I’ve done this run so many times that I have it dialed. I thought yesterday afternoon about today’s run… trying to think of a new loop. Not the downtown loop again.
I know exactly how to run it – drop to the river, run the flats and then climb back out of a hole to get home. Strategically it suits me with a fast descending start. I can race the descent and bank my average for the suck that comes at mile 6. Up up. I’ve had the wheels come off on the flats on certain days… my form starts to waiver… if I’m listening to music – nothing sounds good. My stomach hurts… my hamstring feels weird… is that pain in my ankle there… or no? The demons start to creep in… “slow your roll man. Big ups are coming… conserve… the doubt… the fear”. Fighting the demons and digging deep… a topic for another post.
If I want to go longer than 5 miles I either need to drop down the backside of Mt. Tabor and out and back on the 205 trail… keeping an eye out for meth heads or human misery jingling along the trail – bottles and cans in a shopping cart, or run through downtown into the west hills – combining my work lunch run with my commute run. I find it easier to link 2 familiar routes together than to run an entirely new route. The 16 mile enchainment earlier in the year that included going up and over council crest was just a linkup of 3 lunch runs plus my run commute. I’ll do that one again once the weather gets a little better. It was 17 degrees when I left this morning. How much to I want to suffer this morning? A little or a lot?
I procrastinated for as long as I could this morning. I sat around reading the paper, sipping coffee… some water… at a certain point it becomes quite ridiculous – there is no rational way to convince myself to keep procrastinating. It becomes unbearable. I always seem to misplace my keys when I’m in this state – it’s a subconscious hijack. Who hid my keys? I did.
I was thinking.. it’s really cold… this is going to suck. And then realized that’s not a helpful way to think about the task soon to be underway. A quote I always return to is from Alex Lowe, whom I had the pleasure of meeting on two occasions. To paraphrase… “at a certain point – there is nothing left to do but get after it”. Then there is the switch. The decision is made and I buckle up. Flow control has been handed over. Did I make that decision… or was it someone else? Does it even matter?
When I was in high school, I used to run looking down at my feet – I have this memory of running before the sun came up through the nice neighborhood next to ours, the sodium street lights glowing yellow and there I am…staring down at my shoes. That thought creeps in when my form starts to fall apart. There was just a hint of it today, right at the end of the run – I sensed it more than felt it. I was close to home and just as an mental exercise redoubled my focus on form – lengthened my stride, swung my arms more than felt normal.
I think this is the greatest lesson from running. After a certain period of time things always fall apart. With practice and experience, you get better at noticing the subtle indicators. And you deal. And each time you get better.