Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Running with the Flu: Part Deux (but more like Part Dumb!)

Running is like hitting your head against the wall sometimes. Wait, or was that just my feet pounding the pavement? I can’t tell anymore; hurts about the same.

I thought I was feeling better today. No fever or headaches the whole day. Just some residual coughing and nasal congestion; nothing that should get in the way of a good run. So after my last debacle of a long run (see previous post), I was more eager than normal to lace up the shoes and hit the road, if only to prove to myself that I am a better runner than I showed on Sunday. I got home early from work this afternoon, but since it was a stifling hot and humid day, I waited patiently for sunset to start my run.

The schedule called for a 6 mile run around Central Park at a general aerobic pace, which for me, meant around 7:05-7:20 min/mile pace. I think I would have been happy even with a 7:30 min/mile pace, just as long as I ran well, and felt comfortable throughout. And just to be sure I would run according to my own comfort level, I promised myself that I wouldn’t even look at my watch to see my speed or my time until after the run.

Everything started out okay. I ran along the first mile or so at a comfortable pace, not feeling particularly bad. At around the end of that mile, I found myself next to two other runners who were running at my speed. Over the next half mile or so, all three of us kept taking turns in the lead, but still running at the same exact pace. Even through the first part of Harlem Hill, we were still within twenty feet of each other. Now I don’t know about others, but I hate running next to strangers for long stretches of road. I guess it goes back to what my dad always told me about driving, “It’s dangerous when you’re in a car to go at the same speed as the car next to you, either speed up or drop back!” So being that I running at a comfortable pace, I felt that I could speed up and give myself some running room, and then slow back down afterwards. So I did. I ran hard past the two guys over the crest of the hill and sped down the other side. That did the trick because the two boys were never heard from again. The only trouble was, I was not able to slow down after that. I kept running that same past pace through the next couple hills. By mile 3, I was breathing hard and was struggling with dehydration and exhaustion. I told myself to slow down, to catch my breath…but everytime I lost focus and thought about something else, I was back to my usual fast speed. It was infuriating because by mile 4 and 5, my calves were starting to really bother me, and I was panting so hard that I wasn’t about to take sips from my Gatorade bottle. I wanted to stop altogether but then I knew I might not start again if I did, and coming off a poor long run already, I wasn’t about to let that happen. So I struggled up Cat Hill and labored to the finish. By the last half mile, I was so delirious and tired that I was swerving and tripping. I almost hit a little kid riding her tricycle. It was terrible. The last 400 feet felt like it would last forever. I think some old lady must have heard me swearing to myself because she gave me a dirty look when I ran past her. When I finally finished, I slumped over to the benches and felt completely nauseous. It would be another 15 minutes before I could gather up enough energy to walk home.

All in all, I ran 6 miles at 6:55 min/mile pace, my second best time ever for a training run of that distance. On any other day, I think I would have been excited and proud to run that time. But tonight, when I neither had the energy or desire to do an impromptu tempo run, it’s taking a lot of energy right now not to doubt my training or get down on myself for making another rookie mistake.

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