Days of Eight
Today's Run: 4.03m
Run Time: 43:47 (10:52 minutes per mile)
Total Miles to Date: 633.5
Thoughts on the Run:
So I'm driving home, stuck in traffic. The digital thermometer in my Honda Civic EX reads 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius). The car is straining to cool the interior and I'm watching the temperature gauge for the engine closely, because the traffic isn't moving. Wading my way through rush hour traffic gives me a moment to contemplate my run. Once again I've opted for sleep in the morning. As fate would have it, I'm heading home early and have a chance to run while it's still light outside.
I think about procrastinating and waiting until evening. The excuse of cooler temperatures won't hold because this heat is something so thick the ground seems to cling to it without letting go, even as darkness falls. But I also know the night brings another unpleasant surprise, one that I'm not sure I care to face. In this heat, it's now the days of eight ... eight-legged creatures that seem to thrive in the warmer temperatures. The spiders are out, and they are dangling from every tree and branch. In previous runs I was amazed to see thin threads that stretched the full width of the road and tiny blots in the distance as they dropped one after another from the branches onto the sidewalk with their silk bungee cords.
The only problem is that I usually end up catching those threads on my face. They make a sickening tearing sound when you run through them, followed by that prickling sensation of little legs crawling over my scalp. No thanks. I'll take the daylight.
I decide to get it over and done with. I chug down some water, mix a sports drink that is loaded with carbohydrates, healthy fats, and sodium, then set out. As usual, my legs feel like lead as I pound up the initial stretch. The heat doesn't seem bad but my legs ache. I know from experience that I just need to get through the "warm-up" period ... in this heat, it shouldn't take long.
Soon I am plodding along at a steady pace. I take frequent sips from my bottles. I've learned that instead of chugging down gulps at intervals, it's best just to take frequent sips. I know how much I have ... so I should be about half empty at 2 miles, mostly empty at 3, done by the time I finish.
I make it 2 miles. The heat is now starting to penetrate my defenses and I stagger to a halt at the top of the hill. I walk briskly, trying to look like I have a higher purpose because there are tons of cars on the road and it's silly to be dressed like a runner only to stumble along the sidewalk. The metal pole that marks the halfway point gets a light tap but the victory is hollow. I turn around, look at the rows of car headlights reflecting the sunlight back in my face, then begin to run again.
I pick up a decent pace. I have an urge to run faster but this is the run I have marked "easy" on my calendar. Sure, I could push it, but then I have a tempo run tomorrow and I may risk cutting into my ability to finish that. So I take it easy.
I reach the hill I call Goliath. It only takes a few steps before I feel dizzy and nauseous. I stop to walk. I almost feel the shudder of laughter beneath the soles of my shoes as Goliath claims victory. This only frustrates me, however, so I clench my teeth and dig in. I may not conquer the entire slope, but there is a good half mile of guard rail. It's all up hill and it's a good distance, but this is the same stretch I used to sprint up doing hill repeats only a few months back. I decide to go for it. I hit the beginning of the guard rail, turn my head down and begin pushing up at a brisk pace. Goliath is silent now, waiting, hoping I am not able to make the climb. The heat has addled my brain and I stubbornly refuse to stop.
While the daylight keeps the spiders at bay, something else is waiting on the hill. I feel some burning pricks on my legs and suddenly find myself swatting at horse flies. They swarm me and taunt my progress up the hill, stopping to take a fresh bite each time my pace slows.
I push harder and harder and refuse to see how long it is until I reach the end. Goliath is scared now, it looks like I may have the upper hand after all. Suddenly I come to the end of the guard rail. I want to stop but I push a little bit past and then smile. It's a small victory, but Goliath is behind me, silent, no gloating on this run. The horse flies are gone.
It's down the opposite side and a teenager is climbing the hill in my direction. I get close and flash a smile but realize he's the "serious" kind, staring ahead and looking cool in case one of his friends happens to see him. I realize there is only one way to communicate. He returns my curt nod and we stare back, straight ahead, serious looks on our faces: we're cool, even if it's hot. He acknowledged the head bob; the smile went unnoticed.
Going up the next, smaller hill, I slow down a bit. At this point I can barely feel my legs. Funny thing is pride still creeps in and I don't want to just walk up the hill, so I assume my "I think I can" pace. There is a great optical illusion when going uphill against traffic. I can keep my pace but make my strides extremely short. I barely gain any ground (it might be faster to walk up the hill at this point) but I'm sure it makes a convincing display of really chugging up the hill. I repeat the words, "I think I can" in my head until finally at the top I have to stop again.
It's then that I glance at my watch and see my pace is 11:05. For some reason I get a stubborn notion that I have to finish this run faster than an 11 minute pace. So down the backside I keep it "easy" but open up my stride. I'm not going to stare at my watch, but I'm sure I can make up the time. I look straight ahead, plow down the hill, and keep moving. I'm parched now, my lips are dry, and I just squeezed out the last drop of liquid from my bottle, so there is nothing to do but shorten the distance between here and home.
My watch chimes. I've reached my goal of 4 miles. I did it faster than 11 minutes. I'm still standing. The heat has subsided, and inside I mix Pellegrino with grape juice and take a salt tablet.
Now it's time to relax.
Originally Posted: Days of Eight