Yeah, I've been away awhile. It's been one hell of a winter, with ice storms and sleet and an up-down-up-down temperature shift that is making me insane. First it was 10 degrees. Then, that very weekend, it was 60 degrees. My trees started to bud. Then it was 10 again and a big sleet storm his, freezing everything under a layer of ice. Then it warmed up again and rained. Then it was 10 again and we had an ice storm, followed by some snow. This was 4 days ago. Today its 60 and raining cats and dogs. The ground is frozen and flooded. There are still piles of ice where people shoveled it and yet we're wearing short sleeve shirts today.
Weather like this reminds me of why I'm currently a big treadmill runner. Can you imagine how my running would be doing if I were trying to run outdoors in all of this?
OK, so I'm still running, but I'm still slower than Christmas. Yesterday it occurred to me why. When I was a little kid my parents gave me a purple spyderbike for Christmas. That same year, or maybe the next, my best friend and his younger sisters all received neon-colored spyderbikes. We all rode together everywhere. And where we lived was extremely hilly. I remember one hill in particular, a road named BeBe Ann, or however you spell it. It was a road I passed on my way to the swimming pool all the time. It was so steep that even cars seemed to avoid it. I would pedal as far up that hill as I could. When I couldn't make it I'd pedal until I was at a complete standstill, then turn the front wheel and roll back down. I did that every time I passed that street just to see how many tries it would take me to finally make it to the top. It ended up taking years. I was little and my legs were little, too. But I eventually made it. When I wasn't trying to ride up this hill I was riding everywhere else. My bike didn't have gears. It was just one speed and one gear and that was it. Anywhere I rode to required me to pedal as hard as it took to get there. Being a little kid I didn't think this was a big deal. And I had no idea that I was making my legs extremely strong.
When my elementary school decided to have impromptu foot races in PE class I wasn't surprised when I was one of the fastest kids in my grade. I was already playing basketball and soccer and running track for a church league so I knew I was fast. But I assumed it was something that ran in my family, something I had inherited. My sisters were all fast and they had said running was something we were all good at.
But my brother wasn't. And neither was my dad. And none of his sister's kids were good runners.
By the time I reached high school I was bicycling everywhere all the time. I joined the track team and was fast, even fast compared to all the other kids in my grade all across the state.
All these years later I haven't ridden bikes on a regular basis in a very long time. And when I do ride my legs wear out fast. They're weak. Just a few years ago I used to harassed a friend of mine for constantly complaining about his running not getting any faster. I advised him to do strength training - sprint work, hills, fartlek. He ignored me and just kept running further and further distances while avoiding several extremely good, steep hills right across from his own neighborhood. The first race we ran together I beat him despite not having worked out in years. It made him mad.
A few years later and I'm living in a city with virtually no hills for me to run. I live in the country where there are no street lights. By the time I get home its dark, so bicycling is a bad idea. As I've written here, I've been running on a treadmill for quite awhile. At first it was just a way for me to get back into the habit while taking it slow and trying to avoid injuries. Instead I had a string of injuries, (probably the result of wearing shoes without any arch support) none of which helped me increase my strength or speed. Since then all I do is run the treadmill. And its boring. And I'm sick of running the same treadmill in the same room all winter long. So I've been treadmill-fartleking way more than I should. Its not really a good, hard workout the way I've been doing it. Its more of an excuse to stop and walk which I then justify by running faster than I otherwise would have in-between. But you can't fartlek every workout, and if you aren't really pushing it then you're just walking a lot when you should be running and working on a steady pace.