Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cleansing the Spirit

Runningchick6560 had it right yesterday when she posted on my blog, "I'm ready to put the Thanksgiving gluttony behind us."  My wife expressed a similar sentiment this morning, vowing to rid our fridge of all the Thanksgiving leftovers, because her 5-milers simply weren't cutting it.  No, pardon the pun, we'd have to go...cold turkey.  I also reached my limit, though mine came last night.  We drove out to a friends' house for dinner and Rock Band, and I inwardly gasped in horror when they brought out their Thanksgiving leftovers for us to gorge on.  Don't get me wrong, they were delicious, but the food baby had returned, and my turkey counter clicked once more making it four meals in a row involving Thanksgiving-related food.

Two detox runs in a row, except today's called for a 100-minute run (70 mins at 65-70%, 25 mins of intervals - 30sec on 120sec recovery, 5-minute jog).  I had no idea what my body had in store for me, but I can say that at 9:00 when I woke, the puffiness in my face and otherwise lethargic feeling that consumed me down to my bones, gave me a pretty good indication.  

I had thoughts of just going out from the house and running my 12-mile loop with a few extra loops around my neighborhood to make up for the extra time. Then I thought about going out to the Battlefield.  But yesterday, my wife drove over to the Fairfax Cross County Trail for her 5-miler.  This is a trail she and I have used over the summer for some easy runs.  I used it to build strength back up after hurting my IT band (again) prior to the Army Ten-Miler, namely because the opening stretch is pretty flat and the surface is forgiving on my joints.

Plus, I haven't done a trail run in quite some time, and while I thought of today as a detox run, I decided to rebrand it as a cleansing run.  A good friend of mine and I met up in Vegas over the summer and did a week long hiking, camping trip.  One of our stops was Zion National Park (see profile picture) and I came across the following quote that we embraced as our mantra for the week: 
"Break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean."
And so it was with that in mind that I laced up and set out to, not only complete my long run, but "wash my spirit clean."  

The day could not have been more perfect for it.  Under a wind-washed sky, I took off down the dirt trail, breathing in the crisp November air, and leaving everything else behind.  Trail runs always evoke in me a savageness that running along a highway lacks.  You're getting in touch with that primal side of yourself, bounding through woods like a predator after its prey or calling on the flight instinct to run for your life.  I stomped through puddles, kicked up mud from three days of rain on the back of my legs, and grimaced at the branches clawing at my shoulders.  

I also discovered that the flat 2-miles of trail I ran on prior to the Army Ten-Miler are an anomaly.  For about a quarter mile, my quads burned on a particularly rugged set of switchbacks that brought me up and over a slight mountain.  Then there was the straight uphill climb that chopped up my stride and brought me nearly to using my hands to help myself up.  The trail follows a creek that carves through the Fairfax woods, and at one point, I snuck up on a pack of deer that had wandered down.  They ran what seemed like parallel to me for a short time before breaking off into their own savage run.  

I mean running with deer? This was truly the perfect run.  And I really embraced that primal instinct during the intervals.  In 30-second  increments, I took off and tore down the trail, as the hunter, as the hunted, I'm not sure which.

When I clicked my watch and walked back up to the car, between the trees that poked out like thin spires against the naked sky, my body felt empty, completely exhausted, and even...cleansed.  

Back at the house, that satisfying emptiness turned into ravaging hunger.  I opened up the fridge and made...a tuna sandwich.

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