"It's a little self indulgent..." - My mom
"After I read a sentence, I get mad at myself for caring what you're doing." -Karl Dusen

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How to improve

Stress, adapt, recover

I'm not going to get any better unless I refine my training. Usually this means running faster, and any hope of doing that on Saturday spirited away when I saw how quickly the snow was accumulating and how low the temperature was remaining. I had planned to run 10 miles on the Fairfax Cross County Trail then take in the George Mason Invitational, at which Richmond was running, but an early e-mail from Steve alerted me that the team would not be making the trip because of the uncertain weather. Though I was disappointed to not be able to see the Spiders race and chat with Steve, I needed more sleep, so I promptly went back to bed until 1, which I hadn't done in a remarkable length of time.

By the time I woke, I saw the accumulation, and knew my revised plan for a hard run in Falls Church was short lived. I suited up for 15 degrees and headed out on a new route, and out and back starting in the neighborhood where I got lost on Tuesday. The great thing about snow, especially in northern Virginia, is that it is a deterrent to drivers, leaving the roads practically deserted. The problem is none of the roads were plowed. I worked this out to be a bonus, because my feet where hitting soft surfaces and all the traction I didn't have gave me a chance to economize my running form- and in a place where I used to yell at runners who I saw exhibiting bad form earlier in the decade. Running on slippery footing is the easiest way to see how bad your own form is because your progress will be inversely proportional to your wasted energy. You learn quickly, especially on hills, what motion goes to waste. The wind didn't help things, but made me want to push more.

By the time I was getting really adept at running in the snow, it was time to come in. I would have liked to have run longer, more than 9.75 miles, but the elements were starting to get to me. My eyelids were freezing closed, and the awful headband I got for winning the Jingle Bell Run for Arthritis in 2006, which I was using to cover my neck, was freezing and starting to scratch and chap all sides of my neck.

Despite my increasing efficiency, I averaged only 7:40 pace for 9.75 miles, but it was a good workout. It also cemented Virginia Lane as my sweet spot to run around Falls Church. Everyone should identify one such a stretch, no matter how short, where they can seem to do no wrong while running. If you reach it on a bad run, you seemingly always perk up and regain your composure. If you're having a great run, then look out world. In Pittsburgh, it's in Shadyside, along Emerson Street, a block from my old apartment.
In Richmond, it's around the Collegiate School.

That said, I can't wait to run on dry ground and see if my form improvement "sticks."

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