Monday, August 11, 2008

Trying running again

So my fast bike is in Seattle, my off-road bike is in the shop, and my commuter generally gets quite uncomfortable to ride after about five miles. I spent all of last week sitting on my butt and playing video games. A friend once told me that she didn't think I'd ever get fat because inactivity would start to bother me before my fitness level even started to go downhill. She's right and I decided to try running again. Shoes cost a lot less than a new bike.

There turns out to be a running specialty store right next to World Trade, which puts it a very short walk from my apartment. When I decided last night to try running again, I also decided to give it a real chance. Rather than repurposing a pair of trail shoes I got on Steep and Cheap because they were cheap and running shoes are comfortable, I went and bought a pair of running shoes to address my foot type and gait and I even paid retail. Whether or not I can resume running is something I'll have a better idea of tomorrow and an even better idea on Wednesday, but it's important for me to wear something that supports my foot and ankle so they don't collapse inward when I weight the foot and my knee doesn't travel laterally. Once that happens, the floodgates of pain open wide.

I was pretty hungry, so I had a little more lunch than was perhaps wise, and then went for three miles. Three seems like a tiny number to me. Three on a bike, assuming I'm riding somewhere where I can be continuous, takes me about eight minutes. I probably haven't even figured out how I'm feeling that day, and I'm definitely not ready to stretch yet. To be honest, I didn't do three miles continuously today. One of the things that I never used to worry about when I didn't know my knees were flaky was stretching. I'd do it - I was doing dance and I wanted higher extensions and more stable balances - but it was only because it served a goal. I didn't think I really needed to in order to continue my chosen activities. So let's talk about one and a half on foot.

I ran the West Side Highway from Vesey St. to W. 11th Ave, stretched, and ran back. According to Google Earth, that's one and a half miles each way. It also terminates in a nice little plaza thing. The first thing that happened was my hip flexors got sore. I'm not surprised. I do most of my cycling on a road bike, riding either the hoods or, frequently, the drops. Riding in a tuck means that even when I extend my legs, I really don't extend that muscle. I don't even unfold it. Doing something that involved being forward of my foot didn't make that muscle happy today. Masochistic reason #1 for me to think I'm doing something I should be doing. This happened less than a quarter of a mile into the run. Next, my right IT band started getting tight. That, to me, is a little more worrisome. Not that worrisome - it's not a problem until it pulls my patella out of its track. But definitely something to watch. At around a half mile, my quads started to hurt. It was inevitable, really, that the other three heads should follow their early-adopter partner in protesting this unaccustomed activity. Apparently running is harder than cycling. About a mile in, my hamstrings decided to join the fun. That actually surprised me a little. I use them on my bike and my brother has commented that his hamstrings hurting is something that typically happens when he's getting back into shape after a period of inactivity. I didn't think I'd be strong enough to do that to myself.

When I knew I was near my mile and a half mark, it got really hard to continue. I knew that I was going to stop and stretch soon. I typically wait until I've been doing something for fifteen minutes before I break, but I didn't think it would take me thirty minutes to do three miles, so I figured I'd stop at my halfway point. I occasionally do this for really short bike rides too. Now I know what the landmark for a mile and a half is, so I won't have the excuse to slow down and look at street signs in future.

Running the mile and a half back to Vesey street was easier than the first leg. I read something about distance training that recomended loops because you can't just decide that you don't like cycling that much after all and turn around, and once you hit halfway, it gets easier. I can see where the writer was coming from when he wrote that. On my bike, I have inertia. Once I get going, I want to continue. Running, I have the ability to stop at any time. Today took some determination - it was difficult.

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