This has been an interesting month. I have become an expert in many things, not least of which include aching joints. I have ample time during my long runs to catalog all those things about which I didn't used to be so knowledgeable. For instance, if you want to know the original identity of the smear of roadkill you've just passed, ask me. I'm almost certain to know. I can even tell now just how fresh the splatter might be. I have run past a pulped porcupine, flat bats, squashed frogs, and a rigid mole. I am pleased to say that I have yet to find a snake in the road, flat or otherwise, although I tend to leap like a spooked horse whenever I see anything stringy enough to be one of our no-shouldered friends. I think a snake on the road would be the end of my running career! To be derailed so easily is sad, but only fearing snakes and not minding the gruesome carcasses is a huge leap forward for the girl who hyperventilated and passed out when they brought the fetal pigs out for dissection in high school! More than the car casualties, I will say it did give me great pause to run past a rather enormous section of vertebrae that had clearly been picked clean along the side of a very rural, little-used road. It continues to give me pause that each time I run past and there seem to be fewer and fewer bones left. The fact that whatever animal possessed this enormous spinal column was significantly larger than I am makes me stay just that bit much more alert as I run down that deserted road. Well, more alert or more vocal, one of the two.
And speaking of being vocal, I need to proffer an apology to all the folks in Cedarville and Hessel who have encountered me singing to my iPod lately. Not only am I a poor singer at the best of times, but the fact that I only wheeze out about every third word of the song can't improve Erasure's Abbaesque songs very much. (Yes, I have quite the odd mix on the iPod.) Actually, if any of you are like my husband, you don't think anything would possibly make those songs worse, but I promise you that until you've heard my incomparable warbling, you haven't heard anything! Oh, and I discovered to my chagrin that I apparently have some classical music on my iPod. Now, I have nothing against classical music but I sure don't remember putting it on there and it is about as awful as it gets to try and run to. So if you all have any suggestions for good stuff for running, send 'em my way because I'm sure the marathon folks want me to finish this race sometime this year, instead of slugging along into 2009 simply because symphonies aren't peppy enough to keep me cookin' along. Hey, maybe I should stick with the classical music in spirit and throw Bolero on there at the end! Currently my runs end with Jeff Buckley's Halleluiah but while the sentiment is correct, the beat just isn't motivational.
For those who don't already know, I had to head home in the middle of the last month to move from Detroit to Charlotte. Neither place holds a candle to the UP in terms of beautiful running weather. It's generally been pretty perfect up here this summer. I think I've only run in long sleeves once and I could easily have been happy in short sleeves by the end of that run. Of course, as is usual with the changeable weather up here, I have also been caught in some deluges. (I was going to say rain showers but that doesn't even come close to describing what I've been out in some days.) The good news is that the rain (and sometimes hail) always passes through very quickly so I have yet to do an entire run in miserable weather. Of course, the quickly passing rain storms leave behind their own set of fun. Once they pass through, it's hard not to notice that my shoes squelch badly; the Body Glide isn't as effective, leaving some rather raw bits I don't appreciate; and most entertainingly of all, I look as if I am the single entrant in my own personal wet t-shirt contest. Surprisingly (or maybe not), I get more honks and waves from people when I am soaked to the skin. Of course, this generally happens on my long run days when I am out for literally hours so the number of people who see me being a little bit exhibitionist is much higher too. On the other hand, when I see some of the folks slow down and crane their heads to catch a glimpse of who is loony enough to have been out running when it was clearly going to dump an ocean on her head, I want to remind them that the wet t-shirt thing is humiliating and to please just keep driving. I know that I'm in a see-through, formerly white t-shirt, suctioned to my skin as I plug on down the highway. I am also unfortunately aware that such a sight isn't nearly as appealing as it was when I was 20 before babies and gravity had their way with me. I am, however, pleased to say that running bras are as good as anything at putting bits back where nature originally placed them so at least the sight isn't as horrific as it easily could be.
The wet shirt problem (and if we're being honest, I sweat so much that I often don't even need the rain to sport such a thing)suctioned to my body is highlighting another problem I've encountered this summer though. This marathon training has made me ravenously hungry and I eat anything I can find in a tri-state area. It's disconcerting and, frankly, a bit disgusting too. I wasn't paying too much attention to it until I noticed that I have certainly gained rather a bit of weight (and I'm grateful as can be that the scale in the cottage is broken so I can't tell just *exactly* how much weight) and if that's not bad enough, I am getting slower on my runs. I have since connected the two since I am having to carry that much more pudge around with me. Not a happy thought. Wonder if that entire box of fudge is the culprit? Humph! Back to more mindful eating it will be, although being able to roll down the hills in San Francisco might make for a nice break for my legs every so often.
I do actually have to eat on my long runs to keep my energy up and I know I've already waxed rhapsodic about the Gu gels but I can't leave them out of this update since I'm using them more than ever. I tried other flavors, wondering if I was stuck in a rut with my chocolate flavored stuff but while the Tri-Berry was acceptable, the Lemon-Lime nearly had me scraping my tongue in disgust. Even worse is that the Gu and water combination inevitably makes me belch (loudly and repeatedly) for a while--just imagine that combined with my stellar singing ability here for a minute. As hilarious as that image probably is, try to feel some sympathy for me since after the Lemon-Lime Gu, I spent the next 4 miles urping it back up for repeat performances. Not nice at all. If I'm going to have to taste things more than once, I prefer chocolate, thank-you very much!
You're probably all wondering how I feel about the long runs I'm doing since I don't really mention those any differently than I do the short (in comparison) runs, right? I think I must be a truly warped human being because the truth of the matter is that I am thoroughly enjoying the long runs much more than the short runs. I know I have often been told that I am mental but this probably seals the deal. And I have been experimenting with ways to make the short runs more palatable. In general, it takes me almost 2 miles to stop looking like I'm the stunt double for the tin man from The Wizard of Oz. I don't know why I can't loosen up any sooner than that, even with stretching, but I have yet to find a way. So the farther I go, the looser and happier my joints seem to become. Of course, I must also admit my shortest runs of the week are the morning following the long runs so I'm likely still recovering from those when I wobble out there. I'm also generally recovering from some sort of excess on Sunday morning--sleep deprivation, an evening at the bar, or even just a massive "I made it that far" ice-cream sundae--which doesn't help. I will say that the night I was out very late and didn't get much sleep actually made for the easiest short run the next day. Perhaps there hadn't been time for every muscle in this aging body to clench up in protest against any further mileage. I might just test this theory again this weekend! ::grin::
I have to test all my running theories up here where I run alone because I am apparently beyond gross when I've been running, which isn't nice for a running partner to endure. Charlotte is much hotter and much more humid than Northern Michigan for sure but I don't know that it makes a significant difference in the odiferous end result that follows my runs. It's probably a good thing that I come in in the boat alone and go home in the boat alone after the runs if my long run in Charlotte is anything to go by. Since I don't know Charlotte yet, when I was down there, D. drove me to the long run and dropped me off while he went to the gym for his workout. He was finished long before I was and spent some quality time sitting in Panera using their free wi-fi while I finished up. Once he figured I'd had enough time, he came over to the Team in Training group and chivvied me along to the car. I wasn't quite ready to leave (hadn't stretched, was still talking, etc.) so it served him right to have to get in the car with my smelly self. He hopped in, closed the door, and then looked over at me in horror, throwing open the window and announcing: "You stink!" Well, duh! But I guess that means I should stop doing my runs up here and then following them up with errands that bring me into direct contact with other people who have even the slightest sense of smell. Might have to shower and change before I hit Cedarville Foods from now on (especially if I'm in one of my wet t-shirts)!
In all my solitary runs up here, I have come across quite a few deer grazing by the sides of the road. Normally they raise their heads and stare their liquid brown stares before finally deciding that they should turn tail and run. It is sort of embarrassing how long they stare at me plodding slowly up the road at them before they think it prudent to leap gracefully off but today's run took the cake. Not only did I see a deer, but this one clearly thought the goofy looking two-legged thing making its way down the road at a snail's pace was absolutely no threat at all because this deer didn't even deign to run off! It literally poised itself for flight and then thought better of it as it stood and watched me run past it close enough so that I could have reached out and patted it on the head (yes, it didn't even turn tail!) as I went past. I didn't look back after I passed it because I didn't want the knowledge that I was so lead of foot that I was absolutely no threat at all and that it had stopped watching me and gone back to placidly grazing beside the road.
I also need to mention the serious torture I put myself through when I run. It is truly cruel and unusual treatment to be forced to run past a bakery emitting lovely morning smells each and every morning. Worse yet, on the long runs, since I run through two different towns, I get to run past two equally lovely smelling bakeries. It takes every last ounce of willpower I have to keep running instead of stopping and indulging. And if the bakeries aren't enough, I have duly noted all the houses I plan to stop in for breakfast some day. Some people obviously make a consistently wonderful, full breakfast, in direct contrast to the serve yourself cereal thing at our house. Do you think the inhabitants would think it weird if I knocked on their door one morning to introduce myself and invite myself in?!
And now to the ultimate runner's indignity: pooping your pants. (I warned you this one was graphic!) I had always heard that running would help get your system moving and while I knew this to be a truism, I never did understand the people who were so terribly concerned about where every bathroom around their route was or worried desperately about pooing themselves. I mean, I don't really push my body that hard that I'd lose all control of my bowels, right? Well, yes and no. I was out on the 12 mile run this past weekend and I was cooking along at just under 10 minute miles, which is a pace that I am completely and happily comfortable with over the long haul (once I get through that first 3 miles). All of a sudden though, I had to poo and I had to do it NOW! Given that I was in the middle of nowhere (remember the deserted road with the vertebrae on the side of it?), this was not a happy thought. I tried running a bit further, although just where I thought I was going to conjure a porta-john out of the blue, I don't know, but it was quickly obvious that any further clearly wasn't going to be an option. So I crashed into the woods, scrabbled at my shorts and barely averted a disaster. However, I had bolted into an area lacking in good leafy cover for clean-up so I gathered what I could find and did the best I could. I was, at this point, only 8 miles into my 12 miles so I was less than pleased about the state of my rear as I resumed my run. Wouldn't you know that two miles later, I had to go again--IMMEDIATELY. Off into the woods I scooted again. Not that I had the forethought to look (because when you are concentrating so hard on keeping everything slammed shut there's no room for other thoughts), but I lucked out and chose a much better area in terms of leaves. I can now tell you which leaves are most comfortable on sensitive hind-ends and which have tickly little fur on their stems and should therefore be avoided at all costs. I am sad to say I can also now understand why some cultures think it impolite to shake hands using the hand you use to wipe your bottom. Gack! I didn't want to touch my water bottle or my Gu after my little wilderness excursion so it was a darned good thing that the run was almost done. As bad as all that was, there was more indignity to be had. When I got home and hopped in the shower, I discovered that 4 miles post potty stop was too long for my poor bottom. It was chafed beyond all belief and the hot water from the shower actually *hurt* it. If you are laughing at this point, know that someday I might be able to join you but for now, I have to live with the memory of smearing some rather delicate, rubbed raw bits, with bag balm and that's just no laughing matter. Too bad my sister had gone home with her small children and their diaper rash ointment. That would at least have been slightly less mortifying (I think).
I know I've made training for this sound like such fun you all want to hop out there and join me, right? I have my longest run ever on Saturday if anyone is up for the challenge. That'll be 14 miles for those keeping track. I've never done that before as the half marathon at 13.1 miles is as far as I've ever gone. So think of me out there at the crack of dawn, probably sporting a wet t-shirt, with the unimpressed wildlife staring at me as I hit an all-time high distance, hopefully without needing a non-existent bathroom.