trekking the trail

i may not be running anymore, but i’m still feeling the benefits of increased fitness. the first weekend end in june, my husband and i went to yosemite national park with his parents. after walking all the “easy” paths, we decided to attempt the “moderate” hike up to vernal falls footbridge. my in-laws quickly fell behind as we began to trek up the steep trail, ascending 400 feet in 3/4 of a mile. i paced myself, just like i was jogging. i regulated my breath in rhythm with my steps. i paused halfway up the hill to relax my heart rate. when i turned around, i saw my husband huffing and puffing a ways back. i felt somewhat smug and satisfied while i waited for him to catch up. this was the first time i had ever been ahead on a hike!

we made it to the footbridge and took some photos while we stood around what felt like forever until the in-laws showed up. his mother said the experience had been a reality check, she wasn’t in as good of shape as she had thought. it was a reality check for me too, i was actually in better shape than i believed. in fact i was ready to tackle the “strenuous” climb to the top!

we parted from his parents as they turned around to head down. the second part of the trail wasn’t paved, but it was pleasant to have the earth under my feet. soon enough, the dirt ended and we were faced with the infamous mist trail, 600 steps (and 600 feet) carved out of the granite cliffside.

vernal falls were particularly powerful this spring. a higher than average snowpack and recent rains fed the furious merced river. a couple people had already drowned this season. my husband watched nervously as i climbed the crumbling stairway. the higher i went, the more droplets of water accumulated on my hair, my glasses, my clothes. the rocks were slippery with shallow pools waiting to wet my shoes. and that was part of the problem, i wasn’t wearing hiking boots, i had on cool-kid trainers.

we were almost to the top when my husband said stop. he didn’t want me to go on anymore. he had been anxiously eyeing the cliff’s edge and was too scared that i might slip and fall. he didn’t want me to be the park’s next death. i have to admit i was a little disappointed, i know i could have made it, but i could see how worried my husband was. so we started the difficult descent (it was actually harder going down than it was going up).

i’ve never been into hiking, and i’m still not, but just like running it taught me that i’m physically capable of doing things i never dreamed.

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the finish line

i didn’t think i would be nervous about the 5k, especially since i wasn’t looking forward to running the race. but for some strange reason, i woke up at 4 am. of course, once my cat noticed that i was awake, she didn’t want me to go back to sleep. charlotte relentlessly pestered me until i finally dragged myself out of bed at 7. so i was somewhat tired.

the meet was at the park where i normally train, so at least i would be on familiar ground. but i began to get wary when the course was outlined. normally i take the trail downhill, but the race route went in the opposite way, meaning i was going to have to struggle up the slopes. it also seemed a little long, but i had a gps in my pocket, so i would still know when i hit 5k.

as i’ve said, i can only run for about 3k before my knees ache and my calves almost atrophy. i employed my method of walking 2 minutes, then jogging for 3, repeatedly. coach julia was right, i didn’t have any issues, but it wasn’t easy.

well before the end of the course, my gps began beeping. i had done 5k! unfortunately, it was still another kilometer until the finish line. i slowed down to catch my breath and walked through the next interval. as i crested the last hill, i thought what the hell, and ran it all the way in. the route was eventually measured at 6.16k.

it felt good to cross that finish line. this time when i thought, “i don’t ever want to do this again,” it felt good to know that i actually didn’t have to.

in the end, i can’t continuously run for 5k, but i can continuously run for over a mile. i’m sure that’s far enough to outrun a zombie. i might not be a “real” runner, but i would survive the apocalypse with my brain intact. and that’s what really matters.

done with the runs

i finished all the workouts!

i’m so proud of myself for sticking to the schedule. i went out there every single time, whether i wanted to or not. i can now check that off of my tangible goal list.

today i realized that my running capacity is approximately 3k. i know i should be running 4k by now, but i just haven’t been able to increase my stamina. i didn’t really expect to be able to run the full 5k, but knowing my limitations makes me a bit nervous about attempting it. i’m not up for a “real” race. i want to complete, not compete, so i’m going to an informal meet instead.

i still wasn’t sure how to tackle the race. should i run for 1k then walk for 1k, or run for 2 then walk for 1? i asked our coach, the incomparable julia jones, and she suggested something else altogether: walk for 2 minutes, then run for 3. rinse and repeat. i didn’t even think of that!

technically, it’s not cheating. some runners use this method for entire marathons. julia said i should have no problem… and you know what, i believe her. i may not be looking forward to the 5k, but i am looking forward to checking off the rest off of my tangible goals!

striding spouse

this week kicked my ass, literally. my gluteous maximus muscles are so sore!

my husband came with me for the first time. it was hilarious watching him attempt the arm swings and side skips, but running together was actually kind of difficult. his footfalls are heavier than mine, so it was hard for me to hear and set my own pace. his legs are also a lot longer so he felt strange taking shorter strides.

i have to admit, i was secretly satisfied to see him huffing and puffing at the end, especially because he’s substantially more fit than me. i guess the last kilometer was a little too much because he had aching calves for the next couple of days.

although jeremy was aware that i’ve been training hard, i think he had a new appreciation for my endeavor after enduring it himself. he told me how impressed and proud he was of me for going the distance, both in terms of my mileage and continued commitment. i’m so fortunate to have such a supportive spouse.

almost over

i still haven’t hit my stride and i think it’s time to admit: running just isn’t my thing.

instead of feeling rewarding, it feels like punishment. i mean, exercise has never really been pleasurable, but this is practically painful. i’ve been waiting and wanting to feel that runner’s high, to actually enjoy the physical experience, but i haven’t. i don’t think i ever will. and that’s okay.

i’ve already gotten a lot out of up and running, even if i haven’t developed a lifelong love. i may not want to run, but at least now i know i can if i need to. in fact, i can run over a mile, and i could never do that before. i bet i could even outrun a zombie.

this experience has been a grand experiment. it’s helped me to see what feels better, what feels worse. it’s taken me out of my comfort zone, pushed me, shown me new ways to do things. it’s been helpful to follow a program, to play by someone else’s rules for a while.

for the most part, i feel like i’ve accomplished what i set out to do. i’ve kept my commitment to doing each and every workout and haven’t given up, no matter how much i wanted to. i’m going to see this thing through, but when it’s over, that’s it.

cursing the course

session fourteen was a lot worse than the one before. it was one of those “just get out there and do it” days. i wasn’t looking forward to the workout.

i had a hard time regulating my breathing during the 500 meter intervals. even though i ran a slow and steady pace, i kept losing my breath. my body would feel like it was finished, but my watch would say we were only two-thirds through. the breaks in between provided barely enough time for my respiration to return to normal. it seemed like as soon as i stopped jogging, the runkeeper app was beeping for me to start up again.

when i began the last kilometer, i told myself “just 7 or so minutes, then it will all be over… you can do it for 7 more minutes.”
my breathing became labored again. i tried in through the nose, out through the mouth. i tried in for a few steps, out for a few steps. i tried taking take deep breaths, but my lungs weren’t having any of it.

i went to check my watch, wondering “how much further do i have to go?” when i discovered that i forgot to set it. my first thought was “f*ck me!” but then my heart just sank and i gave up. i felt like i couldn’t reach my destination if i didn’t know how long it was going to take me to get there.

i started walking. i started feeling guilty about walking. runkeeper said i still had 0.2 miles to go. “okay” i told myself, “i have to finish this. i’ll run to the end of the path, that has to be at least 0.2 miles.” so i did. i ran to the end of the path. i checked runkeeper again, but something was wrong because the gps wasn’t registering my run. it still said i had 0.2 miles to go!

at that moment, i was mad. “f*ck this!” i thought (i curse a lot in my head). i wanted to quit, but felt guilty again. i refused to run anymore, but i forced myself to complete the kilometer. i walked until that damn gps registered 0.2 miles. then i got the hell out of there and went home.

it’s not a piece of cake

in week five, we have to run further than ever before. we have three 500 meter intervals followed by a full kilometer. our running coach julia jones said, “that 1 km at the end of the workout will feel like a piece of cake!”
i don’t know what kind of cake she’s eating, but running a kilometer *after* i’ve already run a mile doesn’t feel delicious.

i tried to push myself the first 500 meters and was out of breath in about a minute. there was no way i could run three of those intervals at that pace. so i slowed it down. way down. i have to admit, i was a little disappointed with my times. on our very first workout, i ran 1 km in 7:10 minutes. today it took me 7:50.

however, 1 km was all i could run at that faster pace. it simply isn’t sustainable for me. i can’t regulate my breathing and i feel like my lungs are going to burst by the end. i may have been slow, but i ran every inch of that 2.5 km. and yes, i had a couple of breaks in between intervals, but i still ran over a mile and a half! that’s the taste of personal victory. it may not be as sweet as cake, but it’s not as fattening either.