The Law Of Averages

I headed off to the Y last night to go to my kickboxing class. I even bought new fingerless boxing gloves so I didn’t have to borrow a pair from the instructor.

As luck would have it, and as often happens with my best laid plans, there was a little glitch. The class was full when I got there (and I was EARLY). So I figured I’d take a run on the treadmill instead. Half hour run would be enough to feel productive. So I headed into the cardio room.

I like the treadmills at the Y. They just got new LifeStyle machines that have a bunch of different courses. I’ve used the machine before and selected New Zealand. I could run on the treadmill and watch the TV screen go through some very beautiful landscapes in  the New Zealand mountains. It really helped the time go by more quickly, and I even appropriately “ooh’d” and “ahh’d” at a couple pretty spectacular scenes. Not normal for someone running on a treadmill, but I’ve never claimed to be normal.

So I headed to the treadmill and selected what I thought said Grand Canyon. But it wasn’t the Grand Canyon. Turns out it was called the Grand Staircase, and I just mis-read. It started off with Bryce Canyon and Zion Canyon in Southern Utah…the playgrounds of my youth. So many fond memories camping and hiking in those two canyons as a kid. Then moved on to Kaibab Canyon, Escalante Canyon, Cottonwood, and Sunset Crater (all in Arizona) – three of which I’ve never visited and now realize that I need to make plans to do so.

The thing I noticed that was different about this program that I had not noticed (or had not chosen) with the New Zealand program, is that at the beginning of the workout it asked me “what incline average would you like?” Oh, I don’t know. Four, maybe. So I selected the 4 option. Then I began the workout. Five minutes at 3.5 mph to warm up and then run intervals….that was my readjusted plan. I did not realize that the program was going to change my inclines based on what I was seeing on the TV screen. I’ve hiked Bryce Canyon, and it’s not an easy hike, yet I was still surprised when the majority of my time through Bryce was this:

Now, I’m no math wizard, but I think having the majority of my hike through Bryce be between 5 and 7 percent does not make for a 4% average. AND, the machine decided that I was going to do an hour, NOT 30 minutes like I had planned.

I have been learning to not come unglued when my plan changes….go with the flow a little bit more. So I left my speed at 3.5 as I hiked through the first two canyons, with a few different 2 – 4 minute run segments when the path took me along a river or along the canyon floor.

Did you know that when you’ve been doing 5% – 7% inclines, and you suddenly get to a 3% it actually feels like you’re going downhill? It’s true. During the last little bit of Zion, the TV monitor showed a distinct downhill path and the incline on the treadmill was at 3% and I felt like I was going downhill. I kicked up speed to take the opportunity for a bit of a run. It’s very disconcerting to be running “downhill” when you see big boulders along the path – ankle rollers. The mind plays tricks on the body, and I was certain I’d stumble on one of the rocks.

Kaibab Canyon was interesting. It was where the averages felt more average to me, as most of the inclines were in the 3% – 5% range. I’ve never been to Kaibab before and I’m not really sure that I want to go. Even though the path was relatively level, it was a dirt path with no rails and a pretty good drop off along one side. Even from the safety of the treadmill, I could feel my whole body clenching up at the site of the drop off. I don’t do high mountain roads very comfortably (a topic for a different post), but I determined fairly quickly that Kaibab was not going to be on my list of places that I must visit. However, I had a number of good run segments through this part of my workout, so I felt good about that, even though my brain was screaming at me to walk away from the drop off.

Escalante was a HIKE. The don’t call it the Grand Staircase for nothing! There was no running segments there. Up and down and up and down and up and down. 3.7% to 7% to 4% to 6.5% to 3% back to 7% and in no logical rhythm. In real life, I would totally go back to Escalante. It’s been decades!!

Cottonwood was beautiful. When I think of Cottonwood Canyon, I think of Northern Utah, where there’s a Cottonwood Canyon. But the one on the treadmill was in Arizona. It started off in very clear desert environment but by the end was in the mountains surrounded by pine trees. I wish it was smell-o-vision because there is nothing like the scent of pine trees in the mountain air! I need to go there! Some very short run segments here  – lots of up and down, but the down segments were longer so I wasn’t having to fiddle around with the pace quite as much as in other areas.

We ended the workout going through Sunset Crater. I’ve never heard of it. I’ve never been there. But I want to go. It’s in Arizona, and was created from a volcano that erupted a thousand years ago. It’s up in the mountains near Flagstaff and I have a cousin who lives near there. I should go visit her. Sunset Crater was a great way to end a workout. a LOT of running segments here because the inclines weren’t so ridiculous. The scenery was stunning, but I love the desert so…grain of salt. I want to go there.

Even though my plan got derailed, it was a good derailment. Memory lane. High effort. Lots of sweat. Productive. Realization that throughout the whole workout, I probably did average about 4% incline. Who knew?

Spent ten minutes after I got off the treadmill doing a little upper body lifting, and then headed home. It was definitely an above average workout! And I quite enjoyed it!



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