08 September 2008


Tropical Storm Hanna roared through New England last night. It was one of those nights you have to shut the windows not because the rain is coming in, but because the roar of it falling is just plain deafening. The morning dawned gorgeous, though still a bit windy. That, and the expectation that a few key spots in my planned run by might be submerged by the deluge made me hold off till mid-day before venturing forth. Which meant it got hot. Sort of. I think.
It’s only four weeks till Wineglass, my selected fall marathon, and my internal odometer is nudging me to one more 20-plus miler. Somehow I knew the body wasn’t up for it today, but no matter how much I’ve run, I still really can’t tell, so I planned a route that would let me go for 24 if I felt good, yet gave me an escape hatch if it wasn’t going to happen.

Good thing, as it didn’t. It was an odd day, cool & breezy yet hot. Go figure. Pushing 80 degrees, but still it felt great, nice breeze, comfortable. But lurking in that deceptive breeze, it was hot. Fooled me completely. Just plain hard to figure. Sure enough, about 10 miles in, it started feeling ugly, I suddenly noticed that perhaps it was hot (except that it sort of wasn’t), that I’d only packed four bottles on my fuel belt, and it was time to reach for the ejection lever and use the escape hatch.

I’m guessing that no pilot alive wants to pull that lever, and few enjoy the harrowing ride down. The last five miles this afternoon were about as much fun. Next time, just strap me into that ejection seat, at least the ride down is free. For me, no such luck. I was reduced to chanting the passing landmarks: “Into the turn, out of the turn, next fire hydrant, past the cross street…” as I agonized the last miles home. You name it, every identifiable pothole made it into the cadence. Anyone close enough to hear me would have had me committed. Call it mental toughness training for mile 25. That’s just a euphemism, but it sounds better than saying that it pretty much just stunk. Mamma told me there’d be days like this. And it’s days like this that I regret living in a spot that can’t be reached without climbing a significant hill at the end. Ouch.

I haven’t felt that wiped immediately after a run for some time. But in the after-run analysis, I was surprised to find that my pace was 20-30 seconds faster per mile than I’d thought. I don’t carry a GPS – at some level, outside of a race with marked splits, I just don’t want to know (or do I?) – so this was a pleasant surprise. At least if I’m going to feel like crap I can be happy in knowing I’m still moving at a decent clip.

It just serves to show how clueless we can all be. Clueless about how our bodies will perform any given day. Clueless about how they’re performing even during a run. Certainly clueless as to what’s coming tomorrow. Heck, clueless about today, can’t even judge the current weather.

But that’s half the fun, now, isn’t it? If we knew what was coming, well, what’s the sport in that? Complete mastery is overrated.

On a Completely Different Topic… My daughters’ middle-school cross country team met for their first practice this afternoon. This will be my second year as the assistant coach, which means that the head coach, who’s not a runner, takes care of all the administrative stuff and I get to try to get the attention of a group of 5th through 8th graders and tell them about running and racing. Motivation at this age is amusing, ranging from a few with the true racing instinct to those out to be with their friends, but so far as I’m concerned, they’re chugging around fields instead of watching TV, so my hat’s off to all of them. More on this as it develops, film at eleven.

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