Monday, April 12, 2010

So Many Endorphins, So Little Time

On Friday, after a beautiful week of 3-5 mi runs, I took the early part of the afternoon (post lunch) off in order to do a longer run by the river (the Kaw). I figured I could run out on the levee in order to gauge mileage (there are good markers every .5 mi), and then cut over to the trails, which run directly alongside the river in a forested swath, for the return.

I left my car downtown, and ran past city hall and across the bridge. A quick aside: I love running across bridges. Ones with rivers underneath are great. But so are ones which pass over roads. I love ones that span superhighways, where you can see a crazy amount of traffic underfoot (shall we say), while you are free and unencumbered... So anyway, I crossed the bridge and cranked along the levee. In the first mile, I ran into my company's UPS driver who was taking a walk on his break. He's always been some sort of triathlete kinda guy, who has had to break from training for a while due to an injury.

The rest of the run out was uneventful. I have biked the length of the levee and the accompanying trails for decades. And I have run on them for years. But I had never been out to the end without the escort of a couple of wheels and a seat under my butt. As I sauntered along, it was kind of exciting. I had worn my older pair of trainers because I didn't want to prematurely wreck the soles of my newer Mizunos any more than I already have. The surface of the levee is gravel (and I wasn't sure about the state of the trails, so older shoes were in order.

I reached the turnaround point and did just that. At about mile marker three I cut over to the trails. That was an eye-opener. The running was cooler in the shade. The ground was even softer than the relatively spongy levee. While I had remembered the extremely short, but extremely steep little hills, I had forgotten how curvy the trails are. I turned off the timer on my watch because I knew that would be meaningless (and maybe even a bit depressing knowing the slower pace of my progression). I wasted a lot of effort popping back and forth from lower to higher trail. But it was fun.

When I made it back to my car after the run, I was really exhilarated. I spoke with Chris that night at dinner (he had run the trails the day before) and compared notes. He particularly liked the width and slope of the trails which made running them interesting because it forces the runner to focus on foot-strike and the angle the shoe, foot, and ankle make upon landing. I liked running the trails more for the novelty they offer when compared to road running. I will admit to liking running on the gravel surface of the levee more than on the trails. I enjoy wide open spaces more than a run underneath a canopy. It is a personal preference. Those who know me well know that I prefer deserts and plains to mountains. So it isn't much of a surprise that I prefer the levee, with the huge fields stretching out from its north side. Still, though, I plan to add the run to my repertoire at least once a week henceforth.

I took Saturday off and played a bit of tennis. Sunday morning came and I was ready to run again...well not exactly. I was a bit hung over from an impromptu sangria party I had with my next door neighbors in their driveway the night before. I awoke early and felt a bit toxic. I boiled some oatmeal and smashed a banana into it to soak up some of the booze. I had 3 cups of coffee, a CoQ10 capsule, and three or four glasses of water as well. I took some time to let it digest and then took off on the 10 ish mi run that I like to do.

The running felt easy (oddly, it often does after a night spent hanging with Dionysus). But around mile 2 I was hit with a side ache. It was probably from too much water in a short period prior to the run. I decided to continue and to simply try to run through it. The pain kept getting worse through mile three and four. At about that time, I was (mercifully) stopped by a traffic light. And when I started up again, the pain had vanished. I made a mental note of that in case I ever get hit with a stitch in the future. Take a couple of moments to chill, dummy.

The really interesting thing that occurred during the rest of the run was that I went into a runner's high which sustained and then increased between about miles 5 - 9. It was a crazy feeling. I was on total auto-pilot, expending no effort, and my mind a total blank for .... 20?!?...30?!? minutes - I'm just not sure - before I became aware of how deeply gone I was. I had begun to notice vibrant colors of the countryside around me. The trial's route stretched out before me in a way I had never really noticed before. I felt as if I was much shorter than I am... It was really an odd feeling. I actually thought that I might be too far gone into my own mind. The high felt too deep. So, for the first time ever, I concentrated on killing the high. I talked and ran faster to try to change my experience. I began to count steps between expansion cracks in the concrete surface of the trail (its a really OCD habit I have)... Anything to come down from where I was mentally.

And it sort of worked. But I will say that I'm not a fan of really losing that much control mentally when I run. For a short time it is fun. For an extended period, it begins to feel like a trip that won't end. I have been thinking about it for the past 24 hours. I think that maybe since I put a couple of solid distance runs relatively back-to-back, that too many endorphins might have been released over too short a period. I'm not a physiologist (I don't even play one on TV), so I'm not exactly sure what caused the acute case of runner's high. Suffice it to say that this was one experience where too much of a good thing was not a good thing.

I did find that I really like the Cliff's Shot strawberry flavor. It tastes really raw, and less processed than some other shots I take when running.

Next week, the half marathon.

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