I'm a triathlete. I have spent nearly 20 years pursuing triathlon in my own little corner of the world, and only this past year have I called myself a triathlete. I rarely make it in the top three in my age group, but usually make the top 50% in the larger races, and top 10% in the smaller ones. So - your slightly better than average wanna-be who never had any real genetic talent as an athlete, but who always has had a fierce sense of determination and persistence. I envy those "natural" athletes who move so gracefully and so seemingly effortlessly and really seem to have FUN while pushing their bodies to the limit. Lately though, I have also come to realize that while they will always be faster, stronger, leaner and ahead of me in the race - I probably actually work a lot harder than they do, relatively speaking (on the ability to effort scale), have a lot more mental dicipline (it's harder to make yourself do something that does not feel easy, never has and never will), and am, ultimately, achieving more (bigger gains are made by those who have farther to go). So - while I will always be slightly in awe of my friends and competitors who blow my doors off, I am slowing coming to terms with and learning to embrace my own limits, fitness and abilities, and to appreciate them for what they do for me.
I injured my heel, or my plantar fascia, or my calf (the docs never fully figured it out) in June. I stopped running completely in July, except for three races that I was signed up for. Literally - I did not run at all, and on race day I would go the distance, whatever it was on the run, hobble back to my car and ice my heel and take massive quantities of ibuprophen (known as Vitamin I in the triathlon world). I stopped running completely at the end of September, and only have done swimming and cycling and a smll amount of strength training for three months. This is the longest time I have spent not running in about 15 years, so it's been very strange to me. I think my heel is better, but it still bugs me occaisionally.
However - the number one thing on my bucket list is to do an Ironman. An Ironman is the longest triathlon race there is: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run - all within 17 hours of time. I have done every other distance triathlon, but never the "big" one. Well - if I am going to do that, I better get my run back! I have signed up for a race in April with a mere 10K (6.2 miles) run at the end. Piece of cake, right? NOT! Rememer - there is no "easy" for me - like so many others, every distance matters, and is ALL hard work.
So today I started my run training. On a treadmill. I did .35 miles walking, then bumped it up to a gentle jog (5.5 mph or 11 min/mile for me on a treadmill). After a mile or so I decided the pace of the treadmill was too "off"the beat of the continuous 80s Pop Music the Gym was playing, and didn't "fit"my natural stride, so I bumped it up a bit more, to a 6.1 mph, or a 10 min mile pace. That seems to be by ultimate comfort zone in running, no matter how well or de-trained I am. At 1.75 miles my heart and lungs felt great, I was sweating, breathing well, and my legs were already tired! Not quite toast, but tired enough that I wanted to be DONE! I went to 2 miles, then walked for anotehr quarter mile. Total time - about 30 mins. I then spent 15 minutes stretching because at my age (over 40) if you don't stretch, you pay. Flexibility is, without a doubt. the most important compenent of fintess in those over 40.
As I was driving home, I felt a sense of well-being that verged on euphoria. My legs were tired - I'm going to be sore tomorrow, I already know, but my body had that old, familiar feeling that only comes with running. I have no pain in my heel. I am going to go back on Monday and do another 2 miles, if I can. I can't wait to see how long it will take me to build my run back up. It is always a touch-and-go with me, since even though my muscles LOVE running, my joints are a little cranky about it. So I have to find that balance of training the right amount so as to keep both parts happy. Day 1 is done -- bring on Day 2.