Saturday, September 29, 2007

Long Run Experiment

CewTwo's recent blog entry prompted me to write about my latest long run experiment. You see, most of my running life I've been a so-called Zen runner. I love to disassociate while running, letting my mind wander freely. I enjoy long slow distance (LSD) runs the most because I can relax and zone out with my thoughts for long periods of time. Speed work requires a lot of focus and effort while shorter runs seem, well, too short.

But swimming has taught me to become mindful of what I'm doing. From the recent swim camp I've realized that the only way I can improve is to focus on my technique and my environment (to avoid collisions, make sure I'm swimming straight, try to develop that elusive feel for the water). And the payoff has been huge, not only in terms of faster swim times but also greater enjoyment.

Could the same happen with my running in Orlando?

Because in truth, I was not looking forward to my LSD this week. I wanted to run all of it outdoors and knew it would be hotter and more humid than Hawaii, quite boring scenery-wise and I'd be one of very few runners out there. Most of all, I didn't feel safe zoning out any more, especially with Dave being out of the country. Last year a guy on a bicycle tried to grab me in broad daylight along a popular bike path, there were two attempted rapes of female runners within a mile of my house (and I don't think they ever caught the guy) and just this week I heard that another female runner had been attacked while running in a very nice Orlando area neighborhood. ARGGGHH!

But there was no one else I knew who could run long on a weekday morning so I headed out alone around 7:30am (sunrise ~7:15am) with no specific route planned but prepared (pepper spray, cell phone, rearview mirror, etc). I'd just run for 3 hours and go wherever I felt safest and coolest. I thought it'd be pretty hard to stay focused for such a long time but actually found it to be very similar to what I was doing in the pool recently and also what I had done while training in the martial arts, which I did for 6 years after some other jerk jumped out of his car naked and started chasing me.

So all throughout my run: How am I breathing? Am I working too hard? Were my neck and shoulders relaxed? What were my arms doing (were they too high, crossing my center line, were my hands clenched)? Is my posture tall? Who or what do I sense coming up ahead, to the side or from behind? What are some good places for someone to hide (the perp in one of the attacks near my house was hiding behind a wall and pulled the victim behind it)? What are my options? Do I look vulnerable? Do I feel strong, strong enough to run like hell or handle things myself if necessary? Am I keeping my cadence up (I count steps for 30 seconds, multiply by 2 and see how close I am to 180)? Am I landing midfoot? Am I watching where I step so I don't roll my ankles? Am I experiencing any aches or pains and if so, what can I do to get rid of them? Do I need to drink fluids or eat a gel? Where should I run to find some shade? Where is my next water stop?

I stayed closely tuned into what I was doing, how I was feeling and what was around me. The results were incredible. I felt like I was in total control of my run the whole time, like an elite runner who ran gracefully in the heat, like an action hero with a heightened sense of awareness and the ability to either avoid trouble or deal with it head on (yeah, maybe I watch too many movies).

And time seemed to go by much faster, even ended up running for 20 minutes longer than I'd planned (3:20). I also have hardly any post-run soreness at all, nothing compared to how I felt after the 3 hour run in Hawaii two weeks ago.

So it appears I've found yet another way to enjoy running. It's not at all like the enjoyment I've had before but rather a feeling of accomplishment that I got the run done despite less than ideal conditions and fears. Don't worry though, these days I have other ways I can zone out :-)

Running time 3:20, ~20-21 miles.
Weather 75-85 degrees, fairly high humidity and low wind.
People count: 7 walking, 4 running, 5 riding bicycles, 2 hanging out, 1 doing push-ups on a bench, 9 construction workers.


MarathonChris said...

Sounds like you had a super run. It is scary what can happen on a run. I am glad you had such a good run focusing on what was happening around you and with you while running.

Perhaps we can try another LSD together with Maddy on one of the local trails when you have a weekend free. It helps to have a running buddy! Thanks for being there on some of my past runs!

IrishBlue said...

Sounds like a great run. I did martial arts for a couple of years. It's a great feeling to think that, if attacked, you might be able to defend yourself.

Maddy said...

Wow! That was a great post. It's so important to be aware of your surroundings. But also keeping focus on your cadence, arms, neck - -total package. Way to go!

I love the people count.

lizzie lee said...

Shirley, I am with you I love to disassociate while running. This week was particularly hard for me and could not even concentrate on running. When I did, I let my mind wander about life. It was good. Running and "long slow distance" was the chicken soup that I needed for my soul.

take care and keep runnning

lizzie lee said...

Thanks Shirley, thank you very much. I told my daughter that pain and sadness will always be in our hearts, but as we learn to accept the reality, the pain and sadness change in shape. It's been too hard for all these girls to try to cope with an absurd reality.

God Bless them and protect them. It's all I pray for.

Brent Buckner said...

Scary local news.

Great mindful run!

CewTwo said...

Gee (Gosh) thanks for the shout out. I do love my Zen runs.

I also love my new dedication to my Einstein running. I have found a lot of personal fortitude in my redesigned tempo runs. I never thought that this 54 year old man would be able to run an 8:15 mile. May not sound like much to some of you but to me is was simply amazing!

Soon, I hope to run a less than 8:00 mile. I'll be even happier when I'll be able to run more than one mile at that speed at a time. I know that I'll be able to do it.

Now I understand training and setting running goals and it is all because of this great small world we all witness in this blogging community! The sharing of ideas and methods improve all of us!

Thanks, Shirley! And thanks to all of you!