Saturday, April 22, 2006

Low visability

The wind is back. For the most part, living on the northern reaches of the Sonoran dessert is simply wonderful this time of year. The skies are almost always clear, the mornings are cool and the highs are usually in the mid 80s. The air is unbelievably dry with humidity readings often in the single digits. This is just perfect weather for an early morning run, taking a ride my Mustang with the top down or enjoying dinner on the patio in the evening.. The one thing that brings this idyllic life a wheezing halt is the wind. Simply put, strong winds and the desert don’t mix, for with the wind, comes the dust. Lots and lots of dust. Dust is everywhere. It burns your lungs and stings your eyes. It is in your car, it’s in your cloths, it’s in your house. The air is full of the stuff. When you become accustom to living in a town where you expect to be able to see 50 miles in any direction, this crap in the air cuts the visibility down to 5 miles. Everything around you is a dull hazy shade of brownish gray. It can be very depressing and today was very dusty.

All this is part of my rationalization as to why I had a bad run today. At 7:30 this morning, I sat out in front of my house waiting for my Garmin to align with the GPS constellation and contemplated the 9 miles I had planned to run. I had plenty of options. I could run the 3 mile loop course as I did last Sunday. I could extend my 6 mile loop to the north that has a steady 2 mile climb 3 miles into the run with my 3 mile loop; or I could run south towards one of the many parks in the Phoenix area and get in a bit of trail running. In the end, I decided to try the 3 mile loop course again and focus on keeping a nice steady pace for 80+ minutes.

Within the first quarter mile however, I knew this would be a struggle. Ironically, I had just listened to Steve Walker’s Podcast of his experience with the Boston Marathon the night before. Steve got into serious trouble early in the race with severe stomach problems, but gutted it out and finished in 5+ hours. My plan for the day wasn’t anything near marathon distance, but I readily new that 9 miles in me this morning. My legs weren’t moving with any fluidity and my arms and shoulders felt stiff. My heart rate immediately jumped to 144 and slowly climbed to 155 by the end of the first mile. I clocked the first mile at 8:30; faster than my anticipated 8:45 pace, but not so fast that I should be feeling as exhausted as I did.

On the 2nd mile, I started to feel a bit better. I relaxed my shoulders and tried to get my arms swinging with some sense of rhythm. I finished the second mile in 8:39 and the heart rate had backed off a few points, but was still very high considering my pace was at least 1 minute under my usual 10k pace.

The 3rd mile on this short loop is my favorite. The first part rises 15+ feet over a 10th of a mile and then slowly descends for 3/4 of a mile. The road is a straight shot, so I can see the final hill at the end coming closer and closer and can anticipate the final push to get up the hill while holding pace. There is a traffic light half way up the hill, so my pace usually increases during the accent to beat the light. If the light in my direction turns RED, I need to stop; I hate to stop. Most of us in Phoenix drive around as if we were perpetually qualifying for the next Busch League Stock Car race. Nothing or no one, especially a runner, is going to slow us down. Hence, I tend to speed up as I start the climb and break out into my best Carl Lewis imitation when I see the flashing red “ DON’T WALK” signal warning me of a potential break in the run.

Fortunately, I had no problem with the light this morning. I hit the bottom of the hill, held my 8:30/m pace, crested the top of the hill and relaxed at a 8:00/m pace down the backside. My split for the third mile was 8:32. Not bad, but my heart rate had top 160.

The 4th mile was a struggle. My legs were getting tired, shoulders were getting tight again and my feet felt as if they were just slamming into the payment. My heart rate was still in the 150s and this run just wasn’t fun anymore. As my watch announced my arrival at the 4 mile mark. I stopped running, stopped the watch, turned around and walked home. I hadn’t realized how slow I was walking until a lady passed me WALKING her dog. Every now and again, I need to slow down and smell the roses. I guess this was my morning to get a good whiff.

Tomorrow is an other day. As I write this, the wind has calmed down and with any luck, the dust may be settling back on the ground where it belongs. My Sunday Running plan had called for a short 30 to 40 minute recovery run but I might try another 9 to 10 miler. I haven’t had a long run this week and these short 3 to 4 mile sequences aren’t helping me any. I need to get in some distance. Perhaps tomorrow will be the day.

Keep running

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