A Runner Once Again

I didn’t do much running over the summer. Initially, when I started cycling (in early April, bundled up, braving capricious Spring weather), the days were still short (and chilly) enough that most rides were short. I was only getting out a couple times a week, and would run at least once — usually twice — during the week and again over the weekend.

As we moved into summer, my tendency to hyper-focus really came to bear, and cycling became all there was. Longer rides, more frequent rides; I could go a whole week or even two without running. In the month leading up the Century ride, I think I ran once. On the one hand, it might have been better to run more, and have more cross-training; but if there’s one thing I learned from being sick so much last year, it’s that I need to give myself ample recovery time. Instead of cross-training with running, I alternated between cycling days, yoga and rest.

After the century ride, however, I wanted to get back to running. I knew I wouldn’t ride outdoors once the temperatures got below about 55 — lack of daylight aside, I just don’t deal well with cold when most of my body is still, as it is when cycling. Running keeps me significantly warmer, so I decided that I’d put the bike away for the winter and focus on running.

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that the transition back to running would actually be a little on the difficult side. After all, I had no problem transitioning from running to cycling. But suddenly, I found myself a significantly slower runner — not that I’d ever qualified as “fast”, but it felt like my first year of running all over again. My heart rate went up noticeably faster during running than it did while cycling, and I had to take more frequent walk breaks. Last year, I was regularly breaking the 10-minute per mile pace, and now I’m closer to 11:30 per mile and just trying to work on consistency before I worry about speed.

And yet … it still feels good to be running again. When I can get past my frustration at being slower, I fall into the rhythm of running and lose myself. This is a particularly pretty time of year in my area, and when I’m running on a local trail or at a park, I can take the time to look around and enjoy the scenery in a way that I don’t get to do as much on the bike, as I whiz quickly past idyllic farms and maneuver in traffic through town.

I’ve set myself some good running challenges this year; my main goal is to focus on trail running as much as possible. I’ve done a lot of running on roads and the paved paths in the area in the past (such as the Perkiomen Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail), so it’s time to switch focus and learn a new style of running.

I tend to register for races as a way of setting goals and monitoring progress. My first race this fall was a 5k on the rolling roads of Collegeville in late October. The following week, I stacked myself up with a double-header (which is what happens when I can’t make up my mind WHICH race I should do); I ran a 5-miler on the Green Ribbon Trail on Saturday, then ran a road 10k (Run the Bridge) the following day. I was happy with my times at both events, especially considering they were my longest recent runs, and I gave myself very little rest between them.

Coming up next, I have runs with a local trail-running group (Misery Loves Company), and will supplement the runs I attend with them with my own sprint workouts and strength training (and yoga! Mustn’t forget the yoga). My major goal races are still months away, and will cause some interesting overlaps with Spring and Summer cycling, so in addition to challenging myself to more trail running, I’ll need to start challenging myself to a better cross-training routine.

Thinking that far ahead makes it feel a little daunting. What it really all comes down to is that I found new things to love about cycling over the summer, and I’m again finding new things to love about running right now. Finding a way to balance these two pursuits so that I can enjoy both and stay healthy will be the real goal, rather than setting any specific race times.

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