Oh my peeps are in distress. Yes, all six of them, if I have even that many readers. I’ve been delinquent in my postings, and I must make amends. Bless me Father, it’s been over three weeks since my last post. Here are my adventures. (What, you wanted sins? Not here, this is a family friendly blog!)
My summer slump arrived, well before any summer weather showed itself. June in New England was utterly pathetic. July, at least until yesterday, hadn’t been much better, though summer suddenly arrived in glory today and the weekend promises spectacular weather. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
In late June, my clan made our annual trek to Acadia National Park and spent an entire week without a clear view from a summit. For the first two days our cottage on the sea endured a storm packing constant gale force winds. Following that came more showers, fog, showers, fog, wind, fog, did I mention fog, and oh yes, it was cold. Ah, summer vacation. The good news is that we saved a lot of money on non-consumption of sunscreen. The other good news is that I’d run mile repeats with my club in a pounding rain a few days prior to our trip, so I was well trained – for the weather, at least.
Weather aside, our week in Maine offers up my version of the Rave Run, concept stolen from that certain over-glitzy magazine. Within a six to seven mile outing I can run from the cottage on the sea through the small village nearby, and be on the forest roads of Acadia. Tacking on a couple more takes me deeper and opens up trail options. Each year I venture a little further, blurring the line between our hiking territory and my running turf. The solitude of these forests is pure joy.
Friday morning found me running on some of our frequently hiked trails, emerging at the south end of Long Pond, greeting a few hikers heading in. Three hours later, showered, fed, assembled with kids, we returned to the same spot to start our day’s hike, only to meet the same hikers I’d seen earlier, now walking out, tickled to see me heading back in. My wife’s comment to them was a classic: “He feels the need to get exercise before we hike for the day.” Now, we vacation actively, so it’s not really the need to get exercise, it’s because – you know this – running is in we runners’ blood, and we crave the chance to run in different and especially beautiful spots. But her comment was still a classic.
Hard to fathom, but on our return leg that afternoon we finally saw the sun. We’d waited all week for that one glorious hour, basking on a lakeside rock. But the cool part is we just don’t care all that much about the weather up there, it’s Maine, it’s Acadia, it’s “The way life should be”, so they say, as opposed to the other bumper sticker we saw which read, “New Jersey, The way life is”.
But the slump? Well, usually I blame it on the heat. But I was feeling it before Maine, I was feeling it in Maine where there was no heat, and I’ve been feeling it since Maine. It’s not summer heat. The body just isn’t quite in the mood. Not feeling strong. Not bad, mind you, just not strong. My theory de jour is that May and early June were about breaking through on pace, getting closer to the training pace I’d left behind pre-surgery, and, having pushed hard to make strides in that direction, the body sighed. So the last couple weeks have been about backing off and working on the base, stretching in a few more miles but taking the pace more comfortably. Listen to the body. Listen to the body. That change of pace has made the last week far more enjoyable. I skipped out on the 4th of July races to keep the intensity down.
In the theme of low intensity, superbly enjoyable was this week’s Whitney Memorial 5K, a casual local race put on by our friends from the North Medford Club. With an entry fee of a mere five bucks, it’s the perfect event not to worry about, so being in low intensity mode, I hinted to my family to give it a try, and they took the bait. Both daughters tossed their hats in for their first 5K, and my wife joined the merriment as well. She prodded along our younger one, while I coached and cajoled our older edition, who managed to come in ahead of more than a quarter of the pack, but more importantly she gained the confidence of seeing that she could run the whole thing, even the hill, longer than she’d ever gone. Nine minute pace never felt so good to me!
But weather, slump, and low-intensity aside, it is summer, and there are big events to try, so I’m off in the morning to the stunningly exotic metropolis of Utica, New York, to step up to the line at one of our sport’s classics, the Boilermaker 15K. While this is a race I’ve wanted to do for a long time, the event is sweeter as I’ll be joining my niece for the festivities; my niece who’s started running in the last year not entirely uninfluenced by her old guy uncle, and for whom this will be her first race. Yeah, pick off an easy one to start off with, I say. Or, just dive into the deep end. First four miles are all uphill.
Maybe that’ll break the slump.