Monthly Archives: March 2009

Running past 50: altitude adjustment in Albuquerque

Surprisingly, Albuquerque has one of the highest elevation of metropolitan cities in the US. I thought Denver was higher, but turns out no, ABQ is about 200 feet higher or so, depending on where you are. During my recent visit there, I ran on trails along the Rio Grande and in Bear Canyon in the Sandia Mountains east of downtown.

Since I usually run between 15 and 200 feet above sea level here in West Seattle, I figured I’d be struggling in my runs down there. Last year when I ran there, I surely did struggle and didn’t end up running much at all. I felt it for sure: just couldn’t ever relax my breathing.

So, color me surprised on my first run, about 3.5 miles along the Rio Grande, a gorgeous day that allowed me to run in a sleeveless tank and shorts–listen, for someone living in Seattle, that’s a huge accomplishment during March. The truly remarkable thing was this: after the first mile, I felt fine–no, I felt great! I could feel the altitude some, but basically it just wasn’t an issue.

Bear Canyon ABQ, NM

Bear Canyon ABQ, NM

The next day I ran what could have been a grueling trail through a popular hiking section of the Sandia Mountains, Bear Canyon. I had low expectations of myself since that altitude was going to be a good bit higher, and the hiking trails include a lot of ups and some downs. Again, a gorgeous day, and while the first mile was a bit more of a struggle than usual, my breathing evened out nicely and I ran about 45 minutes no problem. Awesome!

On Sunday, I was down in the “lowlands” again along the Rio Grande, and this time I was a little tired, but I don’t run 3 days in a row anymore, so I chalked it up to that.

So I’ve been thinking about this experience and here’s what strikes me: you don’t often get such a great experiential measure of improvement like this. While I fret day to day over this and that with regard to my running–speed, distance, hills, stretching before and after, shoes, weather–this quick vacation to the sun allowed me to really experience just how much my running and physical strength have improved in the course of a year. I felt just great about this undeniable improvement–especially after my not so pleasurable recent 10 mile run the previous weekend.

It’s good to have a true milestone now and again–and my ABQ runs gave me that.

Running past 50: the tyranny of perfection

Halfway through my 10 mile run this past Saturday, the thought came to me: thank god. The tyranny of perfection is behind me.

I completed my 10 mile goal which I’d set back at the beginning of Feb, a little ahead of schedule but by necessity as this weekend was the window of opportunity. I was excited, especially after last Saturday’s 9.25 mile excellent, nay, perfect run. I talked myself down by reminding myself: it’s not likely to be that great every time, cool your jets, girlie.

But I had no idea it would be this bad.

Saturday offered up some pretty lousy weather, rain and wind, gray and cold. I can stand all of it, but wind is what I dread. I checked Intellicast for the wind report but no let-up was in the cards. I felt dreary about it all, suddenly. As the morning wore on, however, I gave myself a talking to…window of opportunity, the importance of setting and reaching a goal that’s all your own, how great I’d feel afterwards…

And I decided to just do it, come hell or high water. I felt excited again, could sense some adrenaline building as I filled my little water flasks, got dressed, stretched and did my core exercises. I checked my course one last time to make sure I knew where to turn around and then I headed out.

I drove to the starting point, hit the button on my running watch and headed out. At first, the weather felt a little balmy. I could imagine this turning out well, especially when I saw a broad rainbow across the ferry run between Bainbridge and downtown Seattle. But then, just as suddenly, the wind kicked up a bit. No problem, I can do this, I said. I rounded the corner at the lighthouse and headed for the long stretch along Alki Beach.

As I headed into my second mile, the wind was picking up a bit more but still not a problem. The sun had slipped away behind rolling billowing clouds. At the Duwamish Head, things got dicey. I was now leaning into the wind and I could feel my energy getting tapped way too soon.

As I headed into the fourth and fifth miles, I knew this was going to be very far from a perfect run. I had to take a brief walking breaks, long before the 60 minute mark, and though I tried to laugh it all off with the perspective of last week to this week’s very far from perfect run, I was feeling an extra pull on my energy.

No energy drain was going to keep me from attaining my goal, though, and that was that. I got to the five mile mark and turned around. At last the wind was at my back…for 1.25 miles. Again when I hit the Duwamish point, the wind had turned slightly and incredibly, I was running into it again.

I knew then that this was going to be a long slog because since it was a S-SW wind–I’d be heading into it from here on out. So I gave myself over to it, paced my walking breaks…and lowered my expectations. STill, though I wasn’t fast–11 minute miles–I did finish what I’d started, and that was what counted for me. I was sore and very tired by the end, depressingly so, since I was so excited to complete this project. But I finished, I hit 10.1 miles and had not one drop of energy left to do much of anything but drive home and do my yoga after-run stretches.

I now know what’s involved in ramping up distance, I know I can do it, and I know how to work with my body to avoid too much wear and tear. I’ll sign up for my first half-marathon soon–this after running my first 5K just last summer. I wish it had been a more uplifting 10 miles, but it was what it was. And after all, perfection really is a sort of tyranny, isn’t it?

i killed jenny

Running past 50: my nine mile adventure

This past Saturday I had the most awesome run I’ve maybe ever had. What started out as a tentative run in potential snow and high winds turned into a fabulous, full hearted run in snow + rain + sleet + sun and hardly any wind to speak of. I’m writing this blog to once again sing the praises of Self Talk.

We all do self-talk. Sometimes we’re purposeful about it: before a big interview or a meeting, before a race, before a party if you’re shy. Whatever, we tell ourselves stories about ourselves and often, those stories turn out to be true. Imagine. Anyway, I got to thinking about my runs lately, how I’m upping the miles but not feeling so great and sometimes not enjoying them so much. I also got to thinking about my last post and the guy who has a running mantra tailored after James Brown’s song I feel Good.

And I decided: today I’m going to feel great throughout my run. I’m going to tell myself I feel great, and in fact, I will feel great. Guess what: it worked. I had some awesome tunes on, was totally in my body, and kept saying: I feel great–I’m so alive, and it’s awesome! I felt so fine throughout the run that I even managed to enjoy the scenery (something I miss when I’m focused on how much my feet hurt, or my legs or whatever), the raucous weather, all of it. And when I got to my turn-around point, I felt so good I just kept going. I ran 9.22 miles, and I was totally psyched by the end.

Psyched! Because my goal of 10 miles is well within reach next weekend. Because I felt pretty dang good after the run, aware that I was sore, but strong and happy and alive. Very much alive. And very lucky too–grateful, like you feel sometimes when your life has some grace to it.

So I say yeah. Try it out.

Running after 50: I feel good (mostly)

I was reading last night about a guy who did a meditative chant to James Brown’s “I feel good” riff during his run.  That seemed to be an excellent mantra for a long run, good rhythm, good rhyme.

Last Saturday I ran 8.25 miles.  I managed to maintain a 10:30 mile all the way thru, which probably means my first miles were a lot better than my later miles–either that or my music selection has a 10:30 mile rhythm built in.  Could be.

I’ve been thinking–in an admittedly self-critical way–that lots of people would consider a 10:30 mile slow as molasses.  I’ve heard that from runners I’ve spoken to, and read it here and there.  One shouldn’t be satisfied with a 10:30 mile.  And yet I am.

Last summer, my best 5K was a 9.30 mile pace and I was pleased with that.  But I recognized that was a 5K.  Since January, I’ve been upping my miles so that a 5K is a quick-run day now, and I’m usually shooting for over 4, and on the weekends, over 6 or 7.  Ultimately, by the end of the month, I hope to be at 10 miles…though I’ll accept 9, and be doggone happy with 9.5.

Throughout this ramp up, my focus has not been speed.  It’s really not even been distance.  It’s been physical well-being.  See, I want to run for a very long time, if I’m lucky.  And the good news/bad news is I’m starting later in life.  Good news: I don’t have previous injuries to plague me.  Bad news: this isn’t exactly the peak physical condition I’ve known at other, younger, times in my life.  And straight-up news: you have to do things differently after 50.  You  just do.

You can’t get by without a stretching regimen.  Well, maybe you can, but you won’t be running for long–just my opinion.  You can’t get by on a cup of coffee and zoom out the door for a swift 8 miles.  And speed just isn’t going to be the top line concern.

So what is the top line concern?  Pure joy.  The satisfaction of giving your body the gift of health and good care.  The tending that pays off on those excellent days when you really feel it’s all coming together (today wasn’t one of those, by the way, but hey.).  What else is there, really?

It’s truly a meditative state, this care and feeding and stretching and reaching for something new.  It’s all mine–can’t buy it, can’t fake it–it’s utterly real and alive and in the moment.  Even if that moment is slower than molasses–it’s all mine.

Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy (redux, since there are authority issues running rampant out there)

If you weren’t able to see this before, due to YouTube authority issues, please check it out now–it’s freakin High-Larious.  And Thank You ArnoldDigital for the use of the clip!