The New York Marathon is November 7th, giving me a measly month to finish training. I can no longer put off those long runs. Thus enters Hell Week.
All the high school athletes in the house remember those days, right at the end of pre-season training, when your coach put you through the grinder. For me, it was swim team. Hell Week conjures up memories of my coach, an ex-female body builder, screaming profanities as we sprinted laps up the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Never mind we weren't runners.
These next two weeks, I'll be kicking it into high gear, wearing ice packs and drinking lots of chocolate milk. In other words, no more pink clouds and puppy dogs.
I made one last day of procrastination yesterday, but for good reason. On Friday, I was walking home when the sky opened. Lighting was far enough away that I wasn't in danger, but close enough that I could feel the thunder. About ten minutes from home, the downpour began. It was the kind of rain where you could bring out your shampoo. I was soaked to the bone.
So when I saw the sky morph during the beginning of yesterday's run, I decided to procrastinate just one more day before Hell Week. I really didn't want to be stuck on a high ridge with thunder and a scared Kona.
Today's sky was much more benign. No more excuses! I wanted to run at least 16 miles. Kona would help me through the first half and I would take to the streets to finish on my own. For the first time is many days, the air felt cool. We were off.
The first few steps scared me. My legs felt like bricks. We had a lazy week with our high temperatures and I was feeling it. Luckily, the initial burn faded quickly. Kona helped me up our early hills with several rabbit sightings.
I was surprised to feel my body relax. Before I knew it, the sun was up and we were nearing our last lap.
As we finished our 8th mile, I felt (relatively) strong, but tried not to think about the fact that I was only halfway through my run.
I dropped Kona off at home, drank some water and scarfed half an energy bar before heading out the door. I'm not use to running on streets, but figure it's probably a good idea to let my body adjust to the different impact before I take on 26 miles in November.
I ran through my neighborhood, pass a busy freeway on ramp, and over rolling hills to a nearby running and cycling mecca. While I seek out solitude on trails, the hub-bub of this 5k loop provided great distraction as my knees and hips started talking to me.
People of every shape, size and age were out for a Sunday workout. A woman with a triathlete's physique sported an Ironman cap. Her gait was relaxed and strong. I tried to match it.
Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.
Well, I tried.
A boy hollered from his stroller, "Bang, bang, bang," and shot me as I ran by.
Cyclists in fancy matching kits road by in a peloton. An 8 year old got reprimanded by his dad as he zoomed close by me on his 16" bike.
As twinges in my knees and hips came and went, I was glad the people watching gave me something else to focus on. I finally finished the 5k loop and headed back up for the last 2.5 miles toward home.
It was in these last miles that I realized that distance running has little to do with cardiovascular fitness and everything to do with joint resiliency. My hips ached. It's a familiar feeling but not a comfortable one. While I was breathing like I would if out on a stroll, my legs took a beating.
With many more shuffles, I made it home. I hadn't been beat to a pulp, but I felt nervous. Could I handle 10 more miles? What was I in for? Then, I opened the door and Kona clobbered me, licking all the salt off my face. It was a victory celebration at the finish line!
Not a bad start to Hell Week.