Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Over the River and Through the Woods...

There's a scene toward the end of Braveheart where everybody's favorite belligerent is kneeling before the magistrate waiting for his sentence.  When Wallace says nothing, the magistrate dooms, "Then on the 'morrow you shall receive your purification."

That's how my last two runs have felt.  I have only myself to blame.  

My wife and I celebrated our five year anniversary over the weekend with killer seats to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  While the concert was typical Tom Petty, "raising hell and causing chaos," as he said at the first show I saw him in, I decided that the best way to carboload for the week would be to drink more beer than I typically consume on a weekend, let alone one night.  I woke to a searing headache on Monday morning with a nice bout of nausea, and my best laid plans to take the day off went to waste as I had to come into work for a three hour meeting in the afternoon.  

I made it my mission to gulp down as much water as I could throughout the day to get some semblance of hydration back because the calendar called for 6x800m, and the weatherman called for a 90 degree afternoon with that life-sucking caveat that it would feel like 99.  

Sure, I could have skipped the workout, postponed it for a day, but it's not like I was muddling through the lost middle weeks of a training program.  No, instead, it was week 1, day 1, workout 1 of my Army Ten Miler program.  I couldn't take a pass on the first day.

I started having flashbacks to the summer before my freshman year in college, when I dutifully followed the workout plan given to me by the Holy Cross trainer to get us ready to hit the ice when I got up to school.  I had slacked off somewhat during a week when I was entertaining a visitor.  Sleep deprived and exhausted, I said good bye, turned around, and my dad was holding his car keys and stopwatch.  "We're going to the track," he said.  "Get changed."  I slunk away, back rounded, and eyes wearing the heavy burden of defeat, to pull on some shorts and lace up.  And boy did I slog through those two mile repeats in that mad Virginia summer.  That was a workout from about 10 years ago and I still haven't forgotten it.

I wouldn't say I suffered through those intervals yesterday, but I certainly sweat out any remnants that lingered from the night before.  It was nearly the detox run of all detox runs.  Nevertheless, I shook off the early sluggishness and found my body settling in to the pace it should have been running at: 2:37s quickly replaced by 2:32s and 2:30s.

Today, I feared more of the same.  I postponed my normal Tuesday meet up with my running partner to Wednesday morning so I could gain at least another hour of sleep.  Of course, that meant grinding out what was supposed to be an easy five miler in the sweltering heat.  

I decided to take my five miler into the woods for a trail run.  I hoped that running under the canopy of trees on the Fairfax Cross County Trail would provide some shade and knock a degree or two off the thermometer.  Things progressed pretty well in the beginning.  But the fatigue came on like a heavy blanket, the accumulation of not sleeping, skipping an afternoon snack today, and not eating enough at lunch.  Essentially, the theme of this week has been bad decisions.  

The sweat flung off me while I dodged roots, jumped over fallen trees, and tramped through the creek.  I was exhausted.  But there was something purifying about it as well.  Something about flying through the woods, soaked to the bone from both sweat and water, to cleanse the spirit. 

I clicked my watch to end the run, let out a long exhale, and savored the empty, hollowness that comes with summer running.  The sharp smell of ammonia filled my nostrils, further proof that I hadn't eaten properly today, but I knew it was only a short drive home to recover...the right way.   Hoping today was the last day of my purification.

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