Exactly two weeks ago, I started the eight week Couch to 5K training program by Zen Labs.* Earlier today, I finished the first workout for week three.
When I started, I was sure that it was going to kill me. I’d already been hurting a lot, presumably from self-diagnosed plantar fasciitis. This causes severe heel pain and has a very lengthy recovery time. I was approximately one hundred pounds overweight. Although I walk a fair amount at work, there is very little additional physical exertion beyond said walking. The only exercise I ever got at home was walking to the building to climb onto the riding mower for a couple of hours every few weeks.
That first week, the one-minute running intervals were hell. Especially since I had convinced myself that training in my back yard with a twenty-five foot elevation change over a length of two hundred feet would help prepare me for a live course better than running on asphalt or on a treadmill. Last week bumped me to ninety second intervals, with two minutes of walking in between. Around mid-week, I noticed that the pain was more of a hindrance than my lack of wind. That surprised me, since my weight hadn’t changed more than a pound since I started the program. And I’ve never had good wind, even when I was on active duty.
Today, week three continued with ninety seconds of running with only ninety seconds of walking to recover, then three solid minutes of each. Rounding out the workout was a second 90/90 followed by another 3/3. I was dreading this. I am still weak and recovering from a stomach bug that I caught Thursday night, and I wasn’t sure I would be up for a three-minute stretch even on a good day. Plus, I got some new shoes to replace the ragged tatters that I had been wearing. Add that to my everyday heel pain, and I just knew that sheer stubbornness and determination would be the only thing keeping me upright.
I was wrong. No, it wasn’t fun. Yes, there was pain. Including some new pain at the exterior edges of my feet, which I am blaming on the new shoes. Yes, the three-minute intervals were long, particularly the uphill parts. But I had plenty of gas in the tank. Initially, I attempted to maintain a slower pace. I was sure that I would never finish if I didn’t maintain a reserve. By the first three-minute run, though, I was unconsciously at my usual slightly more than six miles per hour, according to the post-mortem from my tracker. Which I’m kind of convinced is full of shit, but that is beside the point.
I was able to control my breathing while running without really thinking about it, and I wasn’t sucking air as quickly as I could move my diaphragm once I transitioned to walking. Instead, I could feel my heart rate quickly returning to normal. Walking up the hill during my cool down was like a leisurely stroll in the park – no effort at all. At the end of the workout. After being sick. These guys might actually know what they are talking about.
I still have a long way to go. I’m within two pounds of my starting weight. In two weeks, I’ll start the dietary changes in an effort to melt off the pounds. Next week, the prescribed workouts have five-minute run intervals. Two weeks after that, they are up to eight minutes. I’ll finish the program by the end of January. Once the regimen is complete, I’ll have six more weeks until the race. During that time, I’ll keep running and concentrate on increasing my pace. And losing more weight. Which should make it easier to run faster.
I’ll still be a fat fuck on race day. But I’ll be the fat fuck who finishes mid-pack or better. Which, based on last year’s results will be in the thirty-five minute range. Look out, Sis! By autumn, I’ll be outrunning you. At least on the short races.