Monday, February 15, 2010

J'lm Marathon Training #12

Sunday, 14 February 2010

It was hot, and unexpectedly so. Setting out on a run at 10.15pm might not exactly be the easiest time of day to go for a 10km run, but it should have been cooler. It wasn't.

And I was hot. Angry, actually. I shouldn't have been, but I got upset at little nothings all evening and then I let it out on myself. I dressed in a hurry, slammed on my Brooks Adrenaline GT9s and ran out of the house, nary a stretch, my body unprepared for the grueling hour ahead. But I didn't care. I just needed to let off steam.

At first I wasn't certain I would go the whole 10km. I was still wary of damaging my knee. But it was self-destruction time. I was in one of those moods. So out I went, into the unnaturally sweltering night.

The first ten minutes went quickly. I ran, rather than jogged, and could feel the heat of the sweat gathering ominously under my shirt. My breathing steadied and I climbed the Yarden hill. The wind seemed to push me back at every step. My back-to-front baseball cap clung faithfully to my head, despite the slick liquid escaping its rim.

Three-quarters of the way up the hill, my legs started to ache. My pace had slowed, but I was still angry. Slow running and aggressive emotions are incompatible. Something had to give. I bent my head towards my toes, my eyes shooting thoughts of speed into my feet. I pumped it, sprinting the remaining 175m to the top of the hill. The pain in my thighs was glorious.

My knee held out, which surprised me. My breathing became irregular and I quickly developed a stitch. I spent the next eight minutes regulating my air intake and exhaling forcefully. By the time I reached Nachal Meor, I had brought the stitch under control. My thighs no longer hurt. My knee seemed to revel in its regained health. It was time to get serious.

I ascended Nachal Meor in short order and glided easily down Refaim. I glanced at my watch and saw the hand tick over to 30 minutes. I was at the half-way point and realized that the eight-minute stitch recovery had seriously damaged my time. I would have to work hard to finish under 60 minutes.

A long road lay ahead of me. Literally. The 1.2km HaYarkon uphill taunted me. I shouldn't have looked up. The daunting incline, where I had once damaged my knee, laughed at me as I struggled to keep pace with myself. The wind coming in strong off the mountains buffeted me, pushing me sideways, trying to make me fall. My shadow shivered across the railing as I ran by, followed by the ever-present wind, which strummed the bars like a harp, jeering and haunting. But I made it to the top of HaYarkon before the wind could catch me.

At about 7km into the run I did an injury check. The knee was holding out just fine. No stitch and my breathing was steady and strong. The clock said that I was on track, but only just.

The relatively flat 200m or so gave me time to recover from the difficult HaYarkon uphill. I reached Nachal Refaim and coaxed myself up its steepness. The wind had never left me. It had taken a shortcut through the streets and met me head-on as I lifted my knees high, trying to increase my speed on the ascent.

I tread lightly and nimbly, using my toes to propel myself onwards.

I conquered Nachal Refaim in only a few minutes, but I could feel my body starting to protest its late night punishment. I looked at my watch and saw that I had not kept to schedule. It was doubtful that I would make it to the finish line in under 60 minutes. I also noticed that it was nearly 11.15pm. My entire day stretched out behind me like a life-sized calendar of events. I couldn't believe that I did all that and then went for a run in the tropical, blustery heat of the night. The fact that I hadn't stretched prior to the run did not escape me. But my muscles were keeping up, and the knee hadn't twinged at all.

The anger I felt at the start of the run smoldered threateningly beneath the surface. During the last 50 minutes it had surreptitiously morphed into an emotion that I can only describe as fierce, self-competition. I knew I wasn't going to achieve my record, but I'll be blown if I don't finish in under an hour.

The wind came at me in a head-on rush, charging at me like a thousand rampaging sumo wrestlers. It battled to hold me back. My teeth, bared to its onslaught, I fought with every ounce of strength. I could feel my leg muscles contracting and expanding with every stride. In my mind's eye I could see my knees pumping like pistons at the wheels of a race-car.

Dolev appeared and I knew I was nearly home. 54 minutes. It was going to be close. I challenged myself to sprint, to repeat the performance of nearly 40 minutes ago on the Yarden hill. My legs refused and I didn't have the strength to persuade them. I was spent. The wind had stolen my energy, but not my resilience. Despite its best efforts, I would not quit. I could smell the finish line.

The Ayalon intersection came into view and I welcomed the downhill. I gathered some speed, more because of the inertia than because of the effort. The wind whiffed weakly at me as I rounded the corner onto Nachal Sorek. It was pitiful how my adversary had given up. I was going to finish the race. I was going to win. 200m to go. I tried to squeeze out the last drops of fuel, but to no avail. My body refused to go any faster.

A group of boys walked towards me and I was forced to run on the road. A bus traveling in the opposite direction grumbled by as I entered the final straight. The wind had given up completely, knowing I would be victorious. The only breeze was the warm air rushing past my face as I nailed the last few meters. I flung myself across the finish line in 59 minutes.

Blog Domain Change (Sort of...)

Blogger will soon remove its FTP service. This means that I will not be able to publish directly to However, all traffic to that domain is now redirected automatically to

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

J'lm Marathon Training #11

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I'm back!

Since my injury on 23 December 2009, I have been training extremely lightly. 3km here, 5km there. Low-pressure jogging to keep the body going, but nothing strenuous. In fact, that was all I could manage for a while. I would run a few kilometers and then my knee would start hurting, so I'd stop.

I saw an orthopedist who said my injury is a common one. Just a strain that will sort itself out in time. I don't have time! The marathon is on 18 March and I have to get into shape. But ill patience is what got me injured to begin with, so I forced myself to take it easy.

Today I did my first 10km since 23 December. I ran strongly for the first 6km. Heading up the hill where I originally hurt my knee, I started to feel a twang. It got steadily worse. I decided to ride out the pain for just a little bit. Perhaps it will settle down.

About 700m into the 1,200m climb, the knee started to steady. The pain was still there but didn't get any worse. I was jogging slowly, my time would suffer, but at least I'd finish. At the top of the hill the pain in my knee had almost disappeared. There was only a hint of pain, nothing I couldn't handle. I thought I'd go on - steady as she goes - slowly up Nachal Refaim.

I tried jogging unevenly, trying to sway the pain away from my left knee. I don't think it worked, but I gained another kilometer trying. I was going slowly, but the pain was not getting any worse at all.

In fact, by the time I got to Dolev, with only another 2km to go, I was taking full strides. There was no pain, although I could still sense that there was something lurking, waiting for me to push myself too hard.

With only 500m to go, and with a downhill to help, I picked up the pace. I wasn't going to beat my record time of 56:05, but I was well on my way to finishing the 10km, which was my goal for this run.

Sprinting to the finish line, I felt a rush of exhilaration course through my body. I lunged over the 10km mark at 63:00. Not bad for my first 10km run in about 1.5 months - with an injury and all. Oh, and I didn't have a stitch of any kind during the entire run.

Now, it's careful planning time - training hard without overdoing it, but pushing myself enough to make improvements. My original plan was to beat 45 minutes. With the time I took off from my training to nurse my injured knee, I doubt I'll achieve that now. But I'm back, and I will run in the race, and glory is within my grasp!