The Long Run

ironmantra by Shannon Thompson

This is the big weekend, long bike Saturday followed by long run Sunday. I have a rigorous week to come, but then my taper starts. All the hay is in the barn, as they say. Oh shit, I say. This is as good as I’m going to get. I will have to sign up for next year. Shit shit shit.

I woke up feeling great after yesterday’s royal ass-kicking on the bike. These bodies of ours are amazingly resilient, and I am grateful for my good health every moment these days.

I was scheduled to run 2.5 hours, and I wanted to go at least 15 miles. Last year on this weekend, I ran 18 miles. I’m still feeling like I’m way behind, but also feeling like my run is better, somehow. Maybe not any faster. But it’s not crippling me the way it did last year. And don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually kind of enjoying it.

Got a late start and texted Coach Scott that I wasn’t going to be able to swim afterwards as planned. “Bring your goggles and swim in the middle of the run!” he replied.

I can’t get away with anything.

So I stuffed a cap and goggles, a headlamp and a tail light into my shirt pockets, loaded up my fuel belt with sports drink and snacks, put the iPod on shuffle, and hit the road. I had mapped out a route to Scott and Kate’s lake house that would take me 8.5 miles to get there. The sun was low in the sky and the deer flies were biting fiercely when I paused on Rockport’s strangely named, extremely rural Main Street.

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I got to the house just at the red sun melted into the horizon, and I broke into a temper tantrum, tired and frustrated that I couldn’t just sit on the porch like a normal person, watch the sunset and enjoy the company of these lovely people.

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But the instant I got in the water, my bad attitude floated away. Breathing to the right every sixth stroke, the sun sinking into the lake; to the left, lakefront cottages bathed in its orange glow. My body felt strong and sleek, supported by the cool, clean water. Eight minutes out across the cove, ten returning along the shore. Out of the water quickly, lights on, music going, water bottle recharged, I stuffed a Clif bar in my mouth and struck out toward home.

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I never run at night–I’m usually in bed before 8:00–and here I was at 8:45, still looking at 6.5 miles to go. I was beyond tired, and several times I very nearly took the straight 3.5 miles home to call it quits by  9:15. But I knew the mental boost of going the full 15 miles would serve me well, so I wound through side streets, seeking a flat and downhill route the whole way. Venus and Jupiter rose ahead of me in the western sky. I had the streets to myself, my only company the music in my ears and the fireflies floating with me across the dark yards and fields to my side.

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I turned onto John Street. James Brown’s inimitable howl shot through me and I hollered I FEEL GOOD (ba na na na na na) along with him–all the words, and many of the instruments–the full length of the road, then turned onto route one and cruised downhill to home. I made just over 15 miles, proud and grateful and aching. And completely terrified at the prospect of running another 11.2 miles. After a day of cycling. Honestly, if I hadn’t done this last year. How did I even do this last year? I can’t believe it’s even possible. This truly is insane.

Not hungry but knowing I would regret heading straight to bed without some fuel, I drank four full glasses of water, then made a fast grilled cheese and asparagus sandwich, doused it with sriracha, and shoved it down while soaking my feet and watching half an episode of Orange Is The New Black. I let the Garmin sync up and then gave myself a foot massage before crawling off to bed.

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Right before I woke this morning, I dreamed that I came upon an old dog lying in the road. It wasn’t injured, just really sore, and tired, and trying to get some rest. Concerned for its safety, I pulled over and moved it off the road. It was friendly, but barely had the energy to comply. I called the dog’s owner — you’ve got to take care of this animal! I said. It’s tired, it’s sleeping right in the middle of the road, it’s going to get hurt. I can’t worry about that thing, the owner said, I have way too much to do. It’s smart, it can take care of itself. I made sure the dog was in a safe place off the road, gave it some attention and affection, and went on with my life.
Some people believe that every character in a dream symbolizes an aspect of yourself, and I’m heeding the gentle warning this one offers. I am indeed tired, too tired to care much about getting out of the road. And I’m so caught up in my busy-ness that maybe I’m not taking care of that tired self as well as I should. But I’ve also got her back, and I’m going to focus a little more attention on her now.
I took me a while to stand up out of bed when I awoke. My plantar fascia are cursing me, but the rest of this old body handled the weekend’s rigors pretty darn well. I put the iPod back on shuffle while I boiled the tea water, and “She Moves In Mysterious Ways” came through the speakers as I hobbled around the kitchen, followed by “Stayin’ Alive.”
As the Bee Gees’ final chords faded into studio black, my old Kripalu yoga teacher came on: “Gently open the eyes. Extend the legs out in front of you and gently shake the legs. Now we’re going to awaken the legs. Begin a massage.”
Okay, yes, yes, I’m here, I’m paying attention. I got it. Total rest day today. Plenty of sleep tonight. Caution tomorrow.
So much strength in this old beat up body. Such gratitude.