July 08, 2013

A tempo run -- my first in a year

Today I was allowed to do a 15-minute tempo run.

I was excited, very excited. It would be my first run at effort -- any type of effort -- in a year.

I am still revelling in the fact that I can run again, and the thrill of the 40-minute run I completed last Friday.

Since I ran the Scotiabank Half Marathon at the end of June in 2012, I have not been able to do much running at all, let alone a session at any type of effort.

And today I got to go fast for 15 minutes. The program suggested 15K race pace. But it's a little hard to pinpoint race pace when you've not been able to train.

I figured my body would know best, so I opted to wear my Garmin to record the pace but to avoid looking at the numbers during the session.

As I have done so far in my return to running, I decided to stick to a flat course so my warmup began with a 15-minute walk from my house through the Smoke Bluffs to the trail along Loggers Lane. Then I began running and followed this asphalt bike path to the Brennan Park Recreation Centre, turning around after 7-1/2 minutes of relaxed running and running back the same way for a running warm-up of 15 minutes, as the training session suggested.

Now it was time to start my tempo run. I walked for a minute and started a new lap on the Garmin. It was nice to run "fast" -- it felt natural too, even though it has been a year since I did. I could feel the extra space that has slowly yet surely been opening up in my hip flexors with the regular Bikram yoga sessions and massage. I loved the tempo run as much as I thought I would.

Of course it was effort, so my breathing was laboured. I focused on relaxing into it and keeping what felt like a steady pace. I briefly checked my watch at what I thought would be my 7-1/2 minute turnaround point and managed to keep my attention away from the numbers revealing my pace.

A couple of weeks ago I took the Garmin on a couple of 30-minute runs and found that I was running about 4:45 per K, faster than I had expected -- and naturally then started to aim to stick close to that. After those two runs, I decided to leave the Garmin at home and wear a regular watch instead so my body would choose its own pace, rather trying to keep up to the one reflected on my wrist.

It was easy today to keep my attention away from the Garmin -- the exhilaration of returning to one of the things I love so much about running, moving your body at a pace that is challenging and comfortable at the same time while focusing on keeping your breath and body relaxed, was all I needed.

"Running is like flying -- there is freedom and levity. We are moving through space above the ground. It is a great way to connect with nature and to breathe fresh air," writes Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, author of (the superb) Running with the Mind of Meditation. He is also a 3:09 marathoner.

Freedom and levity were what I felt today. And gratitude, lots of gratitude.

A part of me still carries fear that the injury has not yet gone or that it might return. I try to let go of those thoughts as much as I can. Still, it has only been five weeks since I began running again and so I remain cautious.

After I walked home, back up through the Smoke Bluffs, I checked my pace -- in the 15-minute warmup I had covered 3.2K at an average pace of 4:45 per kilometre. 

As for the 15-minute tempo run, I had run at an average of 4:12 per kilometre for a distance of 3.6K.

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