Tuesday, October 25, 2011

DTR with Running

Tonight was just like the memory of so many others. Something-- a sentence fragment, an exhaled breath of air, the picture on the cover of a book-- inspired me to sink into my Asics and hit the road. Its nighttime in October, and cold, though the air still seems full with the memory of late afternoon sun. My breath comes out in little puffs as I open up past the campus and inhale deeply. It feels unspeakably good to be back here, in these first few blocks before the twinge in my left hip, the tightness in my calf, and weird strain on my foot all make themselves heard. But I soak it all in. The familiarity of this rhythm is like turning on the radio to an old favorite. Feet hitting the ground, breathing cold air, arms at my sides, swinging slightly. I think I could do this forever, but then the traffic light changes.

I cross the street and head to the track, jog a few laps and then time myself for several 400 meter laps. I haven't worn this many clothes exercising for months, haven't strayed out of doors in this weather and looking around at the many other runners on the track, I see I have been missing out. Its cool, but alive outside tonight. There's more electricity on this track right now than in my living room, though it whirs with the burden of our lights, refrigerator, and new 30-gallon fish tank. This is where I want to be.

So where have I been? Well.

After Lord Hill I knew I needed something, needed a push, a spark. Mileage is great- no- essential, but strength training is fundamental, and something I've somehow managed to fall behind on in the past. We definitely had our share of it in college, but the truth is, if you don't really want to do it, you probably won't. I did, in a sense, want to get the rotation in, but it didn't mean a lot to me. So many exciting things were happening on the road and track, why build biceps afterwards in the gym? So of course, I took short-cuts, I skipped parts I couldn't do (yet), I forgot to maybe do it twice a week. And the end of that story is that somehow I got through 25 years of my life without ever doing a pushup. Many adults don't require this sort of skill to get through the hum-drum of life. Pay bills, do the dishes, eat and sleep. But I knew I wanted something particular: to climb mountains. So.

By luck and a little bit of effort I found INSANITY, an appropriately (though possibly offensive) named workout series designed to be the 'most difficult workout series ever put on DVD.' I'm not usually one for workout videos, but several points appealed to me.

1. It's a 60 day program. Obvious goal, obvious end point (or so I thought...)
2. It's really, really hard. Definitely would challenge me, not a waste of my time.
3. It does not require any weights or equipment. Like running, it's simple, just me and the space and my own mind.

So just a few days after my first attempted 50k (of which I ran only 26 miles in 7 hours and 42 minutes-- totally brutal climb) a little shoebox arrived in the mail and the fun began.

The first day was a fit test, just to see where you're at, nothing too crazy. I almost threw up. The second day was a 40 minute workout that almost destroyed my entire body. I often do this workout now and cannot believe that this was what I did on the first day. It still leaves me on the floor, positively dripping with the sweat. And it only gets tougher from there. After the first month, you exchange the 4 workouts you've been rotating for 4 more, and what you thought was the max becomes just the beginning. The second month literally made me cry more than once. The workouts stretch out to about an hour and the moves get more technical and complicated. There is still one or two that I haven't figured out how to do yet. But many, many heart-breakingly early mornings later, I finished. I did the whole 60 days.

A week before I finished the program, I ran another 50k. I hadn't run much in the meantime, during the weeks of INSANITY-- a couple 3-6 milers on the weekends (you get Sunday off), and a half-marathon in the middle-- so I wasn't sure what to expect. Do jumps and push-ups and floor sprints really prepare you for mountain running for 7-8 hours? I suppose I can't be sure. But here are the facts: On Aug 6 I ran a 7h 42m trail marathon. On Oct 1 I ran a 7h 4m 50k. That's 5 miles more in almost 40 minutes less, so... I think I'll stick with it!

I was so pleased after the 50k, that I actually let someone talk me into considering a 50 miler this spring. Considering, anyway.

So my goal for this round of INSANITY? Run in the evenings a couple times a week. I have really enjoyed the workouts, pushing and breathing hard, and beating the mental barrier are all things I love. But running is what its all for, and I haven't lost sight of that. In the first few days of INSANITY, hobbling to work and cringing when I had to squat or sit, I couldn't imagine running, but I'm ready now.

Marathon on the 24th of November, about a month away! Then I'm in for a tough winter, and maybe another marathon in April. The 50 miler is in May. Stay tuned, we'll see just how crazy I get...