I had such a rough last few runs I was wondering if I had gotten myself into some sort of "running slump." Saturday's run erased all my concern - YAY!
I planned to go on a group run Saturday morning out at the Sugar Grove Nature Center with the LRC group. I've been out there with them before and it's beautiful scenery, they have a well-marked course with several options for distance - 3 miles, 4, 7, etc... and of course it's a wooded area and in this weather, there wouldn't be too much traffic so I'd be able to let Coty off her leash for at least a good portion of the time, which allows me to do more running without walk-breaks. Win-win!
They were meeting a 9am and the location is about a 1/2 hour drive from my house, so I needed to be IN the car WITH the dog by 8:30am. No problem. EXCEPT... I was experiencing some... uh, mild intestinal distress in the morning which delayed my departure. By the time I was a situated with my running gear (windbreaker, Garmin, hydration belt, gloves, headband to cover my ears, iPod... I think that's it) and got the dog into the car, it was close to 8:50 and I knew I'd never make it. I was all up for a little drive and a scenic run, so I decided instead of showing up late to the group run (and not knowing the route), I'd head out to the Lake again for the 4.37-mile course. That's three weeks in a row out at the Lake but it's fun and I know the route without having other runners to follow. Plus, Coty loves it!
A little back-story: I did some reading this week on Active.com about "Speed Workouts" for beginners. (Read the article that got me started here.) One of the things I read about was the "easy run". Now, I gotta tell ya, there was a time I thought that this "easy run" concept was a myth, a misnomer, an oxymoron, or maybe even an outright lie. I think it's basically what I've been doing on most of my runs, but I haven't been doing it with purpose. ON purpose. Saturday, I wanted to test this out.
Out at the lake, I walked about a 1/2-mile to warm up, then ran the remainder of the first mile before taking a couple-minutes break. Then I started out on my "easy run" - I wanted to run 2 miles or more without a break, so I tried not to look at the Garmin too much, and I wasn't worrying about speed, just going at a "comfortable" pace that I felt I could maintain for 2-3 miles. Whenever I did look at the watch I seemed to be staying right in the neighborhood of a 12-minute mile, so not fast but a solid pace for me. Not "race pace." just an "easy run." Simple, right??
In a word, YES.
I finished the first mile, feeling great. Kept going, finished the second mile, felt like I had slowed down a little but it's not Race Pace, it's an Easy Run, you're not focused on speed, you're just focused on moving, steady, comfortable pace. I kept going, decided I should go for three. Finished the third mile, which incidentally ends about a quarter-mile AFTER you reach the top of That Damn Hill I've complained about before, and I still felt pretty great. I took a mental inventory, knowing the end of the course was less than half a mile away, and decided to keep jogging until I reached the (imaginary) Finish Line.
I'm going to try and post the stats from my Garmin for this run. I am still trying to figure out how to do this, so bear with me!
EVEN BETTER: Sunday, I took Coty out in the FREEZING temperatures and decided to do another Test Mile and got myself a new PR: 10:22! That's a 15-second improvement on my last test mile. I'm edging toward being able to run a 10-minute mile - a major milestone for me! And like I keep saying... if I can do one at that pace, sooner or later I'll be able to do two. :-)