Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Self Exams... they're not just for breasts :)

I’ve been doing a little bit of evaluation of my running performances here lately, and have been reading up a little bit about form and training and such. I thought I’d share a few realizations/experiences.

These are my time splits from my 3 mile on Sunday:

Looking at the times, I see a few things. Perhaps I started out a little faster than I needed, seeing as how I dropped off after the first mile. But more importantly, I see proof that when I committed myself to digging in and running that third mile, I picked up my initial pace (I wasn’t totally convinced when I started if I was going to do 2 or 3 miles, but about 2/3’s of the way through the second I decided to not be a pansy and back out of that third mile). That to me is evidence that 1. I’m pretty sure that I could have done that second lap faster and taken more time off of my total; and 2. If I decide to dig, I can find something there.

That realization-- that I can dug deep and it showed-- helped keep my spirits high and my focus sharp yesterday afternoon as I did a solo run (i.e. I left my music behind and only hung out with my thoughts!) in the snow on a hilly route. I had it scheduled to be an “easy run,” or one in which I kept my pace fairly slow and actively recovered from some harder workouts in the past few days. My intention for the day’s that run was to run with intention and stay focused. I find it’s easier to stay focused when I’m running hard than when I’m doing a slower-paced run! For longer runs—10k’s, half marathons—the pace is slower than for a 5k, but I still need to learn to stay focused on my technique, so that I’ll know when to pull out my last energy cards.

Speaking of technique, when I was looking again at our Finish Line photo from the Outer Banks Half Marathon, I noticed that my posture is less than perfect. If you notice, I’m almost in a squat position, where I'm really sitting back on my leg and letting my knee lead, instead of letting my chest and hips lead (see Robyn, for comparison). I was tired, and had stopped using my core to hold me up and project me forward. Thus by slumping, I was putting more of my weight on my legs with each step, thus making my quads and glutes work harder, which was making me more tired, which was making me slump more…. a vicious cycle. My slumpy form also helps explain why I was getting a bad cramp in my ribs, and why when Robyn reminded me to “remember [my] yoga,” the pain lessened—for at least a few moments, I breathed deeply and elongated my core, allowing my lungs and ribs and internal organs more room, so that they weren’t all pressing on each other and sending out sharp pangs.

Oh, so much to learn. I used to think that running meant you just sucked it up and ran. But there’s so much more to it. You have to learn pacing, you have to work on your form, you have to figure out your ideal stride, and on and on. But that’s actually why I’m still doing this. If I just went out and jogged the same route every day at the same pace, I’d get bored and quit in a month. I’ve always been one to thrive on challenge. For now, running poses innumerable challenges.

Bring ‘em on.

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