Monday, March 7, 2011

Two-Skunk Run


I really didn't want to go out this morning for a 20 mile run, but I did.  Before that, I didn't want to get out of my warm, cozy bed, but I did.  I could have "accidentally" hit the "OFF" button instead of the "SNOOZE" button and totally had a perfect cop-out for the day.  But I got up, got dressed in my 40-degree running gear, slammed down a couple packets of instant oatmeal and few Shot Bloks, and got ready to roll.  

Out the door at 7AM as planned, just over 40F on the thermometer, a bit cooler than was predicted as of last night's Weather.Com Hour-By-Hour forecast.  In fact, I was not pleased to see that the "clear(ish)" morning had been infringed upon by 'crap' coming in around 10AM.  No worries, 10AM was when I was due to be rolling back into the homestead.

After pulling my best Brian Boitano impersonation skating down my treacherous driveway and navigating myself off of our street (I keep checking my mortgage statements to make sure that they're paying the Town my property tax installments; considering how poorly they care for our stretch of my development, I'm pretty sure that I'm either getting punished for being delinquent on my taxes (I'm not) or that I've somehow pissed off the guy who runs the plow/salt truck), I set off on a run I really wasn't looking forward to.

You wusses outside of the Snow Belt may think running in 40F weather is idiotic, but it's possibly the most perfect running conditions, when its calm & dry.  The air is cool enough that you get excellent oxygenation without the air being so cold that it stings.  A wicking long sleeve shirt and some dead-sexy running 'base-layer-threads (THEY'RE NOT TIGHTS!!) are all that's needed for a comfortable long run (depending on the intensity of the run; the shorter the run, the shorter the clothing!).  As a bonus, any drink you carry stays cold and you don't have to worry about over heating!

I'm less than 2 miles into my run when I pick up the scent of skunk spray.  Not too close, but close enough that the smell is more intense than the good-skunk-smell and crossing over into the it-burns!-skunk-smell.  There's a very light mist in the air, reminiscent of the seemingly constant precipitation that I experience in Ireland and Scotland a decade ago -- you know it's there because you see it on the windshield or disturbing puddles, but you can't really feel it landing on you.

Around mile 4, Skunk #2 wafts across the road from somewhere and I imagine that doggie #2 is getting a tomato soup bath this morning.  The warmth has obviously brought these weaselly beings out en masse and dogs everywhere are experiencing a bit of amnesia about "those funny looking cats" that don't seem quite as freaked out as they should be...  Based on my route, I placed a bet with myself that this would be a 5-skunk run.  How wrong I was.

Physically, I was actually feeling pretty decent.  I've recently had trouble finding a groove until I get up to 10 or 12 miles, but today I settled in to a slow (for me), but steady, comfortable pace and was content to just plod my way through today's course.  I had picked up a bit of a headwind, but c'est la vie; a headwind going out is (hopefully) a tailwind coming home!  

Things were going pretty solid until my Nike+ chick announced "7 miles completed."  Almost simultaneously, a new biting, gusting wind which was about 10 degrees colder that the ambient temperature and smelled like the brine of the sea kicked up.  And kept up.  It was like being on a ship leaving a protected cove and being pelted by a gale force that had been picking up steam across the the fetch of the open waters for miles.  This was not fun, but bearable.

Then that nice, fine, imperceptible mist became perceptible.  Then it became more apparent.  By mile 8, it was outright pouring.  Shortly thereafter, everything I was wearing was soaked.  And it was getting pretty close to freezing as the storm front blew in about 2 hours ahead of schedule.  And by "blew in," I mean sustained wind chill in the teens.  My 20 mile long run was now out the window.  I had planned my route with a few bail-out points that would leave me opportunities to get home somewhat faster than if I did an "out & back" route.  From where I was, I basically had a 4 mile tempo run (2 of which were mostly up-hill) to get home.  

I wanted to be the responsible runner who used the sidewalks instead of running in the road, but the town-where-I-pay-my-taxes had done a pretty poor job of maintaining adequate passage on the sidewalks, so I could either risk life & limb dancing between ankle-deep puddles and ice-sheets on the sidewalks or accumulating standing water & traffic on the road.  Since I seemed to be the only person fool enough to be out in this weather, dodging the intermittent traffic was actually the safer of the two options!

While I knew this to be hyperbole at the time, I started thinking about The Deadliest Catch show on the Discover Channel (crab fishermen in the Bearing Sea).  Periodically, they'll have a show where a storm takes a ship and, tragically, some of its crew.  They always quote how little time you have in those cold waters before hypothermia (and, eventually, death) occur.  It's odd the things your mind comes up with to "motivate" you, but this cheery recollection took my mind off how truly awful the run had become and helped me kick up the pace to get home faster and also to get my heart-rate up and get the blood moving.

I never really was in any "danger" from the elements.  I was in civilization, had a cellphone, my RoadID, and any number of shops & stores I could have ventured into should I really have truly needed help.  I got home and immediate jumped into a hot shower.  My hands were cold enough that the warm/hot water from the shower felt simultaneously ice-cold and scalding-hot (if you've felt this feeling, you know it), but that subsided quickly. A pint glass of chocolate milk, a mug of Rwandan dark-roast coffee, and waffles with butter & VT Maple Syrup made for a delicious post-workout recovery meal.

So I didn't get in my 20 miles today, but I lived to fight (and run) another day.  Fortunately I have another pair of new Saucony's waiting for me at work.  I'm not sure the ones I wore today will be dried out in time for Tuesday's run!


I would make a terrible mailman.

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