Saturday, July 18
I’m starting to get the feeling that I’ve got a pretty good shot at completing an Ironman. If I can only survive the actual Ironman training.
The weather has settled down into a classic DC summer. Which is to say, hot, humid, uncomfortable, unrelenting. And the long-term forecast has it staying that way basically forever.
Today we had a long run on tap, 18 miles or 2.75 hours, whichever comes first. There was a team run taking place but I opted for a solo run. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the companionships on the long runs and rides especially; it is one of the main reasons I joined Team Z. But I’ve found in the past that long solo runs are an important training component. For all the team support that may be in evidence in a given race, your team-mates can’t actually run the thing for you. One of the hardest things about endurance events is that you may have a ton of people around you but you are fundamentally, finally, alone. On race day you can be a long time inside your own head so it pays to get familiar with what it looks like inside there. You might want to trim back some of the foliage. Maybe erect some fences to control the wandering livestock.
So I headed off to Burke Lake, one of my favorite running locations: light trail running and plenty of shade. There was only one slight problem. It was cripplingly hot and humid. By the end of the first 4.5 mile loop around the lake I was absolutely drenched. Running under the trees made me feel as if I was being smothered. Turns out some other Zers had had the same idea to visit the lake but they didn’t look any happier than I did.
I ran two loops of the lake, nine miles, and then went back to the car to refill my fuel belt bottles. I also grabbed some ice and jammed it down the front and back of my shirt. I started running again and one of the ice cubes worked its way all the way down my back, into my shorts, and then kept descending until it lodged under one butt cheek. Exercise has introduced me to a whole range of new bodily sensations over the years–Mary and I are still debating whether pulling on a pair of freshly buttered bike shorts is worse in warm or cold weather–but having an ice block stuck to my arse was a new one. It was nice for a few seconds, but then one whole side of my butt began gradually to go numb.
I was about to stick a hand down my shorts to rectify matters when I was suddenly aware that there were quite a few people around! (Popular place, Burke Lake; despite the torrid conditions it was lousy with bikers, hikers, and the usual crop of anorexic high school running team girls.) Sometimes I have to remind myself that not everyone shares triathletes’ willingness to adjust, fiddle with, rearrange, massage themselves, and otherwise engage in all manner of locker-room/bedroom behavior in public.
It was on the third loop that things went tits up. My HR began to climb with every mile, my pace dropped, my legs began to ache (which actually doesn’t happen a lot to me on shorter runs). It may simply have been my body screaming at me: “I did two races for you last weekend! What the hell are you doing to me you POS!” My shoes were as wet and squishy as if I had run through a river.
I finished the loop, and then called it. Two and a half hours. Just under a measly 14 miles. But I just didn’t have another 15 minutes in me. I tried hard not to think of the workout as a failure, reminding myself about the 100 mile bike ride on the cards for the next day. What was a major failure was the Strawberry Recoverite, a free race sample that I thought I would check out. Good lord, it tasted like sick. I’m surprised it hasn’t been outlawed as cruel and unusual punishment. On the plus side, adding Nuun to my water produced no untoward gastrointestinal results, although I do need to leave it a bit longer to allow the fizz to dissipate.
I went home, dreading what the next day would bring.