Another 25 minute run, a little bit slower (8:55 / mile) but with an extra hill.  Went pretty well, but 25 still feels like enough of an undertaking that I’ve decided not to skip a day, so I’ll do the third run of this week next week. Monday will be the new Friday.

The bigger news, though, is that I did it — I signed up for my first 5K race! It’s a pretty small event — looks like they’ve had fewer than 200 runners for the last three years — but it goes through my neighborhood and the starting line is just a short walk from my house. How can I pass that up?


C25K Week 7, Day 1: Better Late

Twenty-five minutes of uninterrupted running, and I continue to find the program delivering on its promises. I keep expecting to run out of steam as the time increases, and keep finding I can do more than I thought.  Today’s run: 2.86 miles, 8:44 per mile.   Beautiful clear skies, with the full moon on one side of the sky and Jupiter on the other. But it was cold!  The thermometer read 39°F at the end of the run; I don’t know how much colder it was at the start.

The only downside is that I didn’t start this week until Wednesday. I’m undecided at this point whether to skip a day this week or push everything back; probably that decision will wait on Friday’s performance.

Whose time is it?

So why didn’t I start Week 7 until today?  The short answer is, I gave my mornings to the three-year-old.  Both Monday and Tuesday, he woke up and came to see me just as I was getting prepared to go out.  Rather than expect my wife to wake up early and keep him company, I stayed home and we hung out.

One of the reasons I exercise early in the morning is that everybody else is asleep, so they don’t need my attention.  Physical conditioning is important to me, but it still comes behind all my other responsibilities.  Exercise is, in a very literal sense, a self-centered, self-serving activity.  That’s not a bad thing — we have a responsibility to ourselves to stay healthy and happy.  But exercise is still low enough on my list of priorities that I don’t feel justified saying “can you take the kids, I have to go run three miles.”

The app chatter describes this as a big week, but really it’s just week 5, imprinted on Silly Putty and stretched out a little. That’s not to say I wasn’t feeling some hesitation. After last Friday’s sense of triumph (I can run for 20 minutes straight!) I found a whole new set of doubts to pass through. Twenty minutes is fine, but now we’re working toward thirty — that suddenly sounds like a lot! And week 6 is the final week that includes scheduled walking intervals — I’m a little sad to see them go!

Week 6, Day 1: Fog

Rolled out of bed late, by the standards of my exercise schedule anyway, and hit the street with my head still waking up. Though I was occasionally nagged by a sense that I was going to run out of energy before the end, overall my mind was just dull and misty. I finished with perfectly satisfying numbers (run: 2 miles, 8:58 per mile) but emotionally, I just felt kind of empty and uninspired. Why am I doing this again?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. I know the reasons I’m doing this, and there are many: I’m a guy over 40, trying to keep his heart healthy, do something new, and have some outdoor time all to myself. But the blerch still whispers in my ear every now and then, and his voice sounds just like my own.

Week 6, Day 2: Cliff

I just recently learned of the Owen Sowerwine Natural Area, not too far from my house, and have been meaning to check it out, listen to some birds, and maybe find a geocache. And it occurred to me that it might be in just the right place to serve as a goal for this 23-minute run/walk.

As it turned out, I almost made it — when the app gave me the “halfway” alert, I was about 30 yards from the entrance to the bird area. That definitely made it an attainable destination for upcoming longer runs. But then on the way back, on a very short stretch of road between the Owen and the bike path, I found myself on a very narrow shoulder, facing a very large truck. I had plenty of time to get out of the way, but my escape route took me down a grassy slope. I caught myself and got back on my feet, but I questioned the wisdom of treading that particular path again.

Run results: 2.33 miles, 8:34 / mile.

Week 6, Day 3: Branch

This is it! The 25-minute jog.

Getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?

And now, the long runs begin. 22 minutes, no walking, and no more walking scheduled for the rest of the program. My main goal was to find the same stride I had last week, and not wear myself out too soon. I don’t think I quite succeeded on that count, but I still managed to go the whole distance without any walking.

The most exciting part of the morning was when a giant branch fell off a tree onto the path about 30 feet in front of me. I thought, “Good thing I’m not running faster!”

At 2.42 miles, this was definitely my longest run, so I’m not bothered that my average pace went back up to 9:05.  Back on weeks 1 and 2, I was pretty excited that I was staying at or under 8 minutes per mile, but that was for shorter intervals. As the next three weeks bring on ever-increasing run times, I think I can be happy with nine minutes as a target pace.

Week 5, Day 3

As it turns out, the total distance (counting warm-up and cool-down) is 5K.

That went far better than I had expected. Stacking up against the goals I set on Wednesday:

  • Don’t stop to walk. Result: almost.  For most of the run, I felt comfortable. My stride was relaxed and probably a bit longer than usual.  Doubts arose as I hit previous milestones (“This is the three-minute mark, tired yet?” “This is eight minutes, you have no evidence you can keep running”) but they dissipated like the ghosts they were. At 16 minutes, though, I hit the hundred-yard uphill slope, and it stretched out before me like the hallway to Carol Anne’s bedroom.  Halfway up, I surrendered, and walked — for ten steps. Then I ran again, walked another ten steps as I reached the crest, and then resolved to run the rest of the way. I watched the clock like a student taking a final exam.  The last three minutes tried to beat me, but didn’t try hard enough.
  • Keep it under a ten-minute mile. Result: mission accomplished.  My overall average pace was comfortably under ten at 8:49, which includes the brief falter mentioned above.  When I checked my pace during the first half of the flat portion, it was down as low as 8:20.  That feels pretty good.

In honor of my walk+run total of 3.11 miles, here’s a song by 311.

I’ll be running around the block for no apparent reason
Something you’ll catch me doing in any given season
Gotta break a sweat man, gotta go bust out
Biddy-bye-bye-bye-bye, good bye to the drought

The week continues to ramp up, with a modest increase in running time (sixteen minutes) but in longer blocks — two intervals of eight minutes each.  The first one went by pretty smoothly, but the second one seemed endless.

After climbing the switchbacks on the hill out of the park, I felt the beginnings of a side stitch, something I probably hadn’t experienced since ninth grade.  I was just about ready to give up and walk, but I checked the clock, saw I had less than a minute left, and pushed through it.

My average running pace slowed again to over nine minutes (9:20, in fact) but I’ll take it.

And then?

Whoever designed this program thinks I’m ready for an unbroken 20-minute run on Friday.  Do they know something I don’t? They have a pretty good track record up to now, so maybe they’re right.  I’ll keep my goals modest:

  • Don’t stop to walk;
  • Keep it under a ten-minute mile.

If I can do that, it’ll be my first two-mile run, ever.

The fifth week of the program ups the ante even more, with longer intervals, increasing each time out, culminating in an unbroken 20-minute run on day 3.

Week 5, Day 1: I Think I Can Make It Now, The Pain Is Gone

After all the discouragement and pain of the last three weeks, I found myself turning a corner over the weekend. And by this morning, the knee pain was as good as gone. I was ready to run again, without hesitation or fear.

Run average pace, over three five-minute intervals: 8:27 per mile. Right back where I want to be.

That’s not to say the week ahead isn’t still intimidating. Friday seems awfully close. But it all seems attainable now. Whew!

Week 5, Day 1

Week 4, Day 2

C25K Week 4, Day 2I turned left at the trail this time and ran through Woodland Park, where I got to dodge a few sprinklers and face down a defiant goose. My right knee was extremely sore and stiff, but I pushed through it anyway; the result was my first ten-minutes-per-mile pace (actually 9:59).

That’s a disappointment wrapped in a small victory, but what’s most discouraging is the persistent ligament pain. I continue to wonder if I’ll be able to keep going, and whether I even want to.

Week 4, Day 3

Another time through Woodland. This time I surprised a spotted whitetail fawn as I rounded the south end of the pond; her mother was nearby in the rose garden, and didn’t seem terribly urgent about running away.

We all have bad workout days. Just focus on what you've done, and what your goal is.

Cram it, Constance.

Discomfort is easing a bit, but it’s still a struggle, and I wound up with a slightly better run at 9:39 per mile.

One drawback I’ve noticed about my choice of routes is that both of them start by going downhill  — which means going uphill in the home stretch! I’m sure some uphill work is good training in general, and the race I have in mind goes up those very same hills, but it sure can be a slog!

After taking a week to rest and recover, I picked up where I left off in the C25K program. The transition from week 3 to week 4 is a big one, with the total “jog” time nearly doubling, from nine to sixteen minutes. I was tempted to repeat week 3, but the temptation proved thin and I forged ahead.

C25K Week 4, Day 1: There and Back Again

Week 4, Day 1

Run time was back down to a nine-minute mile, but considering the circumstances — longer intervals, ten days since the last run, and continued weakness in the knees (good news! the left knee feels great!  now the right knee hurts) — I felt pretty good about getting it done with that pace.

This was my first run back home, and I learned a few things:

  • 5:15am is too dark. I like to exercise as early as I can, but the sun wasn’t up yet and the crescent moon wasn’t providing enough illumination on a trail with no electric lighting. So next time I’ll plan to push it to at least 5:30, if not 6:00.
  • While I do like that the trail has no lights (which would unnecessarily interfere with the wildlife in the area), my imagination did run away with me as I approached a few dark spots. Nobody jumped out of the shadows, though, at least not in real life.
  • 30% humidity in the cool air of the Northern Rockies draws out a lot less perspiration than the seashore climate on Cape Cod.
  • The trail is almost exactly a five minute walk from my house, which makes it an ideal starting point.
  • The trail was too short! Against my expectations, I hit the end just before I reached the halfway point. It was easy enough to find the extra distance by overshooting my start point, though, because the trail continues north from there.

Pain and discomfort

Serious runners talk a lot about enduring discomfort, but I feel like there’s a continuum from “discomfort” to “pain” to “injury” and with so little experience, it’s hard to know where on the spectrum I’m falling. Am I experiencing the aches that come with building strength and endurance, or am I feeling the cries of a body being ground down?

I continue to fret a bit about my knee ligaments. This is something I want to do, but not if it’s going to make me limp around all day, unable to carry a three-year-old up the stairs or pivot on the dance floor.

I decided to take a break from running for the entire week, to give my aching knees a rest (and a lot of stretching). I’m glad I did — both legs are feeling much better, though not completely healed yet.

As it happened, I had an annual checkup scheduled this week, so I asked my doctor’s opinion. She thought it was either the MCL or the meniscus, and the best thing to do was exactly what I was doing — rest and take ibuprofin.

The setback is a little disappointing, but I’m looking forward to starting again early Monday morning.

“Magic Man” by Heart. Dreamboat Annie, 1976.

“Lucky Man” by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, 1970.

“The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn)” by Yes. Tales From Topographic Oceans, 1973.