Whose legs are these?

Lately, I’ve been pushing. And pushing hard. Now I’m seeing major gains, and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I’m starting to blame my spin class. I started taking it a couple months ago, 5:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. I had tried spin last year and hated it – the instructor was a jerk. But this instructor is awesome. She encourages you while pushing you, and doesn’t over-coach. I started it during the off-season and was pushing hard, teaching myself how to hurt while at the same time trying to get into spinning shape (though running helps, I know, it’s not quite the same. And vice versa). When training started, I wanted to keep at it, and keep pushing. If I”m hurting a bit I back off. Since my tempo/speedwork day is always the next day, sometimes I’ll ramp down the resistance a little extra during the recoveries so I can give myself a little more of a break. Sissy? Maybe, but given how pseudo-injury prone I’ve been in the past, I’m not taking any chances.

Either way, my training has been fantastic. I haven’t had any numb foot incidents since my last race, and found that any stiffness/beginning numbness can be pretty much resolved by me just relaxing and distracting myself with sights and sounds around me. I get worked up and frustrated and that’s when I tense up. Not good.

And my paces? Oh, my paces. I’ve been trying to give myself permission to take it easy: to stop pushing past my target paces just because a split starts out fast, or something. It’s okay to stay within that range. I’m not going to feel like Wonder Woman every day.

Well, some of my pace questions are due to satellite issues with the garmin. On my regular tempo route there’s an area where the garmin always has me bouncing off buildings as it tries to find me, and I lose at least a tenth of a mile (maybe more). 7:31 pace for my second tempo mile? I don’t think so. But when the third is 7:34, with no tall buildings/hospitals (gotta love Pittsburgh) affecting satellites? What’s that about. The following week satellite were more well-behaved, but I was on fire. My splits were all faster than goal, and progressively so. Every time I checked my watch, I thought I was seeing things. That was a week ago Thursday.

Last weekend I had taken Friday off work. My mom was stopping through town on her way to a convention, and I drove her to the pick-up point before heading to the gym for my easy 3 miler (brought my garmin so I could do it outside) and an arms workout. My legs felt like crap. I actually walked a little, which is sort of pathetic. I was a little concerned. NB had been in Morocco all week visiting his sister, and I was picking him up from the airport Saturday night late, so I wanted to do my long run Saturday morning instead of Sunday (also, since Saturday was St. Paddy’s, who wants to do a long run the next morning?). Were three days of running in a row, including a kickass tempo run, a fairly shitty easy run and then a long run, too much?

My answer came the next morning. My mom had gotten back very late Friday night and stayed with me until the next morning. She slept in while I got up to run. I figured either this run would be total crap, or it would be amazing. I’ve had previous experience where I have a shitty run and then it seems I ran all the shitty out of my legs and turn around to have a great run.

The weather was spectacular. The sun was shining and the temperature was between 60 and 65*, and the air felt cool. I was donning new gear – Brooks Infiniti short tights (which I LOVE. The rubber grippers on the legs keep them from riding up) and a Brooks racerback shirt – so I was revved to go. I brought along more Gu than I figured I would need, plus my 12-oz handheld.

I immediately settled into a rhythm. I listened to some “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” podcasts and took in the sights. It was only about 8:30 a.m., but a lot of people were getting an early start, walking, running, cycling, waiting for the bus, dressed all in green. A group of college or maybe grad student guys were playing beer pong on their front lawn.

I set out towards Schenley Park and headed down to the Eliza Furnace Trail. I was scheduled to run 10, but wanted to try for 11. I figured if this run felt like crap, I do what was scheduled. I felt amazing, so I just kept going, turning around when my watch read 5.5 miles. I said “hi” to tons of cyclists, fellow runners, lots of families going up and down the path. I only ever stopped to switch podcasts or playlists (it’s really hard to switch when your armband is getting sweaty and messing with the iPod clickwheel), and as I came up the one killer hill (which is just as brutal to go down) I didn’t walk once. I pulled my hat down and just trucked up it. All of my paces were flawless: well within my easy range, and a good few miles at my goal HM pace. I was so thrilled. It could not have been a more perfect run. The beer pong guys were still at it as I passed them again in my final mile.

I got a little time to hang out with my mom – eating oatmeal and chatting – before she headed out. I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and later at a friend’s hanging out on her deck drinking (green) margaritas. A group of us got some super greasy food for dinner and we played cards while I sipped water before NB texted to say he had arrived at the airport and I was off. No soreness. No compression gear. Ridiculous.

This week was the last hard week before my first recovery week of this cycle. It’s not really a full recovery week since our cutback long run will actually be racing a half-marathon Saturday the 31st. But we’ll cross that bridge.

Both of my fitness classes were hard: the instructor put us through an advanced pilates class, and when we finished we were all silent, too wiped out to clap (though we all said “thank you.”). In spin it felt like we were climbing nonstop.

This week I had two easy runs and speedwork. I normally hate speedwork. I did very well at my 2×1600 a few weeks ago, and tried to stay positive for yesterday’s task of 3×1600. I’m glad I did. It was a perfect morning: dark and 55*, and without the vicious headwinds we had to contend with last time. NB is getting over a cold but he still rocked his splits, and my got faster with each mile. The first two felt downright easy – almost like tempo pace. I felt like I was just cruising along, but every time I glanced at my watch, I was kicking butt. The third one got hard, as to be expected, and as I pushed the last 100 m it felt like my legs and intestines were on fire. I hit lap and was astounded that I had kicked the fast end of my goal pace’s ass by a good 20 seconds. I walked on a cloud the rest of the day, wondering whose legs I was running on.

This weekend we’re scheduled for 11 but I’m going to try for 12. I felt a little twinge of a familiar knee pain at the start of my easy run this morning, but it quickly went away as I warmed up. Here’s hoping it was just a phantom pain. I want to keep these Wonder Woman legs.



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I'm a 35-year-old writer and runner. This is my running blog.

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