always seems eternal on the treadmill, as you're trying to count down the last few steps, particularly if you're shooting for a specific time and the music runs out on the iPod. Each step burns like hell, and all you can do is force yourself to keep going. You've come this far, you can't give up. And oh, what sweet release it is to hit that stop button knowing you've made your goal.

There is such power in setting goals at intervals. If your only goal is to run a marathon, you might get tired out as it goes along. When you make it to your 12 mile run, you may think there's no way you could do that again. Setting goals to hit throughout the training makes a huge difference in your perspective on how it's going. And if your goal is to, say, run 50 marathons, it helps to set middling goals, like qualifying for other races, as a momentum builder.

For individual runs or training overall, I find that I can't focus on the whole. I can't think about a race in its entirety, because that just makes me tired. I get excited for tomorrow. And each tomorrow gets me closer to the end.

Don't focus on the finish line. Focus on your next ten steps.

Today's Run:
Indoors / Treadmill
3.1 Miles
18 Minutes, 56 Seconds

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