Monday, January 26, 2009

Fortune Cookies

I’m feeling good about the race next Sunday. My tempo run last Thursday went better than I expected; I ran three miles at a pace of 7:40 per mile – this was the fastest I’ve ever run. I was tired at the end of it, but I felt good. I was also starving by the time I got home and consumed a large amount of steak stir-fry in a relatively short period of time, a sight which undoubtedly frightened Mike.

Feeling good about my work out and refueled from dinner, I opened a little package from my Mum. Inside was a Chinese take-out box which held adorable felt fortune cookies and dark chocolate. Each fortune cookie had a slip of paper inside with a quote about running or baking! Each quote made me smile, the ones about running made me feel even better about my run and the ones about baking made me want to put on an apron and make all the recipes I’ve been meaning to try. So many of my favorite things wrapped in a small package - the gift was absolutely perfect.

By the time I got into bed that night, my shoulder was absolutely killing me. I think I’ve had a pinched nerve under my right shoulder blade for the past few weeks, probably a product of my strength training and running. It started off as an almost unnoticeable ache under my shoulder and then I lost a lot of strength and feeling in my right arm. But I must have really aggravated it during my run today, because the pain was suddenly quite noticeable. I put a heating pad on it, but it didn’t help. I was in and out of sleep most of the night.

I was exhausted on Friday and the pain had now made it’s way into my neck. The pain was unbearable and I knew I would not be able to sleep or run during the weekend if it didn’t get better. I decided to skip cross-training for the night and instead made an appointment for a deep-tissue massage. Mike recommended a massage therapy clinic, since the injury was sports-related. It is right around the corner from the apartment and about half the price of a massage at a spa. And it was totally worth it! She spent about half the time working on my right shoulder and back and the rest on my legs and arms. I think this place will be an excellent resource if I end up training for a marathon this year. Mike and I ordered take-out from the Thai restaurant and we both finished a grotesque amount of food. All in all, a pretty relaxing Friday night.

Although I usually do my long run on Saturday, as I usually have more motivation, this week I decided to run on Sunday to mimic my race schedule of the upcoming week. I went to spinning class Saturday morning, which I will not do next week so as to keep my legs fresh. Temperatures this weekend were cold, but much better than the last. And after my encounter last weekend, you couldn’t have paid me enough to go for my long run at the gym again.

Sunday morning, I bundled-up and set off for my longest run to date: 7 miles. I was frozen for the first half mile. But as my body realized I was not in fact kidding about foregoing the warm blankets for a cold run outside, it reluctantly warmed-up and allowed me to settle into a comfortable pace. I made my way towards Central Park, where I was planning to run one of the 5 mile loops. Running this loop was a bit out of my comfort-zone, as I have in the past always stuck to the little 1.5 mile loop around the reservoir. Truth be told, I am absolutely terrified of getting lost on a run; the paths through Central Park can be a bit tricky, especially for someone with no sense of direction. But today was a day to step out of comfort zones.

First mile behind me, I arrived at the Park and started down the path of the 5 mile loop. I noticed a fair amount of people on this stretch of road, which wasn’t necessarily uncommon for a Sunday morning. But then I started noticing cones and volunteers – I was definitely on the same path as a race. I racked my brain to think of what race this was – then I remembered it was a half-marathon being put on by the NYRR. I was intermixed with runners who had given-up hope and walkers who were determined to make it to the finish line.

The race had been going on for about two hours at this point, so running the same path was completely legal. While I usually feed-off passing other runners, I felt a bit guilty about doing it this time. There was just an air of defeat all around me. For each person I passed, I wanted to pat them on the back and tell them to keep going. I wanted to congratulate them for being out here; I wanted them to know I empathsized with their disappointment. But, I showed my respect my keeping to the outside of the lane. The volunteers called endless words of encouragement from their respective posts; I quietly remembered these words were not intended for me.

The hills on the East side of the park were there to greet me during the middle miles, just as my legs were beginning to feel like cement. The end of the run was somewhat uneventful, except for the fact that I finished my distance goal for the week. I ran 7 miles (7.14 miles, to be exact) in 1 hour 2 minutes 21 seconds. I felt amazing at the end; if not for the nagging blister on the bottom of my right foot, I’m pretty sure I could have kept running forever. My splits for the day worked out to be 8:43 per mile, a respectable time for someone slowly increasing their mileage.

Perhaps those fortune cookies brought more luck than I thought.

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