Saturday, April 9, 2011

Leg-Related Whatnots

Went for my first bike ride of the season this morning, twenty miles along Boston's North Shore. Before you start picturing me in spandex, my manfriend and I both have touring bikes, so we're more jeans-and-sneakers type cyclists, not jerseys-and-toe-clips, cruising not racing. Sadly, my bike computer (a little device on my handlebar that talks to sensor on my wheel and tells me my distance, time, calories, speed, etc.) needs a new battery, so I was in the dark on my vitals. I love anything that tracks progress…if I didn't own a scale I'd probably weigh a lot more than I do, as I'm very number-motivated. I have one of those annoying brains that fixates on quantifiable progress.

Couch to 10K app for iPhone/Touch
It was a nice ride, though my legs were a bit wonked from yesterday's run. Though I ran through the winter at the gym, my recent transition to outdoor running feels as rough as always, asphalt much less forgiving than a treadmill. I'd also forgotten how much tougher it is to run with the temp in the mid-forties, how much harsher it feels in my lungs and how streamy my eyes get from the wind. Still, nice to be outdoors, with spring finally feeling imminent. And the little park near my house has a gravel track running around it, which is exactly a half-mile long. Reasonably kind to joints and very handy for goal-setting.

And I have a new goal for this year. I'm not a distance runner. I'm a pretty ace sprinter and I can run a respectable enough 5K, and on a good day I average about a nine-minute mile. Not bad for a hobby runner. One of the reasons I've managed to stick with running in recent years, when in the past I haven't, is my iPod and its lovely apps. I completed the Couch to 5K program last year and really enjoyed it—it assigns you different run-and-walk workouts in increasingly challenging increments until you can run a full 5K (3.1 miles). Then the next time I had to buy new running shoes I gave the Nike+ system a spin. It's largely awesome, but not perfect. The pedometer effect it produces between an in-shoe sensor (sold separately and for specific models of Nikes, naturally) and my iPod is shockingly accurate, better than any actual pedometer I've ever used. It saves your workouts and stats and tells you your speed, whereas programs like Couch to 5K can only track your time…though I believe the latest Couch to 5K version will interact with the Nike+ program, a clunky marriage of a good training app with a good pedometer app.

But this year I'd like to train myself for a 10K…a solo one, if I don't stumble across a local charity run. The farthest I've ever run without stopping before is 5.1 miles, and every time I say things like, "I wish I was the kind of person who could run a marathon," my manfriend says, "You are, you just don't choose to." So this year I'll choose to be the kind of person who runs a 10K. At 6.2 miles it's within my reach, even if it's still twenty miles short of a marathon. Maybe in the fall I'll sign up for Salem's 6.66-mile Devil's Chase on Halloween morning. And maybe next year I'll find out if I'm fit for a half-marathon. The year after that…who knows.

Because I looove quantifiable progress, of course I just downloaded a new app. It's called Couch to 10K, though oddly enough it's made by a different developer than Couch to 5K…they must have snuck in there and stolen the name. But it got great ratings and I like the interface, and allegedly it works alongside Nike+ if you want it to. I scanned the workouts, and on Monday I'm going to give it a go, starting on Week Seven (since I'm not starting straight off the couch)—a sixty-eight-minute routine, alternating running and walking. It's so much easier (for me) to get jazzed about goals when they're broken into bite-sized chucks. The same goes for writing, actually. It'd be daunting to see only 100,000 shadowy, unwritten words spread out between you and the distant horizon…but break it down to one or two thousand a day, and before you know it you're typing The End. Well, maybe not before you know it…but eventually.

Anyhow, that's just me blathering about my new goal. I love goals—did you notice? According to this app's schedule, if I go at the pace they suggest (three training runs per week) I'll be ready to run a full 10K in about five weeks. If my janky knee doesn't get other ideas, that is. But I won't know if I don't try, and I won't likely try if I can't quantify. So here goes nothing. Well, here goes nothing but me on my wobbly legs, anyhow.

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