Monday, August 2, 2010

What a Difference a Couple Degrees Makes

Nearing the halfway point of my 12-miler on Saturday, I was somewhere along the point of my loop I refer to as the bacon strip.  I ditched my singlet at mile four and felt completely unencumbered.  My wife rode along side me, donning a backpack with, yes, my four-miles-worth-of-sweat singlet, and a couple water bottles for her and I to share.  The sun was out.  The air was cool.  And I just flowed along.

The bacon strip's final summit came into view and rose up and over it.  Something, again, seemed different.  The normal chest-burning, sweat stinging, total exhaustion that I had come to know on runs lasting longer than three miles this summer didn't come.  Sure, I braced for it.  Waited for that agony where you have to dig down deep just to keep your legs turning over and fight the overwhelming instinct to walk.  It never came.  

I turned to my wife and said, "This is gonna be a good one today."  

I built this run up all week.  I hadn't done anything over seven miles since the 4th of July.  A weekend of camping, a weekend of nursing a spasming lower back, a 5K, and humidity so thick that the trees had least in my eyes they did.  That's what I faced in July.  And I saw my grand plans of developing speed whilst maintaining a solid distance base melting away.

Some call if false fitness.  Others say that the body remembers.  Whatever the case, I smoked that 12 miler on Saturday.  The pace was such that my wife and I made plans for the rest of the day, for Sunday, and for our upcoming 5-year anniversary all during the run. The time simply flew by as fast as a 12 mile run can go.  

And while I mentally prepared/worried myself about this run all week, I knew the grand factor would of course be the temperature.  We came off of the hottest race we'd ever run in...a grueling 100 degree 5K the week prior, plus the aforementioned "halo-tree incident."  I get that Virginia is supposed to be warm in the summers.  And I also get that there are those out there reading this and playing sad songs for me, knowing that they go out and do it in hotter weather than I.  Seventeen or so odd days of 90 degree plus weather is a big deal here!

Alas, with this dread in mind, I monitored, the 10-day forecast, and as soon as it came into view, the hour-by-hour.  I thought my eyes had deceived me.  Certainly, in the last week of July, it must be some mistake: 66 low/81 high.  81!  That meant that I could even sleep in and still get out in some better weather.  I couldn't believe it until it happened, however.  After all, I fought through thunderstorms that rolled in like sets of waves on Thursdays.  Each mile repeat I squeezed in between storms.  The humidity became unbearable.  I dropped four pounds of water weight.  

After we moved past the bacon strip, my legs started turning over faster, naturally.  Didn't have to force the pace.  It just happened.  And so it went like this for the remainder of the loop.  We remarked that it actually seemed cool enough to feel like fall.  But let's not get carried away...we can dream.

As I returned to the track today, I cranked out 600s, 400s, 200s, and 100s completely drenched.  Indeed, the weekend proved only a brief respite from the heat.  But, what a difference a couple degrees can make.  Only five days until Saturday.

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