On March 7, I went for my first run since October 21. That’s right, the woman who claims she is now a runner went almost five months without running at all. But when my first half marathon of the season was only nine weeks and two days away, it felt like time to get moving. There are three main reasons I haven’t run in all this time.
- This has been the longest, coldest, and snowiest of my eleven winters in Colorado. It just keeps snowing, and the brief thaws we have are only long enough to turn the sidewalks into ice skating rinks when another freeze comes the next day, rather than melting everything completely. I have no desire to twist an ankle on a patch of black ice.
- I’ve been ruined for running on a treadmill. I used to run on treadmills exclusively because I liked being able to control the “terrain” and hills I was running on. I hated the randomness of running outside. After I started running outside, I completely flipped and now I can’t run on a treadmill at all. It’s so tedious and depressing. The miles fly by when I’m outside, but on a treadmill, one mile feels like three.
- I’ve been concentrating on increasing muscle mass and strength. I got an InBody assessment done last April and the results were pathetic. Even though I’m a naturally slender person and do tons of cardio, I have an unusually high percentage of body fat for my weight. Also, my skeletal muscle mass is super low by itself and even more so compared to my body fat mass, which means I’m a weakling! I knew this already, but I wanted to try to change it.
So last June, I quit Orange Theory, which is two-thirds cardio based, and started going to strength days at F45 instead. I also found Mecha in July and started going to resistance classes there regularly. I added their HIIT circuit classes to my routine in December too for a little cardio, though the circuit includes a fair number of strength activities. Mecha classes are the most difficult I’ve found in Boulder, if you do them correctly. In the resistance class, which follows the Lagree method, you can move quickly and use momentum, but that’s cheating. You’re supposed to move slowly slowly slowly so you’re moving a massive, heavy, spring-loaded carriage using only sheer, concentrated muscle force. The classes fit a maximum of twelve students, so the instructors are able to watch you carefully to make sure you’re moving slowly and with proper form. It’s brutal and intense, and I love it.
I’m happy with the results. I have great muscle tone now and I look damn fine! But I’ve realized that my body just isn’t built for muscle. Even after all this time, when I compare myself to others in my classes, I know I should be capable of more than I am, particularly in my upper body. I have more lung and heart power than many, many other people, but I’m going to have to be content being a low performer in pushups and other such exercises. And that’s fine because now it’s running season again.
So on March 7, I ran a 5k at Paint Mines Interpretive Park. I ran a pathetic 10:48 average pace, a far cry from my best time of 8:30 minute miles in the Thirsty 13 last August. But to be fair, I had to stop a number of times and slog through two-inch deep, suck-you-in mud.
My starting elevation was 6,600 feet. It’s going to be important to me to run at higher altitudes this year if I want to do well in the races I’m considering. I said at the beginning of the post that my “first” half marathon is coming up in mid-May, but it will likely be my only one this year. I’ve got other goals this year. I’d like to get on a Ragnar Snowmass team. (anybody need a teammate?) Snowmass is at 7,800 feet and has an 800 ft elevation gain, multiple times.
But what I’m really dreaming about this year is the Imogene Pass Run. It’s 17.1 miles, starting in Ouray at 7,800 feet and summitting at 13,100 feet before running the last seven miles back down in Telluride. As their website says, it is: An extremely difficult race for well prepared athletes. To me, this race is the ultimate challenge. Far more ferocious than running a marathon. It may be nine miles shorter, but a 5,000+ elevation gain is much worse than a few extra miles. The race will be held the second weekend in September. With all the running and hiking mountains I do during the summer, I know I can be ready for it.
So, I guess it’s a good thing I finally got my ass in gear. I followed up that 3.2 mile March 7th run with one in Aiken Canyon Preserve (5.3 miles, 13:47 pace, 900 foot elevation gain, ice and mud) on March 8th and one in Ute Valley Park on March 9th (4.2 miles, 10:47 pace, 400 foot elevation gain, light mud) pace. And then I braved the Manitou Incline on March 10th, ascending more than 2,000 feet (starting at 6,637 ft) in only .88 miles. If those numbers don’t mean anything to you, trust me, that’s ridiculously steep and difficult! I crushed it in 40 minutes on the dot. I’ll be back up to peak performance in no time and I’ve got plenty more time I can take advantage of.