Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pressure-free running

My miscellaneous activities have continued over the last few days, due in part to my hip, the weather, and a mysterious new toothache.  This is also the first time in a long time that I haven’t had a race train for.  My next half marathon isn’t until October, and until then I just have some 5 mile trail races and a couple 10k’s over the summer.  Without a need to build up long distance miles, I find myself in this unusual position of pressure-free running.  In some respects it’s a nice feeling, but in others it worries me that I might become a little unfocused.  So, while I continue to log a small handful of miles a week, I’ve focused on finding other things to keep me interested and motivated.
The weather has played a big factor in outdoor activities over the last few days.  It’s been pretty soggy and cool in New England, but that didn’t stop us from taking the horses out on Saturday.  We brought the horses over to the Upton State Forest for a nice ride.  We were pretty lucky to get in most of our ride without substantial rain, although the wet leaves on the trees still got us pretty damp.  The horses really seemed to enjoy the cooler temperatures (maybe a little too much) but on the way back we got caught in some pretty steady showers, and we didn’t waste any time getting out of the rain.  Well, actually we wasted a little bit of time taking this picture.

Later on Saturday I was supposed to meet up with Kerri for a run, but at the last minute she had to change plans.  Since it was rainy and dark I had little-to-no motivation to run solo, so I was pretty content to lounge around and nap in the afternoon.  Eventually I talked my mother into going to the Milford bike path with me, where she biked while I ran alongside her.  This worked out pretty well because she had been looking forward to biking, and I had to work fairly hard to keep up with her.  As a bonus, because it was lousy weather there were very few people on the bike path so we didn’t need to worry about navigating around a lot of people (or getting mugged).
Mom on the bike

It rained very heavily Saturday night and it was just far too wet on Sunday to ride the horses, so instead I was able to connect with Kerri for a run.  I had mentioned the bike path to Kerri and she wanted to try it out, so I met her there for a run in the rain.  I really enjoy running in the rain, and I’m not the only one it seems, because I saw a fair number of other runners out on the roads dodging puddles.  Kerri and I had a great run at a nice casual pace, and went further down the path into Hopkinton.  Our run was just over 6 miles, and by the end I was getting tired. 

Milford natives on the bike path

I took full advantage of the fact I had run 6 miles, and spent most of the rest of the day just lounging around the house.  Later that evening, I ended up going for a little bike ride with Mom in the trails around the house.  It was a very casual pace (i.e. I could have run it faster) but it was nice to get out.

After my active weekend I would gladly have taken Monday off from running, but thanks to our Monday night pond run with the running club, I had motivation to lace up.  Running this trail on Monday nights has become a regular routine of mine, and I look forward to running with other girls from the club.  This time, however, I was the only girl.  I was a little surprised at the low turnout since the weather ended up being fairly decent but it was still a fun run.   I was actually really excited about running because of my new gadget.  When I bought my Garmin last year, it came with a heart rate monitor.  This heart rate monitor has remained in the box that it came in for the last year.  I had little interest in monitoring my heart rate, and the strap kind of freaked me out, so I thought just tracking my miles would be enough.  Over time I became more interested in tracking pace, and finally just a couple months ago I learned how to track my individual mile splits.  Now, with a little encouragement from my dorky friend Scott, I have accepted the fact it’s time to take a look at my heart rate.  The way Scott explained it to me is that if I’m only looking at the pace and distance, I’m only seeing the “output”.  If I really want to see how hard I’m working, I need to look at the “input” (i.e. how hard my heart is pumping at a certain level of effort).  This could of course become a slippery slope for me, since I have a tendency to overanalyze things and I’m a bit of a numbers person.  After reading the directions I strapped the monitor on and tested it out.  Just walking down the stairs my heart went from 59 to 68.  Yup, this is going to become my new obsession.  I noticed for most of the Hopedale pond run my heart was in the 170’s.  Now of course I have to research that to see if that’s a reasonable level.  I think this will come in very handy when logging long slow miles, as it will prevent me from working too hard.  I’m considering wearing this thing everywhere now: Watching the Bruins game, at work, commuting.  After the club run I took a swing through Dairy Queen to get ice creams for the family, where my pulse was back to a comfortable 64.  It seems that even without a race to prepare for in the immediate future, I still have something to motivate me.  Yup, obsessed.

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