Sunday, December 11, 2005

Outside Again

I've been fascinated by the snow that Richmond had last Monday (5-Dec). It was a really pretty snow to begin with but it has just stayed on even though daytime high temps have been in the low 40's most days. Thus, I've gotten several days of dreadmill experience. Every day, though, I've eyed the roads and verges on my drive home, anxious to run outside again. Thursday night, we had rain, sleet, and freezing rain. Combine that with the daytime temps and almost all of the snow on the north, west, and east sides of the streets is gone. It's really funny, though, because there's still a lot of snow on the south side of all the streets -- my yard is devoid of snow but I'm looking out our front window, across the street at a couple of inches of snow.

I stray. Friday evening, it was obvious that my normal running paths were going to be clear Saturday morning. When I got up Saturday morning, it was 21* (Aihhh! That's cold!) So, I bundled up (lightly) and headed out. I knew I was going to run somewhere between 4 and 8 miles but really thought I'd limit to 5. I ended up doing 6.2. Gave me a chance to compare dreadmill and road running.

My conclusions:

** Dreadmill running is definitely harder mentally. There's just something about not making any perceived forward progress, having the mileage and calorie counters and the clock so in my face, and the unchanging scenery that makes it hard for me to go more than 4 miles. The other factor is then basic unchanging nature of pace and incline. While I can change the speed and the incline, I have to make a conscious choice and take some action to do so. Outside, the terrain changes whether I want it to or not and if I need to slow down, I slow down; if I want/need to speed up, I simply speed up.

** Running on the road is harder physically. One "just" keeps up with the treadmill. Outside, you actually propel your body through space. The surface is harder meaning muscles and joints take a greater beating. The change in surfaces adds a challenge. Saturday morning, I ran on tarmac, sidewalks, grass verge, in the gutters. Even the grass verge varied from hard, frozen ground to soft, frosted grass.

** Then there are other challenges -- like making sure I don't get hit by vehicles. I've only been run off the road once (by a school bus!) but there's always the possibility.

** There are distractions when running outside that take my mind off of whatever pain I'm experiencing. The roads I run go through residential areas, wooded areas, commercial areas. Then there are the occasional shooting stars (when I run in the early morning), the full or partial moon, sunrises, nice cloud formations, squirrels and birds.

** For some reason, I also run faster, without thinking about it, when I'm outside. For example, runs on the dreadmill last week averaged about 7:46 minutes per mile; Saturday, I ran 7:24 minutes per mile without even planning to run faster. The only explanations I have are that, outside, I'm not paying attention to the time so I just go and I speed up and slow down subconsciously and end up running faster overall. Of course, the fact that I run faster outside may also be a factor in outside running being physically harder.

Well, this has gone on longer than I planned.

Run well; rest well.
Bob
Richmond, VA
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