Friday, January 23, 2015

Ride The Suck

I'm 5.2 miles from my car. I stand near a trash can with rain dripping from the brim of my hat. Reaching into my back shirt pocket, I pull out an Island Nectar Roctane Gu. It's sticky and sweet. I feel about as far away from an island as I can imagine save for the fact that I do happen to be surrounded by water. Only it's cold and unrelenting, not salty and warm.

I toss the empty packet into the trash and click start on Penelope. There are still 10.8 miles left. Time to ride the suck.


I woke up at 9ish--enjoying sleeping in my 3rd day off of the holiday week. The rain clattered against the windows. I blew warm air on the inside panes and watched it fog up on the glass.

A cup of coffee (Peet's Major Dickason's blend, black) and a bowl of cereal (Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Crunch). I go get the newspaper. It's still raining. I make two pieces of wheat toast and smear them with creamy peanut butter and honey. A second cup of coffee.

It's a stupid poll, but I get a kick out of it anyway. I'm guessing 2% of the 14% are runners and the other 12% think if Oprah can, it can't be that bad!
It's still raining. I do the crossword puzzle. Hah, more marathoning... Stupid paper is really trying to give me a hint.
I trudge upstairs and listen to my latest addiction while I consult the What To Wear tool on Runner's World. I know the answer, but I'm seeking validation? (Lindsey Stirling, thank you for giving me a push out the door this morning. If you like instrumentals and/or need new running music, here's my vote.)
I sit on the stairs and take selfies. It's partly narcissistic, partly killing time, partly gathering evidence of being dry.
It's still raining.
I drive to the parking lot of the Greenway with the heat on high. There are 2 other cars in the parking lot. I gear up (iPod, Garmin satellites, gloves) and walk to the trail head. 2 regulars (fast, my age-ish) pass me in the opposite direction. One is wearing a blue tech tee with a Boston Marathon logo.

Time to ride the suck. Everything except my feet are warm the first mile. The rain is falling, but my hat keeps it out of my face. Maniac shuffles into the mix. Hah!

I pass another human running and we wave. I start to feel my feet. This isn't too bad.

Close to mile 3, I see 2 more humans running. I smile at them. They smile back. I revise my plan of going 4 out-and-back twice to go 5 out-and-back and then 3 out-and-back.

When I begin to approach the sole traffic crossing on my path, I actually hope that I can cross immediately. The thought of standing in the rain waiting for the light to change < the small rest break I usually covet. I stand for 10 seconds before I get the walk signal.

Eye of the Tiger shuffles in as I hit the other side. There's no turning back now. In the open field, the rain and wind smack me hard across the face. My giant Atlanta Track Club jacket, a giveaway for Adam volunteering at my first marathon, billows widely like a parachute.

By the time I get to the 5.2 mile mark, I'm trying to forget that I'm only 1/3 of the way into this mess.

The walkway is beginning to swell with more water. My giant Hokas are still no match for the puddles forming. I feel my socks start to dampen. I look at the underside of the brim of my hat. I should Sharpie Ride The Suck on the inside of it. As a memory of this run. As a reminder that for the tough parts of the race, there are better ones ahead.

I get back to the traffic crossing and don't care that I'm getting drenched standing in the rain.

When I get to the Fowler Park trail entrance, I decide I really need to get water. The water fountains are off and so I cup water from the sink in the bathroom, splashing it all over my already-soaked arms and face. 

As I start Penelope again, Wrecking Ball shuffles in. The same song I was singing aloud during mile 22 at Rehoboth. I feel far away from funning right now, but darn it, hearing the song makes me smile.

Back on the Greenway, I plod on. I haven't looked at my pace once. I feel like I'm slowing down, but I'm reminded that I didn't even know if I had it in me to get this far. Splits be damned! 

The stupid sweet gum balls seem to have multiplied on the way back. And the puddles of water make it impossible to run a straight line. The only good news is that I haven't seen a human in 6 miles so I run wherever I want. Ride the suck.

As I near the turnaround for the last out-and-back portion, I pick up the pace like I'm about to be done. I down all 16 ounces of Gatorade when I stop and slurp down the Vanilla Gu like a rabid animal. Aaaaaaahhhh... I take a breather under the bridge before heading back out for the last 5 miles. I take off the stupid billowy jacket and lay it in a pile with my trash to pick up on the way back.

Mile 12 is about as awful as it gets. I am officially at the worst part. My left hand is throbbing from cold and wet. I think about how I could just go back and be done and still have accomplished a long run. But the stubborn part carries on, despite my impending fear of losing my dominant limb to gangrene. I stuff it further inside my shirt sleeve and hoof it along.

Once I get to mile 13.5, I have a change of heart. I'm going to finish this! The last few miles might be a challenge mentally, but physically, I knew I had it in me. When I get to the last turnaround, I tell my legs to start thinking about finding that second gear. We rode the suck long enough. 

Everything is hazy in the last few miles. I hear Happy. I dodge sweet gum balls. I stop caring that my shoes are squirting water out of the sides. I'm going to finish!

Never mind that I've accomplished the distance before. Never mind that I've run much further than the distance before. Never mind that I've run in the rain before. Never mind that I've had worse runs physically and emotionally before. Never mind that I was benched with injury a month ago. Never mind that I'm on runstreak and about to hit my highest monthly mileage ever. Never mind all of this. I was going to ride the suck and finish THIS run.
In the last mile, I hope that my jacket is still where I left it. It doesn't fit me and Adam doesn't really wear it, but it's a reminder that I'm lucky he's supportive of my habit. Instead of telling me not to go out in the monsoon today or chastising me for thinking of it, he told me "be careful" before he left for work. Admittedly, if the roles were reversed, I would have been like what in the hell are you thinking of doing?

I was never more relieved to hear that last mile buzz. I bent over in exhaustion and took more than a moment to collect myself. Sucky long run of the training cycle, check!

Oh, and this week's inspiration? An Instagram post from Olympic gold medalist and BA chick Allyson Felix.
She is going down.


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