It's been a while since I've blogged about training, so here goes!
I have been looking forward to this past weekend's runs all week because they were light, comparatively. Last week's 18 miles and next week's 20 are epic in comparison to the 8 and 12 I was scheduled to do. I did my 8 miles Friday night in Prospect Park (Brooklyn) after babysitting, and had planned on my 12 miler after teaching on Saturday. However, when the temperature in NYC on Saturday was 86 and I saw that Sunday's high would only be 69, I decided to switch my days.
I ended up doing my 12 miles in Prospect Park again. It's about 1.7 miles from Jon's house, and has numerous loops in it, the largest circumference being 3.6 or so, and with some nice hills. One of the nice things about consistently running in Central Park is that I know those routes like the back of my hand. I know where the water fountains are, the bathrooms, and the nearest Starbucks if the bathroom isn't open. But it also has it's downsides. One being boredom--a "been here, done that" lassez-faire. Another is the tourists. No offense to any non-New Yorkers reading this blog, but some of us are training for the marathon here, you should watch where you're going! The "traffic" of runners and cyclists in Central Park is already heavy, and adding in tourists with the huge Abercrombie and Fitch bags stopping in the middle of the road for who knows what, can get tedious and irritating. And it's easy for things to feel irritating when you've been running for 2 and a half hours and are only still moving due to momentum and some grace of God, or insanity, or all of the above.
Anyway, 12 miles was a great distance for Prospect, since the loops are smaller (Central's largest loop is 6.5, which makes it better for those really long runs). And I have been enjoying how open and relaxed Prospect is in the few runs I've done there. I still haven't quite figured out the internal loops (and I think therefore ended up running 13 miles instead of 12), but it's been a good change of pace.
On Sunday I set off, wearing a pretty traditional workout outfit for me: running shorts, long sleeved moisture-wicking shirt, visor and sunglasses, iPod band, and heart rate monitor. I was about a third of the way through my first loop when a fellow runner came up and asked me a question.
This runner is one of my favorite runners I see out and about. I have no pithy name for them yet, so I shall call him Amazingly Fit Older Guy With Serious Gear. (AFOGWSG).
These men are generally in their late 50's and upwards, no real body fat to speak of, and are generally decked head to toe in the latest and greatest clothing, shoes and accessories. To be honest, when I see men like this, it generally gives me a boost, because I think "If THAT guy can run like that, then surely I can keep my feet moving".
So, AFOGWSG got my attention, and I removed my iPod and we had the following conversation:
AFOG: what is your heart rate right now?
AFOG: really? That high? I was just curious--for comparison's sake. How far in are you?
Me: not that far, but it's been high since I started, maybe 15 beats higher than usual. I think I had too much coffee! It's a little higher than normal. But I'm pushing a little too.
AFOG: well that's understandable. What's your max?
Me: my Anaerobic Threshold is 194, I'm a singer, so I have a huge CO2 capacity.
AFOG: oh that's got to be helpful with running! Well, I was just curious--testing my new monitor. Have a good run!
Me: Thanks! You too!
And he picked up and went on his way.
And I had a good hour and a half left of my run to think about this interchange, and the thing I was struck with first was "How did this guy know I was wearing a heart rate monitor?". I suppose you can see my watch/receiver, but it doesn't look much different than any other work out watch. And I giggled to myself a little bit that this guy "mistook" me for a hard core runner.
There is a clarity that comes in long endurance runs, when your brain clears a little. It feels like your neurotransmitters are firing more cleanly, less rapid-fire, more efficient. Things sometimes just "come to you". And it dawned on me a few miles later that AFOG didn't mistake me for hardcore.
I AM hardcore.
What does it mean to be "hardcore"? Does it mean zero percent body fat? Or super fast paces and record setting races? Well sure, but that's probably not all. Having a casual conversation with a stranger about CO2 capacity or Anaerobic Threshold seems pretty hardcore to me. Getting up at 4:30 for a 10 mile run before teaching preschoolers is hardcore. Running in 96 degree heat, and enjoying it, is hardcore. Training for a marathon is hardcore.
I know I'm a pretty intense person. I rarely do anything mildly, for better or for worse. But I have never in my life been hardcore about a sport!
So this hardcore athlete is taking this rainy NYC day off, and going to relax and take some time for herself. A really nice gift!