And So Begins Running Club…

In my proverbial bed of pain.

This past Tuesday night was my first time working out with the Shammies. All day yesterday, my quads were burning with the fury of a thousand suns and I actually felt pathetic enough to ask my boss if we could spring for a stair lift so that I wouldn’t have to face the endless stairs leading up to my cube. Today, sadly, my legs seem to hurt even more than yesterday.

And to think – my week started out with such joy at running! For the first time in several weeks, I was actually pretty jazzed about this whole running thing again. I’m not un-jazzed now… just, you know, uncomfortably sore.

On Monday night, I went running for the first time since New Year’s Day. I spent the whole day hoping that Colin would bail, because I really wanted to stay in my nest of blankets on the couch. Luckily he didn’t bail, and once we dragged ourselves out into the cold and got going, it really wasn’t so bad. We only did about 2 miles and took it easy, but it felt good and felt even better after we were done. I felt taller somehow, and healthier. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been mostly sedentary for almost 3 weeks and finally move around a bit!

Then Tuesday came and I started out the day still running on the fumes of the previous evening’s runners’ high. I was looking forward to meeting people in my running club and getting started with speed workouts, and even the threat of “Winter Storm Janus” arriving during my evening commute didn’t phase me too much. I ran to the nearest City Sports during my lunch break and bought a watch and a headband, and set out early to make sure I beat the rush-hour-plus-snowstorm traffic.

After 2 hours of trying to make it the 14 miles from work to the indoor track, I finally showed up for my first workout as a Shammy. The track they use during the winter is tiny, only 150m, and the workout time in the gym is shared with rec-league basketball. I chatted with Steve, the guy who runs the speed workouts, ran some warmup laps, and then began the most intense running experience I’ve had yet.

Apparently we were doing something called a “4-by-800” which involved running 400m at interval pace [fast, but not a full-out sprint], then 200m at tempo pace [slightly faster than “race pace” but slower than interval pace], another 200m back at interval pace, and 400m at recovery pace [nice and slow]. Or something like that. There were so many numbers thrown at me that my brain shut off a little bit. (I was an English major… numbers and my brain don’t always mix!) Because the track was only 150m, Steve had placed cones at various locations to let us know when to switch paces.

When we set off, I tagged along at the back of the pack and felt delightfully like one of the track runners from Juno who always run by in a group with their matching sweatbands and tiny shorts. The delight didn’t last very long; I might have made it 2 laps before “interval” and “tempo” became temporary curse words in my head. I couldn’t breathe, the stuffiness of the gym suddenly became overwhelming, the other Shammies were lapping me at an alarming rate, and my running form deteriorated to the point where I probably looked like Quasimodo out for a jog.

To make it worse, I lost complete track of how many meters I had done at each “pace” (pace had become a joke at that point)… how was I supposed to remember if it was 3 1/2 laps at one pace, then 2 1/4 at another, or whatever fractions Steve had assigned? I focused on just trying to keep going at whatever pace I could manage without fainting. I had to stop several times to walk or use the bubbler, and I wanted to just be done, but the other Shammies were still running and I was embarrassed to stop so I pushed myself to keep trying even though my quads were on fire and I felt like I was going to melt. I also tried to block out the stares of the basketball players/spectators each time I dragged myself past them. In my head they were taking bets on how quickly I’d collapse. (But I didn’t! Ha-HA!)

The one bright point during the workout came when I pushed myself to run a tiny bit faster between cones. I was doing okay, and the president of the club and another Shammy passed me. “She’s just breezing through this!” (or something along those lines) one of them said, and the other said “Yeah, she looks like a butterfly!” (Cue Taxi Driver impression: You talkin’ to me?!) Though I looked like Quasimodo for most of the workout, it’s nice to know that, at least for a few seconds, I resembled something graceful with wings.

Though the workout itself was a bit disheartening and overwhelming, the response of the other Shammies afterward was reassuring. They gave me props for sticking with it even though I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted, and they were very welcoming and encouraged me to come back, and to join them at other workouts and races. I’m really looking forward to going back next week – so long as my legs become usable again! – and am glad I finally bit the bullet and joined. Being part of the club will be a good kick in the butt to get me running more, and I can’t wait to see my speed workout struggles pay off eventually with better PRs!

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