I finished a very weird 4.98 miles this afternoon. First, the background: I've been sick for the last two weeks so I haven't run at all in that time. This morning my chest was still tight and I had a lingering cough, but I felt like a bowl of mud so I thought an easy run might lift my spirits.
The first thing I noticed was how smooth my stride was; lately I've been feeling like I come crashing down with each step, but today I was sinking smoothly into the knee and rolling into the push-off in one connected motion. It's strange to feel stronger after a long break, but it hasn't really been a break: I bike to and from school every day, I'm on my feet several hours a day for work, I lifted some big weights last week and I've been experimenting with some more aggressive yoga poses. So I think all of that translated into some extra strength in my quads and glutes.
As per usual after too miles I was fully warmed up and I felt great, so I decided to extend my run by a mile or two. But after three miles, it became harder and harder to maintain the 8-minute-per-mile pace that felt so comfortable when I started. I was trying to figure out what was going on when I remembered an old Joe Friel article about decoupling, which is where your heart race and pace are no longer connected. It's the metabolic indicator of fatigue, and it meant that the rest of my run was going to be tough.
I turned around and headed back to my apartment, but it took another two miles to get back, two heavy-legged, hard-breathing miles. I had a stressful week at school and I'm working two jobs, so I get up early and work late every weekday which takes its toll even without any running added into the mix. So that is the double-edged sword of being busy and doing a lot; you can't train hard every day like you might want, but with two weeks of almost no "exercise" and lungs that were probably a little virus-impaired, I still ran five miles in just over 40 minutes that were mostly easy.
P.S. Another weird thing about the run is that it was nearly 60 degrees out, so I went shirtless, which is bizarre for Utah in February. It was nice, but I read an article about how the warm winter could cause some kind of ecological catastrophe in the region later this year. That may be true, but for today, during my run, I didn't mind.