Sunday, October 11, 2009

Zen me, baby

I was reading the blogs on my Google reader Saturday afternoon, when I came across joyRuN's post about the Zen Run 10K. This was a virtual race, part of the World Wide Festival of Races on October 10-11. In addition to the 10K Zen Run, participants could choose the Kick the Couch 5K or the Worldwide Half (half marathon). The only requirement was to run the chosen distance on Saturday or Sunday, either in an official road race or any route of one's choosing, and sign up and report results on the official website.

I was quite intrigued and really wanted to participate. But I was a little hampered by being down in Eugene for the weekend. I suppose I could have chosen the 5K distance and used my Duck Dash results, or even the 10K and included my warm-up run. But that seemed like wimping out (and double dipping!).

On the other hand, I wasn't going to run any more on Saturday, and I doubted that I would be able to go for a run on Sunday morning, considering that there were other things to accomplish (like driving back to Everett). What to do, what to do?

One possibility was go running at home after we got back. That idea had a lot of appeal to it, but I couldn't guarantee that it would work out. Another would be to fudge the timeline and run on Monday morning but count it as Sunday. I had considered the possibility of finding a time zone where my Monday morning would still be late Sunday night, but I've learned today, in looking at a time zone chart, that the only time zone that is earlier than Pacific time is Hawaii, and that's only three hours earlier than here. So I would have had to run before 3 a.m. Monday morning to make that theory work. Um, no thanks.

Still, I thought I might just sign up anyway and see what happened. I tried to register on my BlackBerry but had no luck there. So, I just let it go to see what would happen after I got home from Eugene.

Sunday morning we had planned to hike up Spencer Butte before leaving Eugene, but Rod wasn't feeling well and we were delayed a little by having breakfast with our hosts (which was delicious, mushroom and egg* frittata, potatoes from their garden, and sausage). So we bagged the hike (sadly, I really wanted to go, but it just wasn't a good day for it), and wasted more time (on my behalf) waiting for the University bookstore to open at noon so that I could go get the green fleece Columbia jacket I had been pining for. (Plus a nice sweatshirt that was half-priced due to a little hole that I can easily stitch up.) It is possible that I now have more Oregon gear than anyone who never went to Oregon could ever need. (Or even anyone who did go there!) But the green fleece is quite subtle, a very lovely shade of green, and so soft and fuzzy and warm! (And the sweatshirt was a deal!)

So finally we were on the road (and I had a latte that I had snagged at Starbucks while waiting for the store to open, a little déjà vu from Saturday, except the line was shorter this time). It's about a five-hour drive from Eugene to Everett, if there are no major traffic delays and you don't stop much. Which we did not. One bathroom stop, at my request. By mid-afternoon I was feeling hungry and cranky (and a Quaker chewy granola bar only soothed me a little). Plus my back and legs were stiff and achy from sitting in the car (I'm not a really good passenger). I was pretty happy to get home, just to be able to move around!

It was still pretty early though, barely 5:30. I certainly had time for an hour's run. Not only could I do the Zen 10K, a run would work my cramped up muscles and burn off some calories for a good dinner.

Without bothering to think about it too much, I changed into running clothes quickly. A handful of chocolate-covered espresso beans helped with both the hunger pangs and my energy level. I had thought of having a snack but decided I didn't really need it. I wasn't trying to set any speed or distance records, after all.

Since it was late in the day, I didn't work as hard at making the run "zen" as I might have otherwise. (I'm sure there's an oxymoron in there somewhere!) I cued up the Spirit of the Marathon soundtrack on my ipod, both for inspiration and because Sunday had been the Chicago Marathon. I wore my Garmin to track the distance, but vowed (sort of) not to watch my pace and splits obsessively. I quickly turned on the computer and successfully** registered for the race (or maybe I did that afterwards, I can't remember).

Here is my race number:

And here I am leaving, before race (pre-Zen).

Green running clothes are very Zen, yes?

Plan A - Just do a 6.2 mile loop, door to door. I am so familiar with my running route that I could map out 6.2 miles with my eyes closed, give or take a fraction of a mile.

I started out with that plan in mind (although with Plan A-1*** lurking in the shadows, which would be adding a little on at the end, say rounding up to 7 miles).

Even though I was running Zen, with no regard for pace or time, I couldn't help checking my watch more often than I should, and at 5:30 it was still light enough to do so. I was running a little harder than "easy," mostly because I wanted to get done and home sooner rather than later. The first mile came in at 9:37 (pretty fast for a first mile for me).

When the second mile registered at 9:19, and the third at 9:12, I started to contemplate switching to...

Plan B - Use mile 1 as a warm-up and start the count at mile 2. Meaning running a total of (at least) 7.2 miles. I liked that plan. Depending on how I felt as I progressed, I could stick with the basic B, or veer into B-1,**** which would be finish at Starbucks, get a beverage and walk the half-mile home.

I kept knocking a few seconds off each mile, even as I climbed the uphill southward out of downtown, and I knew I could really shave my pace on my trip back down. However, by now darkness had fallen and I could no longer easily see my watch, or even see it all, really, unless I was stopped under a streetlight. It was easy enough to keep the time based on the beeps every mile, but the final .2 would be harder.

I was on the downhill stretch between Colby and Broadway when I heard the 7-mile beep. I ran on for two more blocks, then paused under a streetlight to check my distance (7.15). I ran to the end of the next block and hit the lap button at 7.21. I was pretty close to Starbucks by now, so I could go directly there and execute Plan B-1... But instead I switched to....

Plan C - Run the rest of the way home as a recovery/cool-down, and tweak the route enough to make it 8 miles total. When I got to my house I was at 7.8 miles, so I ran around the corner, to the end of the block and back to my house, where I saw my mileage was...7.98 miles. "Darnit!" I said (or something to that effect). I punched the Garmin again, ran back out to the sidewalk and a couple of houses down, then back home, for a total distance of 8.02 miles.

Here is my Zenned-up post-run self-portrait....

Final time for the designated 10K portion of the run: 55:21 (8:55 average pace)


Warmup - 9:37

1 - 9:19

2 - 9:12

3 - 9:07

4 - 9:02

5 - 8:44

6 - 8:19

.21 - 1:36 (7:49 pace)

Cool-down - .82 mile at 9:32 pace.

Total time for 8.02 miles - 1:12:47 (9:04 pace).

Here is the race report I posted with my results on the World Wide Festival of Races website:

Sunday afternoon, got home around 5:30 after a long drive back from Oregon. Legs and back were pretty tired after sitting in the car all day! Still, I wanted to run, so I resolved to be as Zen as possible—just running freely, trying not to look at my watch too much, not caring whether I was fast or slow! I put the music from Spirit of the Marathon on my ipod (in honor of the Chicago marathon today) and took off from my house. If it had been a nicer day I would have been running into the sunset. But it was cloudy, so I just ran into the darkening twilight. By the time I got home it was dark. So I went into the house and had a cookie.

I did, by the way, get a nice finisher's certificate but for some reason I have not been able to successfully upload it or even print it out to scan. Oh well, it's the thought that counts!

*Probably redundant. I'm pretty sure all frittatas have eggs in them.

**Successfully except that I ended up with the wrong year of birth (making myself one year younger than I am). Oh well.

***Also known as the Steak Sauce Plan. Harharhar.

****The Bomber Plan.

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