Saturday, July 23, 2011

Conditioning Takes Time

Conditioning takes time. Be patient, runners. No one gets fit, nor fast, immediately. And even as we all settle into the groove of running, we continuously encounter new challenges. Whether we are seeking to go further in distance, quicker with speed, or both, or something else, there are going to inevitably be challenges that we must take on as runners. And while these challenges are hard in the beginning, and seem as if they can never be conquered, we can overcome these challenges.

My current challenge are hills. Not regular hills, mind you. I have always loved hills. Getting to the top is an achievement, and being able to pass people on them provides an unsurpassable thrill. And as Frank Shorter (American Olympian) once said, "Hills are speedwork in disguise." There is no arguing about it. They are magnificent training devices, and in many parts of the country, implanted right into the topography. They are good for the body, and once you work through them, good for the soul too.

But the hills I am dealing with here in Santa Cruz are like nothing I have ever seen before. In Boston, the hills are hard. I know this, I have conquered the Boston Marathon twice. But honestly, the hills in Santa Cruz make the Newton Hills look almost easy. I have now been humbled in California. To run the perimeter of campus, you both descend and ascend 600 feet during a 5 mile loop. I supplement this with a 5 mile out and back run to Wilder State Park and back (elevation unknown - gmap pedometer has not been helpful).

The first few weeks I was here, I would get so fatigued from the climbs, that I would have to walk for a minute midway. Walk? Me? I haven't walked during a run for years. It seemed as if that was the only way: I just needed a moment's rest before continuing on.

But things have finally clicked! Conditioning takes time! And now, I can take to these hills with some semblance of speed. I have been here 5 week exactly, and it was just a week ago that I felt as if I finally got the hang of these hills.

Case in point: today was a 12.5 mile long run. I went up, I went down, I went up again, 'round and 'round on these hills. I did not walk. I trucked on and on, averaging 8:28 pace for the run, and finished triumphantly. You know it's a good run when an hour later, you want to go out and do it again. It felt great: the weather cooperated beyond belief, there was good cloud cover, it was 60, and most importantly, my legs (and mind) were ready to take to the hills.

It is not easy to run here. However, simultaneously, it is a gift to be running here. I am conditioning myself to these hills, and when it is time for me to return to normal hills, will flatten them!

Be patient as you take to your next challenge. Conditioning takes time, but the end result is so worth it!

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