Here's the skinny: I've been near 300 lbs. for years and need to lose weight. I'm married to a wonderful lady, and we have a family. One of our boys often asks if I'll run with him. I've always had to tell him, "No." In August of '09, my wife learned about a couch-to-5k running program, and I agreed to try it with her. This blog chronicles our progress on that training program. I hope I'll soon be able to surprise my son by telling him, "Yes, I'll go running with you!"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 31 (week 5, day 3) - Workout 2

Well, we did it. We completed the second session of Week 5: two eight minute runs separated by a five minute walk.

This was, perhaps, one of the hardest days for me. My breath control and overall endurance have improved significantly since we started, but they were not the area of challenge today. It was my legs. I still struggled a bit with my left leg and knee, particular in the second run, but my right calf was the real stinker today (though both were sore by the end). I could tell it was a bit tight even during our warm-up walk, but it was really tight at the end of the first run.

That first run, otherwise, was not too bad. It surely felt long, but I noticed that my body had found its own breathing rhythm, and I was not desperate for breath. It was warmer than we expected, 39° F (we had expected frost), and there was little wind--a nice change from earlier this week. I found a pair of warm-up pants in one of my drawer, something I had on-hand for a back country trip a few years ago. I wasn't sure how they would fit me today. They were a bit long, back then, and I had to wear them tucked into my socks. Today, I was surprised to find that they fit quite well for length. You see, before, I had been wearing them below my belly, on my hips. Today, I was wearing them properly and they fit quite well. I did have to make one adjustment--I had to tighten the drawstring! I also had a nylon windbreaker overshirt. I was quite comfortable today, but Mrs. F was quite cold.

I knew the point on the trail where we finished our five minute runs, so that was, perhaps, the toughest part of the first one. I knew we had about three minutes yet to go (as was confirmed by the podcast), and when the run finished, we were almost out of trail. We started our walk and then turned around. When the next podcast announcement came, I was surprised to realize we still had three minutes of walking yet to go. I was already feeling rested (regarding my breathing) by that point, but my right calf was sore. My left knee also set about to remind me that it still had its own issues.

I could feel the desire to limp as we began the next (and final) run. I kept concentrating on my stride, and I kept the discomfort to a minimum. I may need to visit a running shop, a sports medicine practitioner, or a podiatrist, to have my stride examined. I think I may be landing more flat-footed on my left foot, while my right strikes more at the heel and rolls.

What can I say about those final eight minutes? I wanted to quit after the first 30 seconds. My calves were already sore, and now they started to burn and pain with every step. Oh, I just wanted to stop, but I couldn't face the idea of sitting down and posting that I gave up on this blog. I couldn't stomach the thought of repeating this week because I failed to complete a session. In my mind, repeating a week because I want to improve my endurance is one thing--repeating it because I gave up on myself would be another thing entirely.

So, I plodded on. I could tell that that my stride had slowed. At one point, I was convinced that my younger kids could have passed me had they been walking by. The slower I got, however, the harder it seemed. By the beginning of the second minute (by my best guess), Mrs. F was already far ahead of me. I forced myself to pick up the pace as much as I could, but I did not want to push too hard for fear of being unable to finish. I was reading a post on a discussion board yesterday, where one of the writers derided those who stop or collapse with the finish line in sight. They reasoned that such people were pitiful, to give up so close to the end, and felt that the adrenaline of seeing the finish line would give anyone the juice they needed to finish strong. My only reaction when I read that was that the writer must never have been out of shape (not out of shape as he or she conceived of it, but really out of shape--the way I experience it). My heart goes out to those who falter in those final steps, because I have an idea of how hard it must be for them.

Because the podcast for this week included announcements for all three different workouts, I knew that the announced end for one of the first day runs meant we had three minutes left. I pushed a bit more, bringing my pace closer to what it was at the beginning of the first set. My calves burned so much now that they started to feel numb. My left knee, which was giving me grief, however, seemed to improve slightly. I could not see Mrs. F ahead of me at all. I heard the announcement for the final minute, and I felt desperate not to end so far behind. I found myself doing something I would not have imagined--I sped up.

It was not the kind of accelleration I had done on the days last week, where the podcast encouraged us to push it. It was something different. It was like that one day, early in our program (during Week 1 or Week 2), where I tried to end with a full sprint because I knew that's what our son did during cross country races. Having just been to one last night, I saw my son, who usually led his teammates by a great distance, just a dozen meters ahead of two of his teammates. In the final stretch, he was trailing behind one of them, and just ahead of the other. Each of them went all-in during that last stretch, but the young man in the third position, who was trailing quite a bit, really poured it on. I saw him during that sprint, and could not help but urge him on. He wanted to get ahead of my son so much!--I saw it in his face. My son, too, was not wanting to be beaten by teammates he had led all season, so he pushed hard. He closed the gap on the one who was in the lead. The three finished the race, each one second behind the other, with my son the third of the three.

Seeing that trailing runner sprint came to my mind in that final minute, as I felt myself speeding ahead. I swung my arms far and rapidly as my pace increased. I noticed just how much my stride lengthened. I felt lighter, as if I were bounding down the trail like a deer. There she was! I could see Mrs. F's shape ahead of me. I could not tell if she was pushing it, too, but I continued to gain ground. She had been at least 50 meters ahead of me. Then 40... 30... 20. I could not believe how fast I was moving. Then 10... five... three... one... and then it ended.

I was so close. Had I another five or ten seconds, I would have overtaken her. My body, however, now obedient to the announced transitions on the podcast, shut down immediately. My legs stiffened, and that wonderful feeling of freedom and mobility that came in the sprint was replaced by pain and numbness and a desire to collapse. I was breathing harder from that final exertion. I forced myself to walk, feeling my left leg trying to lock with each step. I tried to keep the pace up, but the discomfort kept me in check. I felt like my right foot just wanted to extend fully, toes pointed out like some ballerina preparing for a pirouette, with my calf knotted in a ball. We walked to the car. I stretched, got in, and drove home.

It wasn't until we pulled into the driveway that I realized that I was already feeling much better. My legs still were as uncomfortable as they were moments before, but the rest of my body felt surprisingly good, even refreshed. It was, perhaps, the most difficult workout of my entire life, but it was also one of the most rewarding. I did, after all, complete the session. I ran for 16 minutes, with only a five minute walk in the middle. Today renewed my fears about completing this coming Friday's run--a 20 minute run with no walking--but it also proved, once again, that my body is capable of far more than I often believe it can accomplish.

Oh, and by the way, today's run puts us past the half-way point!

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