Health & Fitness

The weary road to a 10K milestone

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This is all Jack LaLanne's fault.

He was the epitome of pushing your body to the limit, and he inspired many to find out what they were physically capable of regardless of age. Jack's example got me thinking about testing my middle-aged body, and I've come to realize that striving to achieve a personal best hurts. So prepare for some whining.

I am not a fast runner. I have short legs and carry muscular bulk that weighs me down over long distances. Also, I'm about as genetically gifted for athletics as a chess club dungeon master. Still, I try hard, and I got the idea that I could maybe/possibly/hopefully force my almost 43-year-old body to run a 10K race on June 4 in less than 40 minutes.

The race is called the Underwear Affair because it's a fundraiser for those "below the waist" cancers. There are some things down there that I'm fond of, so it seemed like a good cause.

When it came to training for the sub-40-minute time, I ditched my typical "I'll get there when I get there" approach to running and actually put in some hard work. This is my diary of woe.

Feb. 28: My first interval training run in over five years. I combine 20 rounds of one-minute sprints with two-minute recovery jogs, and it hurts. Also, I did it on a treadmill because all the snow up here in Canada didn't make for good speed training. I hate treadmills.

March 3: These interval runs are brutal, but at least the constant speed changes alleviate my usual loathing of treadmills because they help relieve the boredom of feeling like I'm on a hamster wheel.

March 5: I'm training for a 10K race, but the treadmill display is in miles per hour. I do the math and realize I need to hold a pace of 9.3 mph to make my goal. The quest seems impossible, because I can last only five minutes at that speed.

March 9: High-speed running creates my first blister in years. Must. Resist. Popping.

March 17: I no longer sit in chairs; I collapse into them with a groan of discomfort, which elicits exasperated eye-rolling from my lovely wife.

March 19: Is there no end to this winter? I need to start doing speed runs outside, but it's dangerous to run fast over ice and snow.

March 30: I'm getting better at the interval runs; when I'm done, I no longer feel like I'm going to cough up my large intestine.

April 1: I switch my leg weightlifting routine to lower weights/higher repetitions to improve my endurance. Boring!

April 7: My right Achilles tendon is on fire. I take a few days off and use a device called a ProStretch to relieve tension and return flexibility to the area. I fully endorse this product.

April 10: Finally! The roads are clear enough to allow training outside.

April 14: Ten inches of fresh snow. Seriously, Mother Nature, do you need a Midol? I guess it's back on the treadmill.

April 17: Dear Mother Nature: I apologize for the Midol comment. If you'll just lay off this snow until fall I promise to go slash all four tires on my mother's Hummer.

April 18: We interrupt today's run due to an epic ski day at Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

April 20: I fear I won't be ready, and I need help. Although I'm a certified strength and conditioning specialist, I focus on motivating couch potatoes rather than coaching athletes. My friend Paul Leroux used to run and coach for the Canadian Forces Cross-Country Team, and his best 10K time was 31:18. He'll do. He gives me a spreadsheet that details my running schedule until race day. I wince when I look at it but stick it to the fridge and vow to tick off each training day.

April 21: First training run without music. I'd known I should ditch it, but Paul read me the riot act. Music helps motivate beginner and intermediate runners but interferes with hard training. I need to be fully focused on my body so I can embrace the pain, or something.

April 22: Paul switched me to longer intervals of two and four minutes, apparently because they hurt more.

April 26: @#$&*!!! ONE cup of coffee before the morning run. NOT two. I need to find a bush.

April 28: Tempo runs — where I have to train at race pace for a sustained time — are the worst. On another note, I haven't missed my iPod. I'm in too much pain to notice the absence of Rush, Van Halen and Loreena McKennitt.

April 30: My almost 10-year-old daughter looks at the fridge and says, "Daddy, did you do your short intervals today?" Me: "Not yet." Her: "Go do it so I can tick it off." I now have a second coach.

May 1: I ask Paul if there are special race-day shoes that can make me faster. As nicely as possible, he tells me this is an elite athlete thing, and I don't qualify.

May 6: I've reached the peak of running intensity on the schedule, and my wife is displeased; whenever I rollover in my sleep, I let loose with a moan akin to a walrus giving birth. It keeps her awake.

May 15: Why is it the faster I run, the faster my nose does? Oh, well, at least I am getting faster.

May 17: Last day of leg weightlifting until after the race because I need to focus on recovery.

May 20: Flying Spaghetti Monster be praised! I just finished the last of the highest high-intensity training. Now I get to gradually taper off in preparation for race day. If I get "raptured" tomorrow I'm going to be miffed.

May 22: No rapture, but there is a sick kid in the house. No kisses for you; Daddy needs to stay healthy.

May 23: Twelve days of taper and some carb-loading left, and it's time to hand in the column.

My next column describing the race is either going to be an account of righteous victory or a tale of woeful defeat, so please send me good vibes on June 4.

And feel free to email me some words of encouragement. I'd like that.

Fell is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada.

james@bodyforwife.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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