Thursday, July 28, 2016

Further Thoughts On The Running

I have thoughts to add to my previous thoughts on the self-torture that is The Running.

Since posting that last one, I have:

Finished the 5K trainer app
Actually run (very slowly) an actual 5K
Finished the 10K trainer app
But have not yet run 10K

And over the months, some things have changed. Here are some additional little insights:

--If you are doing hills, firstly, you poor thing. Secondly, don't try to go slow on the downhill. It's actually more work. Just fall, and let your feet keep up with you. It will hurt less, and as an added bonus, you will go faster.

--If you are bringing water with you when you run, I highly recommend tossing a tablespoon of lemon juice in your water bottle. Don't even need sugar: just water and lemon is very nice on a dry throat.

--If your brain tells you these words: "Surely we can get this run in before that storm hits", go inside and stay there, you idiot.

But there's one variable that I had not yet encountered at last posting, and it needs to be addressed at some length. I speak, of course, of HEAT.

Formerly, we spoke of cold. Cold is very unpleasant, and a powerful deterrent to doing The Running. But Heat is a different monster entirely. Heat will probably not send you screaming back indoors--at least not at first. Heat is so pleasant-looking. It's bright and blue and cheerful. And it isn't even a little bit cold! How lovely!

I first encountered Heat at the beginning of April. Following my own wise counsel to never run the same route twice, I decided I would start from my place of employment and run through downtown Moorhead and over the pretty bridge up there into downtown Fargo. It was bright and sunny and cheerful outside. All was well.

Except it wasn't.

The thing about most downtowns is: there are no trees.

This is also a major design flaw of most bridges.

By the time I reached my turnaround point, I was gasping like a dying fish. Not because I was running any faster than I'd run last time, or very much farther--It was just the Heat. Weaseling into my lungs and skin and brain and slowly shutting everything down.

About seven minutes from the end of my run, a luckless friend called me.

"Luckless Friend," I gasped, "Tell me . . . a story!"

"What, right now?" asked Luckless Friend.

"YES! Any . . . story. Just . . . keep . . . talking."

Luckless Friend's phone call was much longer than anticipated as the poor faithful soul recounted to me an entirely improvised tale of discovering a ladder to Hell to keep me distracted from my imminent demise. I could relate, as I dragged my only semi-functional body through the last few minutes of torturous, listless jogging. Then I gave my frantic thanks to Luckless Friend, returned to my place of employment, and sat in the break room for twenty minutes sucking on ice cubes until I was reasonably sure I wouldn't vomit all over the inside of my car.

Because yes, Heat will make you vomit. It will do all kinds of nasty things to you, subtle things that you think you can muscle through and are probably just your imagination. They are not. Cold is unpleasant, yes, but when it comes to the Running, heat is downright dangerous.

So if you engage in the Running in a season or location that is susceptible to Heat, please heed this wise counsel:

--First: Do not play chicken with Heat. Do not convince yourself you are tough enough to beat it. You are not. That sun of ours isn't a very big star, in the grand scheme of things, but it is still much bigger than you and is not intimidated by your posturing. You are flammable. Don't forget it.

--Try altering the time of your Running. Go early in the morning or late in the evening. I've discovered that putting my midpoint right at sunset is very useful and comfortable. If you sleep through your early morning and are busy in your late evening, do NOT try running somewhere in the middle of the day anyway. Don't do it. Not safe.

--Find shade. If you have tree-rich neighborhoods, wild forests, river trails, go for those. Again, this is not you being a sissy: this is you having a teaspoonful of common sense.

--Try migrating indoors. No, not on a running track: those are insanely boring (round and round and round) and are populated by Spandex-wearing runny-people. Go for a treadmill instead. Treadmills are kind of weird. The whole "the floor is moving" thing is pretty disorienting, and will make you fall over if you think about it too hard. And treadmills give you WAY too much information about how far you've run and how fast you're going. But they are a space of sacred isolation: no one will challenge you to a friendly race on a treadmill. You can watch a show or something. Put a piece of paper over all the numbers, turn on the X-Files, and chug along. It's dull, but survivable.

--Accept that even with these precautions, sweat will ooze out of every orifice of your skin and make you disgusting all over, no matter how easy you're taking it on yourself. Drink much water. Do much laundry. Embrace the gross.

--Cut yourself some slack. If Heat causes you to miss some runs or cut runs short, GOOD. You should not be out raising your body temperature in that crap. Keep yourself out of the hospital and you can get back to your mighty Running Schedule of Doom (if you have one) when autumn settles in.

--Sunscreen. Duh.

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