My run today was a significant turning point in my training. I ran injury free for eight miles and felt like I could have repeated the run over and over again. I will get into the reasons in the Learning section.
I also had the pleasure, once again, to run with the North Texas Trail Runners . This time our small group was lead by Char Thompson, the President of NTTR. It was nice to run with Char. Although she probably didn't realize it, she was a great teacher, answering endless questions and literally leading by example as we watched her running technique.
At the end of the run I thought about tagging on a few more miles. When I asked Char if she was going to run some more, she noted that she had planned to repeat the same run another 3 times. WHAT?? That's like 30-something miles of the toughest part of the Northshore Trail . A nice little "training run," as she referred to it as.
I don't have that range yet, but as Char encouraged me, it will come slowly over time.
Char Thompson leading part of our
group along the Northshore trail.
Length: 08.28 Miles over 2 Hours and 14 Minutes (16:08 pace)
We met at the MADD Shelter just before 7 am. Our intention was to run to Far Gate and back, about eight miles total. I was a little concerned about this run, still recovering from my most recent calf injury . This part of the trail is the most technical and includes small but frequent rocky inclines and declines, the worst medicine for a recovering calf muscle!
The sun had not risen yet, so we walked about the first half mile until we had enough light to see the trail. Then, Char lead us into a very comfortable jog. Throughout the entire run, we would slow to walk up the inclines, a blessing for my calf muscles. Walking up the hills not only helped ease the pressure on my calf muscles, but it also helped us conserve energy. I realize conserving energy might not be a big deal for the distances I am currently running, but when I get to the ultra range, I know this will become a key strategy.
The sun rising along the Northshore Trail.
My calf muscle was still a little stiff from my previous injury, but no pain at the start of the run. I will note that about two miles into the run I started to feel a little discomfort in my calf. So I stopped along the side of the trail and gently stretched it for a while. I immediately had an uneasy feeling about it because this is exactly what happened the week before. However, I had a different strategy this time.
Last week after stopping to stretch I pushed my pace to try to catch up to the group. It was during a run up one of the inclines that I felt my calf muscle give out. And that ended my run on the spot. I had to hobble back to the Jeep, about 3 miles away.
But this time was different. I had learned from my mistake and decided that I would just run at my own pace and I would continue to walk up the hills, like Char was teaching us by example. It worked! I continued down the trail, slowly, and was able to make it to the Far Gate without any further calf problems. The group was kind enough to wait for me at the Far Gate and I joined them on the return run.
I continue to see an improvement with my lungs. Today I coughed a little during the early part of the run, but my lungs cleared after about a mile and I didn't have any problems for the rest of the run. I know my lungs are continuing to heal from quitting smoking , but I also think the cooler temperatures and the slower pace help. Regardless, it's nice to be able to run without coughing up a lung!
As I mentioned at the start, my run today was a significant turning point in my training. I've been a little down lately because of my ongoing injuries. But my run today was a major mental confidence builder. I realize that I can go the distance if I just slow down and go at the pace that is aligned with the condition of my body. And right now, that is slow, slow, slow! I have no problem with that. I'd rather run for hours at a 15 mpm pace than lay in bed injured, only able to think about running.
Learning: Slow movement is better than NO Movement!
As already mentioned, the most significant thing I've learned over the last week is to slow down and to run in a way that protects my body from injury. This includes walking up the includes to conserve energy (and protect my calf muscles), and to run as smoothly as possible to minimize the impact to my legs.
I'd also say that I've adopted a discipline of running my own pace (or slower!). I believe my injury last week was the result of pushing my pace beyond my current capabilities in order to catch up to the group. That was a mistake. I need to run at my own pace. If that means falling behind the group, so be it.
One more comment. I've also adopted the habit of laying with my legs inclined for about 5 minutes immediately after my run. I will say I felt kinda silly laying on the ground with my legs up against the jeep. And I've received a few strange looks from those walking by. But I think it helps with my recovery. Since I started doing this a couple of weeks back, I've not experienced the same amount of stiffness in my legs.
Elevating my legs immediately after
a run helps to reduce stiffness.
I am going to try to get back to a structured schedule again next week. But as I've learned, it's all subject to change! I will adjust as needed to ensure I don't over train or re-injure myself.