Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dashing Through the Snow!

I just got back from an oh-so-fun run. That still sounds kind of funny to me-- a fun run. For so many years running 4 miles seemed like torture, if not impossible. And even when I started running, it really wasn't all that fun for a while. Even now, many of my runs are tolerable, but not necessarily fun (kind of like cooking dinner-- sometimes it's really pleasurable, but most nights it's just something you have to do to survive).

Anyhow, it snowed several inches here in Frenchtown last night, and was pretty windy this morning, so I put off my run until just about the last minute (i.e. 4:15pm-- for it's now 5:30 and totally dark). I spent most of the day in the house doing chores and cooking (save for an hour of snow shoveling and then sledding down our tiny hill with my 2-year old neighbor). So by the time I headed out for my run, I was somewhat stoked to get out and get some fresh air, although my glutes and inner thighs were still incredible sore from the walking lunges we did in Power Pump class on Friday!

The roads have been plowed but were still snow-covered in most spots. I jogged along slowly at first, letting my muscles warm up and trying out the footing. The snow was great, actually. It wasn't icy at all, just nice and soft, like running on a nice dirt trail. The first half mile or so wasn't very fun, as I wasn't warmed up yet and the cool breeze felt like it was trying to push me back home. But once the blood got pumping, my face began to warm up, and I was ready to rock. Speaking of rock, the first song that came on my mp3 player as I was heading out to run was Billy Idol's "Dancing with Myself;" how can you not get excited to run when that one comes on?!

As I cruised along at a nice moderate pace, several other songs came on that made me think of different friends. Jimmy Buffet crooned about Solome playing the drums, and I imagined Dawn chillin' on a dock somewhere coastal, sipping a beer, and that I was runnign to join her. Then Jack Johnson's "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," which always reminds me of Wendy, and I chuckled as memories of our snowy fieldwork adventures passed through my mind. A little later on 311 came on with "All Mixed Up" and I thought of Eva and some of my other high school friends. I wondered what some folks were up to-- if all of the cross-country folks were still running, if some of my old smoker buddies would ever think they'd see me out running through the snow!

I was digging listening to music and thinking about my friends. It was like they were all out there with me, that we were all dashing through the snow together.

I was having such a good time after a while that I decided to make this an impromtu tempo run. Since I was jazzed up and seemed to have the energy for it, why not?! For those who aren't familiar with "tempo run," here's an explanation:

"Tempo running improves a crucial physiological variable for running success: our metabolic fitness. "Most runners have trained their cardiovascular system to deliver oxygen to the muscles," says exercise scientist Bill Pierce, chair of the health and exercise science department at Furman University in South Carolina, "but they haven't trained their bodies to use that oxygen once it arrives. Tempo runs do just that by teaching the body to use oxygen for metabolism more efficiently." How? By increasing your lactate threshold (LT), or the point at which the body fatigues at a certain pace. During tempo runs, lactate and hydrogen ions--by-products of metabolism--are released into the muscles, says 2:46 marathoner Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., an exercise scientist who works with NASA. The ions make the muscles acidic, eventually leading to fatigue. The better trained you become, the higher you push your "threshold," meaning your muscles become better at using these byproducts. The result is less-acidic muscles (that is, muscles that haven't reached their new "threshold"), so they keep on contracting, letting you run farther and faster." (link to entire article:,7120,s6-238-267--11909-1-1-2,00.html)

So after a 1.5 mile warm-up, I then did a 2 mile tempo run. I don't know for sure what my pace was, but I know that it was faster than comfortable, but not so fast that I had to slow down. It just felt like I was pushing, and every few minutes I had to remind myself to keep pushing. I felt great, actually, like I was just flying along, truly dashing over the snow-covered roads. I felt like a good runner!

Oh, it may not sound all that fun to some, but I tell you it was. It was a good adrenaline pump to run at a quick tempo, and with the thoughts of lots of friends running with me, and with good music pumping in my ears, it made for a great afternoon... Now it's time for a hot bath!

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