Tag Archives: 10K

Running after 50: working within limits

Sure, I’d like to think I have no limits, it’s exhilarating. It reminds me of the Fool card in the tarot deck. Don’t get me wrong: the Fool is a good card. Mostly. It indicates the potential of doing things that are ill advised but coming out richer for it–richer in experience, knowledge, wisdom and sometimes just plain richer, you never know. So understand: the Fool is a good thing.

The Fool: it's a good thing with the potential for bad.

The Fool: it's a good thing with the potential for trouble.

See–the guy is just about to step off the cliff. Not so good, even the dog is yapping “Look where you step, you…Fool!” But the idea is no venture, no gain.

So, why do I bring this up? I’m not in a limitless place in my running. I made a decision a little while ago to postpone my half marathon plans for a while because stand-up paddle season is here, as is the annual garden-and-ibuprofin two month festival and what I’m finding is I just can’t cram it all in…my poor bod complains too mightily, especially these fasciitis prone feet. And as I’ve said before: I’m in this for the long haul, which means taking care now so I can keep running for a long time. Boring, I know.

But it’s pure math. Training for the half-m would take more than the 18 to 22 miles I run weekly now.  It would take recovery time between runs, if I do it right.  And it’s right in that space between runs where things get messed up.  If the weather is gorgeous, I’m going out on that board, come hell or high water.  And I’ve already experienced what happens when I board and run back to back.

A dear friend of mine was surprised to hear I had forestalled my half-m plans, and not happily so, I could tell. It made me feel a little bad for a while. Also, I just came out of a couple of weeks of feeling bad, post-decision. Turns out a lofty goal for a newbie runner such as a half-m offers is a very motivating thing–gives you this energized identity, this get-up-and-get-out-there motivation and conversation piece that builds energy at every turn. It’s a rush. Exhilarating.

Well, I’ve come out of that funk, and am enjoying my running as much as ever, if not more. The pressure is off, the funk is gone, it’s just me out there running, trying new routes, digging my tunes, loving the blustery weather–being a body in motion. The really great thing that the half-m push did was get me to 7 mile runs and beyond. I love and look forward to them on the weekend. Adding hills and new routes during the week keeps me working on my speed, the weekend runs keep my mind geared towards a longer run and all that it entails.

I still have it in the back of my mind to do a half-m next January or February, leaving me plenty of time for recovery before the paddle surfing season comes around.

Yowza! And I thought taking up running at 53 was big…

Margaret Hagerty at 85

Margaret Hagerty at 85

And I thought taking up running at 53 was a big deal. Fuggedaboudit! Margaret Hagerty is The Boss.

Here’s a quick story of Margaret Hagerty, profiled in Runner’s World (print version) this month. At 64, she quit smoking and took up running (this isn’t the first time I’ve heard that sequence of events…). That was 20 years ago and at age 85, she’s recently completed her 80th marathon.

80. Marathons. Not 5 or 10K races.

I’m simply blown away by that. Plus she runs between 4 and 10 miles a day.

Way to go, Margaret. You’re an inspiration!

Running after 50: what was I thinking?

Last Saturday I ran 6.8 miles.  This was after a 6.4 miles run 4 days earlier, and previous to that by a a few days, a 6.2 mile run–a big leap from previous average of 3-3.5 miles, which I’d been doing about a week prior.  What’s wrong with this picture?

Okay, so since late June, I’ve upped my 6x a week to  3-3.5 miles more or less.  That was up from 2-2.5 5 times a week, so that was already a step up in the distance department, and it’s also about 18-20 miles a week.

Suddenly, after reading the Murakami autobio on running, I sort of got it into my head that it would be cool to see if I could run 6 miles, like he did every day at the beginning of his book.  He’s 59, and his book is a sort of chronicle of thoughts on running, and the practice of running itself.  When he decided to do the NY marathon, he changed from 6 miles a day to 10 miles a day and more.

The ease of adding more miles was enticing to me: if 3 miles feels this good, imagine what 6 miles must feel like!

So I tried 6 miles.  I actually ran 6.2, my own private 10K and felt really excited to learn that 1) I’d lived to tell the tale, 2) I felt pretty okay, all things considered.  As noted above, a few days later I went further, and a few days after that, further still.  At the same time, I tried to keep up my regular runs.

This last run on Saturday, while easier in some ways than the previous one, was also harder in another way.  My body really hurt later, and I was really tired (imagine!).  That same night, my body was still feeling really strange–can’t quite describe, just uncomfortable–it felt like there was excess energy coursing through me at the same time that I was really tired.

The next day I did a little research online and discovered this amazing fact that seemed to be shared by most everyone: if you are training to increase your distance, do so by 10% of your previous weekly run, for two weeks or more if needed, and then again, 10% x 2 weeks.

What I had unwittingly done was increase my miles by 100% over the course of 3 weeks.  I’m lucky I didn’t do damage, although my chronically sore heels are little more chronic now.  I do long stretches of yoga and stuff after my runs, even short ones, so I think the tone of my muscles is pretty good.

So, I’ve asked the ego-and-excitement driven me to step back for a while and let the more practical driven me to take the reins for a while.  It’s not easy, surprisingly.  Today I ran 3.4 miles and it didn’t feel like enough.  I threw some hills in for good measure and last minute, even though I’d planned to limit myself to 3 miles only, I threw in a couple more paths through the park.  Just couldn’t go back feeling this un-exercised.

I’m sworn to start over now and do it better, since I’m also sworn to stay as healthy and injury free as long as possible and to keep running.  It’s all good.

Running after 50: distance (part deux)

After running my farthest distance yet just the other day (6.25 miles), I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think about one’s own ideas about distance.

This last spring when I first started to increase my endurance and strength, I did so after my nephew suggested I start using the program described in Body for Life–one thing in particular: the running for 20 minutes routine, every third day.  What was revolutionary for me: alternating weight training and running made the days I ran even more important.  And shooting for a really good 20 minute run, with hills and flats, increased my own expectations of what I could do–I loved it.

Pretty soon, however, 20 mins wasn’t enough. Just about the time I pushed the time up to 25 minutes, I decided to try my first 5K.  The deal was, I switched from time to distance, but time running was always the necessary foundation and now, when I’ve pushed myself too hard and I feel on the edge of perhaps injuring myself, I switch back to time.

Distance feels better than time, for some reason.  Saying I ran 3.5 miles just seems like more of an accomplishment than saying I ran 32 minutes.

But knowing–and using the knowledge–that I can and should modulate between the two sometimes is a great thing to learn.  The other day, after running 6.25 miles, I was sore and tired.  The next day, my chronically sore heels were whimpering for some TLC.  Even though I was sort of excited by the thought of another big run, it was time to ease back–way back.  And build up again.  I ran for 25 minutes, an easy jog thru the park, and felt great–light on my feet and happy.

It’s important to pay close attention to this body that ain’t no spring chick anymore.  Working with it will help it to go the distance.

Running after 50: Distance

I just read Haruki Murakami’s excellent little treatise on distance running called, What I write about when I write about running (title borrowed respectfully and with permission from Raymond Carver‘s estate). So here’s a disclaimer about distance: I am not talking about distance the same way Murakami is. Not by many, many miles.

When I first started to run (sort of) on the treadmill in the gym, I recall the day I managed to eek out a mile in 12 minutes. That was a huge day for me since it meant I was mostly running with only a couple of fast walk breaks. So you now have a context for what I’m talking about when I’m talking about distance.

This isn't at all what I looked like on a treadmill

This isn't at all what I looked like on the treadmill.

That was about three years ago. About 2 years ago I started running outside–meaning, the ground is not mechanically moving beneath me and I actually have to propel my body forward on stationary ground. Whole new ballgame.

I started slow, a quarter mile, a half mile, with liberal walking before an after. By Spring of this year (2008) I had worked my way up to 2-2.5 miles, running continuously, with hills. This was again a major achievement and I was feeling pretty good about it. I’d learned a lot along the way, and made the decision to quit the gym and focus on running outdoors. I was clearly accustomed to the non-moving natural ground.

Sometime in June, I –with great trepidation–thought: maybe I can do a 5k. This thought was immediately followed by: What’s a 5K? When I found out it was 3.1 miles, I shied away. But the thought was there…and then the Fred Hutchinson 5 and 10K races were there, and I thought: what the hell. If it gets bad, you can always walk. So I signed up.

I practiced a 3 mile course a couple times a week for two weeks before so I figured I was ready for the 5K. I really wasn’t, but it all worked out anyway. What happens in a race, I learned, is that you get swept up by those around you, you find someone you pace with, and before you know it, you’re running a lot faster than you’ve trained, and you run out of gas somewhere in the middle. I still did okay–for me–with a 10.5 min pace. Slow by most anyone else’s standards, but better than I expected for myself (I wasn’t even sure I could finish it–it’s not the flattest course in the world).

After that race, I found my body was more or less thinking we would be running 5ks from now on, and swiftly too (for me). This goes to Murakami’s idea that you have to raise the body’s expectation of itself–you push it and back off, push and back off.

Since June, I’ve run two more 5Ks and earned some money for good organizations. One thing I found after the last one: I wasn’t happy just running anymore. In other words, running was now about racing, and I couldn’t relax and enjoy my beach and park runs like I used to. I was pushing and pushing, finding new routes, etc. I almost couldn’t hear my music anymore. What’s up with that?

So, I went back to some old routes and found I relaxed back into a better state while running and was happy again. One day, on a whim, I decided to run a slightly different route (half new, half old) which I mapped out beforehand on MapMyRun. When I actually got to the starting spot I’d picked out, there was no street sign. Thinking I’d missed it, I started where I thought it should be.

4.1 miles later, I realized I’d increased my distance…by a mile. I also realized I felt great–especially after the 3rd mile. A week later, I did the same route and found the same thing: after th 3rd mile I felt terrific–and ran even a wee bit further. Yesterday I ran it again and went 4.8 miles–nearly 5 miles. Nearly an increase of 2 miles in 2 weeks.

I’ve got a distance plan in place now, using Murakami’s idea: I go 4+ day 1, 3+ day 2, 2+ day 3, rest day 4 and by day 5 I’m itching to run–my old bod is so ready to go the new distance, it’s amazing.

So far so good–I’d like to do a 10k next summer, but I also have a deep respect for taking it a little bit at a time. After all, it’s taken me over 3 years to get here.