Having maintained an unparalleled enthusiasm for cycling for years, I always assumed that runners who did not also cycle had a comparable enthusiasm because, well, they chose running over cycling. Now that I’ve firmly added running into my recreational repertoire, I have developed a solid appreciation for it. It provides a well-rounded and highly-effective full body workout. It is also weight bearing, which is important for us females who might be more prone to osteoporosis. It also doesn’t involve the amassing of quite as much gear, and quite as expensive gear. It is more versatile – - if one goes on vacation, for example, it’s easy to pack a pear of sneakers in one’s suitecase in order to continue one’s running regimen. Weather also doesn’t seem to be quite as impactful on the runner as on the cyclist. Really, I could go on and on and on about the practical advantages of running.
At the same time, for me, running lacks a key feature that is the cornerstone of cycling: fun.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed myself on many of my runs and I am SO HAPPY that I have added it to my exercise possibilities. For the last several months, I have been running exclusively in order to prepare for my race that is coming up too fast. However, I do not feel nearly as prepared for the race as I would like and I have been battling some extreme discouragement. Because of the stress and feeling discouraged, running has been less fun for me recently.
Also, running can hurt. I have been doing these 10-14 mile training runs up to Adalpe Summit (which is about 1600 feet of climbing and 1600 feet of descending) and for days afterwards, my body feels fine in normal life but hurts when I try to run again. I have to take several days off from running to recover from these longer runs because the impact from running up 1600 feet and then running DOWN 1600 feet hurts! In order to train for my race, I had wanted to do one of these longer runs with lots of elevation gain and loss a week, as well as two 6 mile medium pace and two 3 mile hard pace runs. Because I have felt so much deep down pain after my long runs, I haven’t been able to get in my other runs as I had planned and this makes me feel not as prepared for the race. A few times, I’ve forced myself to run when my body told me not to, and that really made it worse.
Another thing that hurts is my self esteem because I am a very slow runner. I’ve taken first place in mountain bike races and when I was a member of a cycling club I could hang with the faster members of the group. In running, I am passed left and right by people who look out of shape, or people who are 60 years older than me. It feels so discouraging!
The last mile of the climb up to Adalpe Summit is BRUTAL. I’ve ran it three times and have to run/walk it because I always feel like I’m going to have a coronary arrest. I ran/walked it the other day, feeling particularly like I would drop dead because it was also hot outside, and when I got to the top I watched an old guy (seriously, he must have been over 70 years old) run up the whole thing. When he got to the top, to be friendly to a fellow runner, I said, “Wow, you ran up that whole thing!” and he said, very loudly as though he really wanted me to hear his wisdom, “YOU’RE NOT GOING TO WIN ANY TIME TRIALS WALKING LIKE YOU DO.”
I don’t want to be a whiner, but it really irritated and discouraged me when he said that. A few days earlier, I confessed to Josh that I don’t expect to take home a gold medal during my race and he said sweetly, “But you’ve already won the Jennifer race.” …Which is true. I entered the race because I wanted a kick in the pants to motivate me to get in shape (which I have) and I wanted to add running to my exercise toolkit as a balance to cycling (which I have).
My goals for the race are threefold:
- Run at a pace that is sustainable but also challenges me;
- Don’t hurt myself;
- Have fun and enjoy the experience.
Honestly, I’m sick of having running be my primary exercise modality because it’s less enjoyable when I compare myself to other, more experienced runners, and also because even the greatest of my runs has paled in comparison to a fun bike ride.
On Sunday, Josh and I decided to do something that we used to do frequently, but haven’t done in almost a year… go on a mountain bike adventure. Part of why we haven’t done this in so long is because he hurt his back badly last year while repairing our roof. And while I continued to ride my bike around the local trails, I’m not comfortable heading out to the badlands of the Owyhees by myself, where one can become easily lost.
With Josh’s back healed and me abandoning my running exclusivity, we went to a place called Kane Springs in the Owyhees, which we’ve never been to before and it was SO MUCH FUN. Even though I haven’t been riding hardly at all for MONTHS, my running has kept me in good shape for biking, which leads me to think that they are very complementary sports. Even with a fierce headwind and loose trail conditions, I was able to power up all of the climbs. I felt so strong and confident in what I was doing.
At times, the trail/road was VERY sandy. It appeared that the area had experienced some flash flooding this spring (we’ve had lots of HUGE rain storms) that created big ruts and washed out zones, as well as very very sandy trails. Pedaling one’s bicycle through sand can be challenging. On flats or on climbs, one has to exert a tremendous amount of effort to not spin out and continue to propel oneself forward. On descents, it’s literally a balancing act of allowing the bicycle to fishtail and wibble-wobble all over the place and just staying cool and relaxed within oneself in order to remain upright.
A few years ago, I had an epiphany about descending in the sand: even if you crash, it shouldn’t hurt that much because sand is soft. It was like a revelation for me. Sand is soft!
Of course, don’t be like me and impale your groin on your handlebar stem while you’re performing an accidental superman endo into the sand. Sorry, but contrary to popular culture, males don’t have the monopoly on impact groinal injury. Ouch.
I’ve done a wee bit of road cycling in the last several months but I honestly cannot remember the last time that I rode my mountain bike. There was so much dust on the bike, I was ashamed! Despite all of the time that had passed, I was able to hop back on and the skills returned (well, some of the skills).
The first bit of descent, I did feel a little uneasy. I don’t have a photo, but the first descent was pretty sandy and rocky and sort of steep, so I had to search a little bit within myself to find the place where I had stashed my downhill mojo and confidence. Once I found it, I had such a blast!
The roads were undulating / rolling hills, with hard climbs followed by awesome descents. I never knew what would be around the next corner.
The views were spectacular and I had such a wonderful time. It reminded me to keep my expectations under control and (wow, this sounds so cheesy!) to ensure that my motivations are true to who I want to be and how I want to live. For me, I want to run as a complementary cross-training activity to cycling. I want to run because some days it’s what I feel like doing. I don’t want to run when my body hurts and I don’t want to feel badly when old guys tell me I won’t be winning any time trials.
Anyway, here’s that photo of Josh descending an extra steep part of the trail. I rode down several sections that were sketchy and challenging for me, but I had no desire to descend this. Maybe next time…
My race is in five days. I hope that I have fun and don’t hurt myself.