I know I just did an update a meager few days ago, but since then not only have I run the equivalent of a half-marathon distance (across three days) and brought my actual total to 282 KM and my virtual distance mapped right into the city of Calgary (all the way from Edmonton) but I’ve also had an interesting adventure sort-of run that I wanted to get into writing: the roller coasters.
Or, at least that’s how the clinic instructor explained the route to us as we were standing in front of the store priming our GPS watches for the impending run.
I’ve been listening to this running podcast called “The Extra Mile” where the host compiles audio submissions from various listeners into a kind of ‘dispatches from the world of running training’ show. Runners spanning the gamut of ability and location call-in or email an audio file wherein they narrate their personal and recent training updates or race experiences, reminding me a lot of some of the conversations I have while out on the trails with some of my fellow clinic folks. I enjoy it and have been wondering if my expereinces would ever be interesting enough to make the cut.
Last night? Perhaps a contender for such a thing.
Now, I don’t know if simply recalling the roller coaster run would qualify as interesting enough to make it into the podcast, but had I recorded this particular run, commentating on my own status as I was dashing through the trails yesterday evening before supper, it just might have… might have… made for some particularly interesting listening.
See, part of the larger, broader, philosophy of the training program that we invariably follow each time I run with a clinic is that — about half way through — we do hill training. For us this means this: nearby to the store is a little pedestrian overpass that has an elevation gain of about sixty meters (at best) and normally we trot over to that hill, run up and down a few times in the name of strength and endurance training, and then trot back to the store, our legs mildly sore the next day from the increased exertion. It’s not an easy run and most people dread it and complain about it, and then hold it up as the gold standard of a hard run. But that hill was pretty much nothing compared to our run last night.
It goes something like this: the current clinic instructor apparently does not abide by hill training — at least not the wimpy stuff we’ve been doing. She believes in doing hilly runs, and thus we were introduced to a somewhat less-than-familiar concept and what she casually referred to as the roller coaster trail. We started our run at a cool pace, jogging past the new South West Farmers Market operating in the adjacent parking lot and drawing the odd glances of dozens of kids in the brightly-coloured bouncy castle. We ran up and over that aforementioned pedestrian overpass hill… and then kept going, down and down, a casual trot deeper into the gradually sloping valley and past the fringes of the already sparse suburbs, and stopped, about two kilometers from where we’d started at the store at the top of a dirt trail decending at what seemed to be a forty-five degree angle into the dense trees.
“No breaks,” she told us. “Just run two kilometers in until your come to a bit of a clearing, then turn around and run back here. Ready?”
And then we ran, dropping into the shade of the dense poplar and pine forest of Edmonton’s river valley, a narrow dirt trail studded with frequent protruding tree roots, rocks, and ruts. We ran single file, even this not really preventing the bush-whacking, face-slapping of tree branches in our way. And the hills? The rough trails were little more than a bear path, equating to roughly two-kilometer (each way) of uneven terrain, a trail run that would have made even the most ardent roller coaster enthusiast dizzy with the non-stop changes in elevation, a quick up then down then up then down, followed by a steep climb and a sharp corner, and a near vertical drop followed by a similar slope in the opposite direction.
And we ran fast. We got into it and just went. We exaulted in the exhilaration of the natural setting with the fresh spring foliage and an early evening sun glinting through the canopy and the pounding of feet on dirt and the swirl of insects and dust and hush of the nearby river. Four and a half kilometers of this, in and out, and there I stood having barely the strength to climb back up out of the valley, back on an asphalt path overlooking the scenic trail systems snaking through the trees below, the group panting and high-fiving while we waited for the small handful of stragglers to amble back to the mid-start point.
The two kilometers back to our ‘shed’ were less interesting, a slow climb out of the valley trails, up and over our now-mediocre-seeming hill-training-hill and back past the fragrant aromas of hot dogs and popcorn cooking at the Farmers Market. And then home.
My legs hurt today. They ache, moreso than any real or actual pain. And tonight I rest.