Yesterday, I had a killer run. I finally went exploring on Friday on my not-so-trusty bike, Samsara, and found the route out to the canal path that runs from the edge of Manayunk, where I live, out to Valley Forge National Park. The ride was long and arduous - and without denying too much of the Great Lance Armstrong's "It's not about the bike, it's about the engine" - I think it's the bike. It's ancient, almost 20 years old. It's in dire need of a cleaning and general maintenance, and I routinely get passed, even by out-of-shape looking people on MTB bikes.
Even so, I had a fantastic ride... I started to remember why, when I was a kid, I could say, "Let's go ride bikes" and that's what we would do. Just ride, for the fun of it. I pushed for a while, worried about stuff like heart rate, speed, technique, etc. And then I just figured, to heck with it- have fun. The canal path is gorgeous. It runs alongside the river, sometimes hard up against it, sometimes a small distance off. It is lined on both sides by deep cuts in the natural granite, so the path is down in a depression - and the wildlife is everywhere overgrown. This being nearly June and the start of summer, the honeysuckle was in full bloom.
The scent of honeysuckle *means* it's summer. It means three months of no school! Of running amok in the woods, of iced-tea in the afternoon, of swimming at the club, day trips to amusement parks. Honeysuckle means fun. So the ride was picturesque, it smelled lovely - I got some sun, and generally enjoyed it. Particularly coming back from the Norristown Transportation Center, there's a long, straight and open section that runs along Conschohocken with a gentle downslope. On the way out - it was a long deadly grind... but heading home, suddenly I was flying. I tucked way down into the aero position, jumped into the big ring (the go fasta ring!) and hammered in my lowest gear. It was fantastic... speed, speed, speed! Imagine what it would be like on a good tri-bike...
Afterwards, I dawdled my way home, sometimes riding no-hands, sometimes stopping to look at woodchucks and interesting sites. All told, I think I covered about 20 miles, though Qui-Gon Bob says it was more like 35.
Yesterday, I went back to the same path - this time driving to it's head on Shawmont Rd. I went for a run - it's perfect for running because it's largely flat, and most importantly the course is marked at 1/2 mile intervals. This is very good for timing one's self. So, I decided to run the mile out to the first marker at an easy pace, then hammer the next 1/2 mile, and do an easy 1/2, then turn back. I loped out to the first marker, the "11 1/2 VF" marker which means (I assume) 11.5 miles out to Valley Forge Park. I turned on the jets, and started to open my pace, increase my cadence, and generally go fasta!
I had a strange experience. I concentrated on breathing, breathing deeper than I normally would even when running. I figured proactively filling my body with lots and lots of oxygen would be a good thing, and forestall the inevitable muscle fatigue. After a couple hundred yards, it felt like long forgotten corners of my lungs were opening up for use. I breathed extra deep, even though it threw off the rythym of my stride-and-breathe. It reminded me of the section of David Brin's "The Postman" (not the execrable movie) wherein the progatonist, Gordon, sits down with the old-man-of-the-mountain, George Powhatten to meditate. He describes the sensation as discovering new parts of the lungs, of breathing deeper than ever before. For some reason that moment, that fragment of the book stuck with me, especially when I try and meditate or do ki-breathing at Aikido.
Anyway - my heart rate eventually spiked up to 174 bpm, but I felt good anyway, so I kept up the pace. It seeemed to go on and on.... but still, no half-mile marker. I ran and I ran... keeping up the pace. Finally, i saw the 1/2 mile marker, crossed it, and checked my time. 6 minutes and 10 seconds for a 1/2 mile? I was really ticked. That's terrible! a 12:20 mile? Pathetic?
I got so annoyed I turned back, disappointed and bitter at my lack of performance. And then it hit me - the marker said "10 1/2 VF". Not "10 VF". I had just run a 6 minute mile -- by far a personal record. If I could sustain that pace, I'd be on target for a personal-record-shattering two mile time of 12:20 which would have blown away my 14:40 record back in Basic Training in the Army.
Still, I had to slack a little bit, the pace was punishing... and I ran. And I came upon the marker, and did some mental math and realized that I had really only run a 1/2, and not a full math. I was so crushed, so disappointed, I dropped down to a walk. When my heart recovered down, I stepped out to an easy jog again. Internally I was lashing myself. I suck. Why am I so slow? Why can't I run? I was mad.
Then I hit the 11 1/2 VF marker again. I realized-- heck no! I really HAD run a mile, there was no 1/2 mile marker there, because it was the "Entering Philadelphia County" line. Woohoo! My two mile time was 18:30, which was slow, but heck -- I'd WALKED part of it! If I had kept running it, I'm sure it would have been down around the 15:30 range, which would still be averaging 7:30 miles or so.. which is exactly my goal for this summer.
I kept up the run back to the path entrance, which was about an even 5K in about 28:08, which is a full two minutes faster than the 5K I ran two weeks ago. Progress, measurable progress!
It was so uplifting, I even managed to not be ferociously pissed at being stood up by two different sets of friends that day. And I'm going back to run again today - for the first time in my life, running is something that brings me a sense of elation and excitement. I'm so glad Qui-Gon Bob talked me into triathlon, and also showed me the canal path.
Tomorrow I'm going to try and ride out to VF, then run the loop at Valley Forge, and ride home. That's 11.1 miles bike, 5.2 miles run, and then 11.1 miles bike. Plus the distance from the path home... But more on that when I actually complete it, right?
By the way - important safety tip: You can't do one-leg drills with friction pedals!
posted by David Krieger 15:07