May 2, 2010

Devil's Run

What on earth possessed me to go a whole mile longer today than I did last weekend? And on a fairly hot day, too?

Let's start with a list of my mistakes, starting with the tex/mex cuisine Friday night. It was good, but bolloxed up my digestive system something fierce. So I didn't run Saturday - that made three days in a row without exercise. I wasn't feeling too hot this morning either, after a week of late nights and last night's sleep being poor due to a building alarm that went on all night. I kept my window closed, which made it too hot to sleep well. I wanted to be up at 7 and running by 9, but instead got up at 9 and finally made it out of the house by 11:25. I tried to go earlier, but... the thing is, I know my body. My morning BM comes in two waves, two hours apart. That's just how it is. I have learned that if I leave the house before the second wave, I better be going somewhere with a bathroom. There are no bathrooms on today's route - so waiting for a complete emptying is important to a successful run. Sorry to be gross, but that's the way it is. So I left the house at 11:25.

It was 80 degrees and about 55% humidity. Really close to my old go/no-go line, but I figured I could hack it if I slowed down. I just had no idea how slowed down that would wind up being.

In the time before I left the house, I somehow managed to do two stupid things: I failed to take an Endurolyte and I failed to mix up some HEED, so I attribute a rapid salt depletion during my run to how difficult the fourth, fifth, and sixth miles were. To my credit, I did have my homemade sushi last night - a pre-race meal that has always stood me well. Plenty of carbs, plenty of protein, plenty of salt intake. I had no GI troubles on the run; not that I usually do, but still, on a first hot run like this, the stomach is the first thing to revolt.

So it may be coincidence, it may be subtle psychological influences, but it often seems that the progress of my long run parallels the progress of Steve Runner's recorded run as I listen to his podcast. Today was the podcast of his running of the 114th Boston Marathon. This was not a good run for Steve. His GI troubles waylaid him and nearly took him out of the race. He was having trouble by mile 4. If it'd been me, I'd have DNF'd. No question. But Steve is a tough man, stubborn, and a highly experienced marathoner. He determined to finish the race, and he did, though over six hours. I know -- I KNOW that misery. I know the misery of having the sag wagon pass you. I know the misery of arriving at a finish line that isn't there anymore. I know the misery of a long, long run gone bad, but the shortest route home is to finish (Nashville, for me). But I also know that unique feeling of accomplishment - not just having finished, not just for having done it, but for having completed the mission when it seems like everything, including your body, is working against you. I know the feeling of being so grateful to the last few people still cheering you on, even after everyone else has gone home, because when THOSE people are encouraging you, telling you that you can do it!, it is at a time when you really need someone to tell you that, because late in a bad race, you begin to think maybe you can't do it.

Today I nearly cut the run short. And I know that would have been absolutely reasonable. I could have wrapped it up at mile 5, bought a cold Gatorade and relaxed a while, then strolled home when I was good and ready. But I don't call that stretch from Prospect Park to my house "dessert mile" for nothing. Being almost all downhill, it's hard not to go ahead and tack that 1.7 miles on. After all, there's always room for Jell-O! exactly what my legs felt like at the end of my run.

I chatted with my neighbor a bit while I stretched my calves, then did a good post-run routine, complete with Endurolyte, Recoverite, Hammer nutrition bar, cold-water bath (can't quite stand ice yet - this was a killer as it was), shower, and now--sodium naproxen and a short nap.

Oh, and why call it Devil's Run? Well, "my standard 6.7 mile loop up to Prospect Park, around, and home" is quite a mouthful. It came up on Facebook that two loops of Prospect Park is 6.66 miles and my up, around, and back run is just a hair longer. Besides, what else would you call a run that BEGINS with a mile of uphill, with 184 feet of elevation gain, includes another significant hill mid-run, and ends with going downhill that 184 feet on tired legs? In 80 degree heat? Sure, downhill is easier, but I'm aware some runners quads hate extended downhills. I don't have a problem with that, but I know it would be considered part of the challenge this late in a long run. So, now I have a new name: Devil's Run.