The benefits of this run would be a safe place to run alone in the dark, multiple short loops for variety yet easy aid access in case of hot weather, the availability of a deep gravel path similar to the conditions I'll encounter at Across the Years, and little traffic.
I sprained my ankle in June when blinded by the sunrise, I stepped on a pine cone and rolled forward. It had been about 6 weeks since the sprain and I was doing well with it, until last Wednesday Crisann and I were out hiking near the Rawahs and I misstepped and rolled over on it again, re-tweaking it. It only hurt at the moment I did it, and then it seemed to be okay after some ice, ibuprofen, and rest for a couple of days. I was a bit concerned about the ankle but I taped it the morning of the run and it held up fine other than getting puffy the day after the run.
It was cool but humid, 69 degrees at the start, and I began by doing the short loop around her neighborhood which was about 1.15 miles according to my GPS. Once the sky got a little lighter, I went out the other two loops, one of which I called the fork, and the other an out and back to the main street leading to their subdivision. One was about 1.65 miles and the other was 2 miles. Both of these had hills and climbed a little less than 50 feet each, but I knew the vertical would feel good for variety and would add up over the day.
SpongeBob hallucinations. He always seems to show up at the right moment, whether it's for joining me for my birthday runs or arriving in the middle of nowhere in the desert with pizza or ice cream, or coming up with a conversation topic completely out of the blue that distracts me from whatever discomfort I was thinking about at the moment. He always makes me laugh.
We knocked out the 8 miles of gravel before noon, and I got two solid hours of running in by late morning and decided to throw in minimal running the rest of the day until it cooled down in the evening, then I would focus on getting the full 6 hours of running in. I was drinking plenty, taking in S-caps and peeing enough, and I filled my bandana with ice, keeping a big ice pillow on my neck to stay cool.
Felix and I had talked about recent events and how we cope with them. I felt pretty traumatized after the past week between the news of how the President botched things at NATO with our allies and then the Helsinki summit where he looked like an oversized kid who had just been berated, punished, and sent to his room by Putin. Felix told me his strategy for such things- by tuning it out and not listening to the news. I told him how I need to find a better strategy for dealing with all of it, because it upsets me so much.
I was hoping this run would be a chance to reset, clear my mind, and let go of all that worry and frustration. Even though I didn't think about those events during the run, I still could not get my mind into a calm, relaxed place. I started to think about cutting it short for another day, but decided to keep going until the temperatures cooled down in the evening, to see if I could get my mind off things in the dark. After about 30 miles my mental struggle was overwhelming, despite my attempts to zone out with music and run the least stimulating parts of the course.
Whenever it's humid I tend to chafe badly and often get heat rash, and by afternoon I was greasing my legs where the seam on my shorts was rubbing. I didn't see the extent of the chafing until 11 hours in, when I rewarded myself for reaching 40 miles by changing my clothes and re-greasing. I had an outline of my running bra that was chafed- under my armpits and across my chest, and a few spots on my shoulders. I knew I'd be screaming when I finished and took a shower.
I called Dennis around 5 pm and asked him if he could bring me a real ice cream sandwich and maybe some food around 6:30. After another half hour I changed my mind. I'd had enough. I decided to keep going until 50 miles and call it a day. I just wasn't having fun, and I needed to save it for another time. I called Dennis back and told him my plan, and let Felix and Crisann know. I kept going until 50, it wasn't quite sunset, but I'd been on my feet for a little over 15 hours and it was enough. I felt like even in the dark, there were enough things I'd have to watch out for- like cars parked on the street, cracks in the sidewalk or road, corners, curbs, and the usual neighborhood activities that would continue to be a distraction- my brain would never be able to get into a relaxed state.
It was like turning lemons into tepid, sun-fermented, bug protein-infused lemonade, served on the rocks over neck bandana ice cubes and a sweat-crusted rim.
Photo credits: Felix Wong