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Monday, February 13, 2012

Country Runner, Treadmill Runner

Last week I added a new location to my running resume! A work trip sent me packing with my family to Lancaster, PA for an annual summit on all things dairy. Now, as exciting as it is to sit in an expo all day I was also looking forward to getting in some new miles!

Leg One- Virginia is for Runners
The first night found us halfway in a hotel room in Virginia. We checked in, got Sylas (mostly) settled in and I took my key card to the fitness room to get my fitness fixed! Finding the treadmills on the back wall and the remote tucked away in a cup holder I pressed "quick start" and quickly realized why I hate treadmills all over again... they are BORING! Or, to be more accurate, and to paraphrase my high school English teacher Treadmills (books) aren't boring, I am boring.

As true as this may be, I find myself always pushing the limits on the treadmill in a desperate attempt to make this exertion interesting. Within about 10 minutes I was playing with the programs on this particular model to see what this belt had to offer. After 10 minutes I gave up... not able to outsmart the thing and I settled on going manual with a hill session. After 30 minutes at a steady pace with 3 minutes on 5% hills and 2 minute recovering on the flats I had my work in! and I was even excited about it. After completing this run I actually felt as if I had found my fitness- at least the mental approach- and I had somehow walked out of that room as a runner again... after all, who but a runner would play games with inclines and heart rates?

Leg Two- Farm Country
On we drove north and reached our home for the next 3 nights in Lancaster, PA. Racing the end of the day I snuck out onto the gold course for a gentle recovery and shake out run. Up the rolling manicured hills, down toward ponds and migrating geese... taking in the gentle breezes as they persuaded the weather vane this way and that. Running by fields of "fragrant revitalization" accompanied by the old barns and livestock. With the sun setting low I made it through a thicket of evergreen and through a small covered bridge before reaching our room... quietly so as to not disturb any tiny nappers therein.

Leg Three- Double Trouble
The next day I had to work all day, but was still able to get in 4 miles in the afternoon and then another 4.5 that night- pushing the patience of the security guard who wanted to lock that fitness room up early... but hey- 11pm is 11pm. Around 10:30 I was halfway into my session of 30 minutes easy when this large fella entered. He walked around, peaked into nooks and crannies looking for terrorists? or suspicious packages? until a minute or so passed and he informed me of the hours of operation.

"Okay," I breathed, "It's like 10:30 now?"
"It's 1035!" he corrected.
"Thanks, I'll be out at 10:50."
"Whatever, I'll be back at 11."

Feeling suddenly safer I finished up my run, wiped down the TM and soggily made my way back to the room after passing through a lobby of pantsuits and ties a few drinks into another night. It brought me back to weekend nights on military bases...

Leg Three- Father Fatigue
Snow fell that next day and I was able to get out for a chilly, slick recovery run on legs that were ground down to nothing. Rebuilding is hard- and just running 4 miles a few times is a real challenge over a few days. I was dragging, stiff legged and wishing for this phase to end quickly... Sufficiently frozen I ran back inside and rested with my family before getting back to the TM for one more effort later that night.

Leg Four- "Cross Country"
Having begun the week with a TM program I wanted to end it the same way and I set out to see what this older machine had in store. I chose "Cross Country" profile and set the speed to the same as the previous workout from a few nights prior. Recovery and warm up were flat before bumping up to 4% for 1min, 8% 1 min and 4% 1min, recover 1 minute flat. Then onto a succession of hills in this same format with increasing grades. That initial  8% was tough- and I was worried about that oncoming spike that would be the 3rd and 4th hill segments... it looked like a much larger spike but I wasn't too sure how to read the dots yet and just hoped for something sane... like 10% grade.

I was fatigued following the second 4,8,4 hill and now noticed that the next increment was a 6,12,6...

okay- just settle in. 6% was alright not too bad the first time... but that 12% grade made me question everything I think I know... except gravity... I believe in gravity. I took it literally 12 seconds at a time to get through that one minute before feeling somewhat normal again when the grade returned to a sane 6%. My heart rate stayed elevated for just about the entire 6% minute before I had a little relief during the 1 minute flat. With about 20 seconds before the last hill began my breathing felt aerobic but right on the edge of bumping up with any additional load.

When the machine added the grade of 6% again I quickly thought of every excuse to reduce my speed or reduce the grade. I am not ready for this, I am tired from the week, I don't need to be doing this kind of work yet... Thankfully, each excuse came with a stronger message. Yes You ARE, Keep Going Anyway, Yes You DO.

Despite the dark cloud of doubt and convincing frame of mind that I was incapable of running this way- I did it anyhow! This, in fact, is exactly the kind of running I need to be doing regularly. Savagely difficult, muscle grinding, sweat pouring every fiber of my being effort running... it should be hard and bring about doubt and fear!

Even though I still hate the treadmill I am left with a feeling of gratitude for its availability to be there for me and to teach me something that a beautiful, manicured course cannot. I need to take on those ugly, difficult, impossible things and make them lessons to look back on and smile knowingly. It's called growth.

Happy Running


  1. Good job on conquering the dreadmill. I will be doing the same when I start traveling in the next couple weeks.

  2. I'm getting anxious about getting on the roads more for the spring. There's also safety in the treadmill, you won't get lost or hit by anything other than a rogue security guard.

  3. The dreadmill is my friend for so many runs. I've learned to tolerate him, but wait for the weekends when I can run in the daylight.

  4. I think you showed those mills who's boss. They can be incredibly boring but also a necessary evil in a pinch.


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