Sunday, July 10, 2011

Orb of Death or Swamp of Despair? Hazards of Summer Running

Yesterday, my brother, with whom I will be running the San Francisco marathon, emailed to tell me he successfully finished his 22 miler, but that "the Death Orb made the last 3 miles or so pretty unpleasant."

He is training in Sacramento, where the "Death Orb" does indeed, create a running hazard during the summer if one is not careful to avoid its violent rays. In the midwest, the hazard is double: the glowing fireball heats up air saturated with moisture to create swampy conditions that on long runs lead to Inferno-like despair. My long run on Friday ended inside on the treadmill. I sweat buckets, even though when I began at 5:20 a.m., it was 70 degrees. I made it 12 miles outside, but had to do the last six inside with the a/c. 

The conditions have been like this all weekend. I am a weather freak when it comes to training, constantly checking the radar and watching the forecast. I do so in order to plan long runs for the least horrible conditions (or: best conditions possible). Friday was supposed to be the cooler of the three weekend days, but clearly temperature doesn't matter. What matters when the conditions are so poor is mental distraction from physical discomfort. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating ignoring signs of serious conditions like heat stroke or dehydration. Not at all! Rather, I'm reveling in the ways we can use sociability to better our mental state. Today I ran 10 hilly miles in Minneapolis with some of the wonderful women from the USATF team Mississippi River Road Runners. It was 79 degrees and sunny by the end, and throughout it was like running through a cloud: sometimes misty, sometimes the sun shining, all the time the air thick, our clothes, visors, and hair saturated. 

But the run today was so much better than my 18 miles alone! It was wonderfully distracting to run with an old friend from Carleton and two new friends from the team. I am a member in-absentia, but I am excited to continue racing this fall in the City of Lakes 25K and TC 10 mile with the MRRR team. It was great to hear about other folk's lives, careers, interests, racing stories, and running tips over the hour and half we ran together. 

Even if the weather outside is frightful, it's possible to adjust. Sometimes you put mind over matter and get out there, or go inside to just get it done, but sometimes you can call on a friend and find support simply in knowing you're sharing the unpleasantness together--be it virtually from across the country, or in real time. Either way, the paradox is that the shared battle is what makes it fun in the end.

ps--Shout out to those who donated to Planned Parenthood last week! I heard from a good friend and craazzzzy runner (Boston time: 3:03:34) from High School who donated an incredibly generous $100. Great reason to catch up! Hope to hear from some more of you!

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