It ranks as surely my absolute worst run ever. So far, at least.
Insane distance? Check.
Cold temperatures? Check.
Wind off the lake? Check.
Chafing issues? Check.
Detour to the woods? Check.
Running shirtless because of chafing issues and developing the beginnings of hypothermia because of the wind, rain and cold? Check.
The only good thing that can be said about my run yesterday is that I finished.
I’m at that stage in training for a marathon where the distances for my weekly ‘long run’ are simply staggering. Yesterday, it was twenty-one miles. That’s 21. That’s seven three-mile runs strung together. That’s running all the way from the village of Crozet where I live to the university town of Charlottesville, and then turning around and running back. It’s crazy. It takes me thirty minutes to make that trip in a car!
I’ve been on the western outskirts of Minneapolis, MN for a workshop. I’ve run here before, and I was looking forward to this run, mainly because it is fall and my route takes me along the shores of Lake Minnetonka for a good part of my run. I had prepared as well as I have for my other runs. A ‘Powerade’ drop and a second water drop at 8 and 16 miles respectively. I also had a package of ‘Chomps’, my go-to energy food on these runs. The forecast called for 50s and sunshine after a morning of clouds and showers. I was planning on starting at 2:30 pm. I had done 20.7 miles last week, so I was pretty sure I could do the distance. So I was set. So I thought.
Three factors worked against me. I’m still trying to figure out what to do about chafing under my arms (I’ve solve my earlier problem of chafing on my inner thighs with compression shorts). Having trained in the summer, the normal way of coping with chafing has been to run without a shirt. Yesterday, because of the cool temperatures, I did not sweat nearly as much as I normally do. But the several showers I passed through served to create enough friction that by mile 13 I was really starting to hurt. When I could hold out no longer, I divested myself of my shirt and carried on, greatly relieved in terms of the chafing, but this exacerbated the second factor working against me – the cold and wet.
The forecast turned out to be wrong. No sun. Scattered showers instead. I was ok as long as it wasn’t windy or raining. But the wind off the lake really chilled me, which I found interesting as I was jogging along. By this time I had taken off my shirt and tucked it into my belt. I am pretty sure that I was the only shirtless guy outside anywhere in the whole state of Minnesota yesterday afternoon. I passed through several light showers – mile 5, mile 8, mile 14, mile 16, mile 18 and 19. By the time I got to my last mile and a half, the rain was pretty steady and I was pretty wet. And cold. So cold that by the time I finished and made it back to where I was staying, I was shaking pretty badly. A long hot shower helped. But after that was over, I was still shivering for a while. That was pretty miserable.
A third factor that worked against me was not only the late hour I started out (I usually run in the early morning), it was after an intense and draining morning at the workshop I was attending. I ran emotionally depleted, and it affected me physically, especially the last four miles or so.
So I’m learning lots as I push myself beyond anything I have ever done. First, I have to keep experimenting on ways to keep my body away from injury. Getting hit by a car or having one’s knee blow out are obvious game-enders. But even seemingly small things like a shirt rubbing a patch of skin raw can cause serious problems. Note to self – try petroleum jelly or something like it. Other runners write about the difference it makes.
Secondly, I have running shorts and running shirts. These serve me well when the weather is good. But I don’t have adequate clothing if I find myself on the road in adverse conditions, like I did yesterday. Some marathon runners talk about wearing a trash bag in the rain. Somehow, shirtless me in a trash bag splashing down the road in a downpour is a picture I’ve not anticipated. And maybe I should.
Thirdly, I will not deny that my training this past 6 months has been a great help in giving me something positive to focus on in the midst of what have been some very trying circumstances. But I guess I’ve learned that it works both ways. Running helps give me clarity to face the opportunities and trials of the day. But those trials can also affect performance, not just in running but across the board. I guess I need to make sure that I have healthy ways of coping and a healthy community to be there for me. Running has been a part of that so far. I do need to be careful that running inadvertently doesn’t become part of my problem, a way that I avoid dealing with the challenges I face. As one prone to addiction, I understand how easily running could become just another drug.
So I’ve run 21.5 miles. 4.7 miles shy of a marathon. And I’m learning lots. And not just about running.