I have been off-schedule this week with my runs. You know how that is, some weeks are just too cluttered to put in the workouts you'd hoped for, the kiddo was sick, the wife had meetings, I did too many squats the day before and my legs were jello... It happens to everybody.
So it was a bit of a surprise when I realized I had 40 open minutes this morning. I grabbed my running shoes and dashed out the door, no plan, no route, just the desire to try and fit in a decent workout in less than an hour. As I set out I started thinking that maybe I needed a hill workout, the perfect way to get in some burn in a short time. Otherwise I was going to have to settle for just a quick couple miles before heading back.
There is one large hill on base called "Radar Hill", a hill with a road spiraling up it most of which is going upward at about a 45 degree angle. I started doing the math in my head, a mile to the hill, half mile uphill, half mile downhill, mile run back. Yeah, I thought, I can do it in time!
I kept checking my watch as I approached the hill, I was keeping perfect pace to make it back. As I started uphill I noticed a 'serious' runner on his way down. As much as I run I have a hard time calling myself a serious runner, they're the ones that are hardly breaking a sweat and yet still outpacing me. We nodded to each other as we passed.
For the next ten minutes I grinded out the hill. I kept expecting my body to protest the workout because the last time I started dragging almost immediately. The last time I'd tried the hill a couple months previously my legs started burning almost as soon as I set foot on it, this time I was motoring up the road efficiently without the feeling of impending collapse. I reached the top and looked around at the amazing vista. To some degree I realized how much stronger I was, but didn't really think about it before I started back down.
About twenty meters of downhill and I saw something startling. That same 'serious' runner was almost back to the top. Again! A second trip up Radar Hill? This guy is REALLY serious about his running.
As we passed I looked at him in amazement and said, "Two trips? Man, you are way more hardcore than I am." He smiled and we continued on our seperate ways.
Then this crazy thought occured to me, IS he more hardcore than me? Probably, but that doesn't mean I can't try, right? I mean, one of the motivational quotes that always moved me was (I'm very roughly paraphrasing, and I have no idea who said it) "If you know that you can finish, you're not pushing yourself." I did a quick inventory, and was amazed that my legs still felt pretty good. I did a quick time check and was amazed again, I'd done the uphill faster than anticipated and the downhill was waaaay faster than the uphill.
Am I seriously considering this? Turning around at the bottom and going back up? I was. I laughed at myself and reasoned that even if I couldn't finish it, at least I'd tried. So I paused at the bottom, tagged the light pole, checked my time once again and turned around.
About a third of the way back up I saw the runner again, I grinned and said a quick Hi.
He looked at me, shook his head a little, then grinned yup-you've-been-bitten-too and between puffs said "Good... Good..."
I'm not sure if I'm in way better shape than I was, or if the boost I got from having a 'serious' runner compliment me was enough, but I made it all the way back to the top and down again.
When I reached the end of the run I looked down at my watch "00:40:30".
Maybe not "Good... Good..." but certainly not bad.
(Originally posted 29 August 2009, Runners World and Myspace)