Saturday, June 29, 2013

In which I get my body back

It's back. My body I mean. I don't know where it went but for awhile the body I was taking on runs was just dragging ass. I would go to the track fully intending to do 5 X 1 km at around 3.40-3.45 per km and inevitably (and this happened at least three times) I would instead run the first km in 4.05 or slower, wheeze, feel horrible and then decide to do a 5-6 km tempo instead which I would complete in about 4:10-4:15 pace. No matter what I tried, rest, hydration, upping my asthma inhaler, I seemed to be in this rut where my quality sessions consisted a 20-25 minute tempo. After running 2 10 km races in a row at 40:00 minutes exactly, I resigned myself to deciding that I just could not run the times I used to while working full time, caring for two children, getting older and getting fatter. My days of running the kinds of times I wanted to were over I decided.

Then, a glimmer of hope. I volunteered to be the 18:30 rabbit for a 5 km time trial. I thought that surely I could eek out a mile or 2 km at 18:30 pace and it seemed like these ladies mostly needed someone to stop them from going out too fast; not going too fast being my speciality right now, I decided to step up! I lasted 1.4 km at 18:30 pace and then I could feel the ladies impatiently breathing down my neck so I pulled out to lane 2 and encouraged them to go by all the while realizing that although I could not hold this pace for 5 km, all things considered I was not feeling too badly off. I deliberately slowed down for a few laps and then came back alive in the last km for a final time of 19:03 (3:41, 3:47, 3:53, 3:54, 3:46). Encouraging, especially given that there was a smog warning in effect at the time. Smog being the ultimate downer for us asthmatic canaries in the mine.

Then today I got a rare window of opportunity to run at a reasonable hour (7.00 am) where I was not too constrained for time and so could warm-up properly. Cautiously optimistic, I headed to the track to try some tentative mile repeats. Over the past 8 weeks, I have managed one mile repeat work-out: 6:23, 6:30, 6:30, 6:22 and that nearly slayed me. Today, with the smog lifted, cool temperatures, and a slight breeze encouraging me, I stepped up to the line and ran a 6:03. Like it was nothing. Like I was on a picnic and jogging back to the car for the forgotten lemonade. I thought surely the wheels would fall off but no, a modest 2 minute rest later, another 6:03. Then 5:54, 5:59 and finally 5:52. It really, truly feels like someone else lent me their body for this work-out. I don't know where this work-out came from but it is my mental gift of the month. So encouraging. I haven't run those times for over 3 years. I know now my recent sluggishness is not because I am older (I am), not because I am fatter (I am), not because I am training less than I used to (I am) but probably due to sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation (bad asthma days). And those types of deprivations are fleeting. I just have to find the right air quality day, when i have had a good night's sleep and I can run my times again. I believe! I know I will eventually slow down, it is the fate of the aging runner (and in runner years I am in my fifties or sixties given that I have now been training hard and racing for 25 years) but this morning's work-out was such a gift; it tells me I have a few 18 minute 5 kms left to run!