Sunday, January 28, 2007

Not Excused

Saturday it was 12 degrees or something here in Minneapolis. -1 or something with the windchill, a 10mph thing with fangs coming from the north, as it always seems to. My wife was out and about for lunch, and when she came home she found me working in my office. "Babe," she said, breathless. "You cannot go running today. It's freezing out there." That morning I'd helped my friend Ben run a few errands, standing outside while we loaded my car with some stuff. And she was right - it was friggin' nuts. The kind of cold that hurts. That kind that makes a person a little pissed off, just that it's possible it could be that cold. The kind of cold that makes me think that when Minnesota was settled, I imagine it was in the summertime, when it's as beautiful as anywhere on earth. I can't imagine why, when that first winter came, they didn't say, "But, too bad we can't stay."

But I had 5 miles on the agenda, and whattryagonnado? It's cold. Well that sucks, but the world can't stop. And you know what I thought of about it being too cold to run? When Ben and I were loading up the car at one stop, some kids were playing hockey at an outdoor rink across the way. And on our way back home, I saw a dude running on the side of the road. So, precedence was set: if somebody's out there doing it, then I might as well be out there too.

And it was cold. I felt like Ralphie's little brother Randy with how bundled up I was. I had 3 layers on my head, 5 layers on my upper body, 2 layers on my legs, 2 sets of gloves. It's a wonder I could even move. I tried to keep a slower, steady pace this weekend - I think part of why I haven't felt my running has been going terribly well is that I've been trying to go too fast, for some reason. Not appreciating that it's early in the season, and that it's base training time, not speed time. So I just went out nice and easy. And you know - I felt really good. True, I couldn't feel my face, but generally I felt pretty solid out there. No major fading. I tried to keep a natural 10:00 pace, and I was actually really consistent. It felt good. It felt, dare I, a little like progress.

Today, Sunday: Even colder. 9 degrees, -5 or something with windchill, 7mph out of the north. By the way, on my regular route, I spend about the first 2 miles headed due north. I had a lot of work to do today, and I also saw a movie with Amy and Mike that I've been meaning to see for awhile. And the cold was sinister. It was 3:30 before I was ready to get organized for a run, and I had 9 miles on tap today - my longest so far this season. And the way I've been running lately, I didn't know if 9 miles was even doable. That meant I'd be running at least half of my time in the dark, which is never ideal, though I don't really mind it.

Remember in college, when you had homework to do for Monday's class, but after a serious weekend of not studying you put it off all day Sunday, then into the night to hang out with friends, or go on a date, or do nothing at all, all the while justifying not doing your homework? And then 11:30 or so would roll around, and maybe you'd order some late night pizza, and around midnight on a Sunday night you'd finally get your shit together for something you had due for your 1:00 Monday class. Only then maybe your roommate or some buddies, also up late, come over to chill or share your pizza, and pretty soon it's 12:30 or 1:00, and so you think - you know what? If I get up early, I can still make this happen. So you stay up doing nothing at all until 2:00am or something, thinking that in the morning you'll really nail this thing down, no more bullshit, I'm serious. Only then you're so tired in the morning that - you know what? I don't care about this 9:00am psych class anyway. I think I'm hitting snooze through that one. And around 11:00, with 2 morning classes skipped, you finally crack open that book. OR, you don't. You never do. You actually call the professor for that 1:00 class with your best sicky, thicky voice and leave him a voicemail about how sick you've been all weekend (cough away from the phone), and how you hope there's something you can do (ahhh-choo! excuse me) to make up this test/paper/assignment/field trip/lab exercise/whatever. Or or or, you call and tell him you've been out of town all weekend and dammit, your fuel line froze, and you won't be back until tomorrow. Wait - you have the class again Wednesday - why the hell not buy another day? You'll probably be able to get back on the road in time for class on Wednesday, depends on what the mechanic has to say. They have to order the part, I guess, so I'm stranded here another day at least. Sigh. I sure appreciate your undertanding and flexibility, though. That way you've just bought yourself another day off if you need it. Kickass. And this all started because on Sunday night, you found a zillion excuses why you didn't want to open that book. When really, opening that book in the first place would not have been such a big deal.

Wait. You did do this, yes? It wasn't only me?

Excuses are epidemic. Like walking in a marathon. You do it once, it's easier to do it again and again.

For a second, that was me this afternoon. I thought - I have solid reasons not to go out for 9 miles in this cold. No really (he said, pleading with himself to listen), if I lay this all out for you, you won't think I'm a lazy puke for not putting on 15 layers and going running for an hour and a half. I did, for a second, begin to whine a bit about all the reasons Why I Should Not Go Running Today. Including how tomorrow's a cross training day, so I'll just do the run then.

You know - some days, you need an impromptu day off. Some days it's better for the mind and body if you skip a workout. Hell, a week's worth. The endurance athlete is a strong but sometimes fragile machine, and only the operator can know best what he needs. This wasn't one of those times. This was really because it was cold. And getting late. And cold. And you know, I don't even know if my stuff is dry in the dryer from yesterday. And I didn't probably eat enough carbs today, I'll probably bonk. And, well -

The only thing to do with it was to go put my clothes on. And still the nagging, even with my shoes on. Probably it's too cold for the iPod. I wonder if GU explodes in this cold? You'd have GU all over yourself, you know, and that's a sticky situation. Ha ha.

So I put on my jacket - my FINISHER jacket - because it's warm, and covered that with a Nike windbreaker that actually has lights built in (but it's probably too dark, and when the sun is gone it'll be even more cold) and I headed to the front door. Amy was concerned, asking where I was going and how long I'd be gone, because babe it's too cold, then she laughed and said I looked like snowman with clothes on, and then I headed out the door.

And the voice stopped, because there was no point to it. And it didn't even come back after mile 6, when I reached to my Fuelbelt for a drink and the damn flask was frozen solid. Which was a first for me. And I had a solid 9 miles. Easy breezy, no drama. 10:09 pace, finishing the last mile strong in the mid 9:00's. 25 days after starting the season, I'm already up to 9 miles. Last year at this time, I think I hadn't gone more than 4 or 5 miles. And strangely, on the most unkind days I think I've ever run, I had my best workouts of the year. Like I said just a few days ago - a difference between that run and this run, when something changes. Crazy. Had I skipped them entirely? Who knows? But I didn't, so I do know, and that's something.

So now, just before heading up to bed, I have that kind of tired that comes from fresh air and long miles. My body is the right kind of weary. I'm 14 miles further down the road. And I have that nice sense of accomplishment that comes from knowing that a thing got done. A good feeling. A good day.


TxSkatemom said...

you are hardcore. I can't even imagine being somewhere so cold that your fuel belt freezes. Yikes.

and, no, i *never* did that in college.... OK, maybe once. twice, max...

Todd said...

Well done! It's only going to get colder for about the next week. I will continue to pound the rubber until prolly March. I'm weak like that. Stay warm buddy!