Running has never been my strength, which I think I've mentioned on several occasions. When I've run in the past, I would find myself getting winded quite quickly and hating every minute of it. Maybe I just never gave it enough time or went about training for running properly, but whatever it was, I hated running with a passion. When I decided to train for a triathlon, my strong dislike for running concerned me. The run is the last leg of the race and I was worried I wouldn't be able to push myself mentally through the fatigue of having just rode 40 kilometres and swam 1.5. At least, that is what I used to think. Running is still not my favourite part of the triathlon, but today's workout made me think that this running bit was more feasible than I originally thought.
Today Emily and I ran outside, fighting bitter cold winds and near darkness. The sun comes up quite late in Scotland around this time of year and it was just becoming light when we set off at 8 this morning. We picked a trail that we've run frequently in the past. We both like it because the path is wide enough for us to run side by side, the pavement is mostly smooth and it's actually quite scenic. There are always other joggers, cyclists and walkers out and it makes the run more pleasant when you get to share a "good morning" with a fellow morning exerciser. The plan of action for today was to run in a pyramid pattern; moving from 2 minutes on with a minute's rest all the way up to six minutes on and one minute off and back down again. This pattern would give us a total of 40 running minutes and ten recovery minutes. Of course the pattern usually gets interrupted from time to time, but we try very hard to maintain our run/rest ratio. To add to it all, we decided to run the whole way using a tether to keep us connected.
The tether is used to keep the sighted guide and the blind athlete connected without actually touching. This allows for both athletes to have better use of his/her arm swing, while maintaining a reference point for the blind athlete. Emily and I are using a shoelace doubled over on itself because it is light weight yet sturdy. We loop the lace around our wrists and into our hands, kind of in a figure eight pattern and keep the tether taut for optimum guiding. I use the information the tether relays to me about Emily's body language to keep running in a straight line and she also uses verbal cues to let me know about uneven terrain, sharp and/or gentle turns, up/down hills, other people and obstacles. This method of guiding is new to our training as we've only used the tether once before this and that time it was terrifying and exhausting.
When we first started training, we began with my forearm draped over Emily's. This position allowed me to feel her body movements and make judgments on how high to lift my feet over uneven camber and how sharply to turn. Since switching to the tether, verbal cues have become much more important. The first attempt at using the tether was absolutely frightening for me. The information I was receiving wasn't as direct and I had to concentrate harder on what we were doing. Today though, I fell into a comfortable pattern and we never lost step with each other, despite me having to step behind Emily a few times to avoid obstacles and cyclists. I was shocked at how easy it felt to run on the tether today, when it had been such a struggle the first time out.
With the shoelace serving as my life line, we started out at an easy run. I am not going to say we are the fastest runners out there because we are not, but I am so impressed at how quickly our aerobic fitness has improved. Our training for the triathlon started about a month ago and from that time until now we've managed to increase our time and distance run by more than double. We had to "guestimate," but Emily and I are pretty sure we ran just over 12 kilometres today. Never in my life did I think I'd be able to run that far after training for such a short time. We even managed a steep, long incline about at the half way mark and even though we were fatiguing, our pace stayed steady. By the time we got back to my flat, I was near throwing up, but some coconut water, dried apples and a bunch of water made the feeling subside. Emily, being the stronger runner, didn't feel quite as badly as I did, but her legs were definitely complaining by the end as well.
Every time I think 12 kilometres, I can't help but be amazed. Who would have thought that we'd come so far so fast. There is still definitely work to be done, but it is the little triumphs, such as running 12 kilometres after only ever running 5, that keeps me going when my legs feel like lead, my lungs burn and my mouth is so thick with saliva that I want to spit. It doesn't quite feel real, so I'll have to say it again:
We ran 12 kilometres today!