Sunday, December 29, 2013

on the joys of running uphill in the rain

I’ve been walking a lot lately for some reason. Suiting up, and heading out the door. rain or shine. At some point, I think it was in the second week of trying to get a half hour walk in more-or-less every day, in addition to whatever running was on the agenda, my feet and lower legs started yelling at me.

It was hard to point out exactly what the problem was: my muscles didn’t seem particularly tight, crampy, or strained in any way. But it hurt like hell to stand or walk around the kitchen in the evenings. My intuition was of a sort of sickly yellow-green color filling up my lower legs. After a day of rest, these sensations would go away. Then that stopped happening, but a new thing cropped up: I’d get chilled in the evenings, a couple of hours after coming in from 20 degrees in the snow, and I couldn’t seem to warm up. Eventually I realized that the rain pants I’d been wearing hadn’t quite done the job, and that I was wearing (unbeknownst to me) slightly wet-around-the-calves jeans. So I fixed that. And then I kicked into a new gear. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been going out walking for at least an hour a day.

The funny thing is is that my brain, which used to kick and scream at the mere thought of a walk (“BORING!”) (beach walks being an exception) has found its bliss in these rambles. Now that my feet and ankles (generally my weak spot) have toughened up, my brain is synchronizing itself to the habit of long bouts of continuous movement. I find I can think about anything on these walks. I can daydream. I can analyze my neighbors according to their taste in shrubbery. I can reacquaint myself with the subtle shift northwards of the sun along the ridge each afternoon as the days lengthen. I can ruminate. I can grieve, and let go of what’s done and gone. Nothing is off-limits, and because all there is to do is walk, I can keep focused for longer, and get shit done, in my head.

And in the meantime, I churn through the miles, nodding at the passing cars, getting to know which stands of trees are where, where do the birds congregate, which neighbor has a Virgin Mary statue hidden in plain sight in a grove of rhododendron.

This walking: it seems to knit my body, mind, and soul together, just as good long runs do.

And speaking of runs, today needed to be a running day – and it needed to be longer than three miles.

Alas, it was raining. Cold rain. The best kind.

I couldn’t skip – I’d already sacrificed a couple of runs in favor of walks, so hot was this new-found affair. I observed myself with fascination as I suited up – heavy gauge tights and light-weight wind pants – what if I get cold? maybe I should just go for a short walk instead – long-sleeve tech tee – shit, my feet are going to get wet – long-sleeve, absurdly expensive Smartwool “garment” from EMS – I can’t just walk, I won’t generate enough heat to stay warm – wind-block fleece – I HAVE to run – wind anorak – hell, let’s just get out there and see what happens, wool balaclava, neck fleece thingy, wool hat, heavy-duty gloves. I knew I’d get soaked, but I figured I’d be moving enough to stay warm.

The actual rain itself turned out to be a pleasant, cool sensation – not a problem at all. My gear was fine and I was warm; my feet and calves were as happy as could be, because of all the miles I’d been doing. My toes, wet as they were, informed me that they were happier than a pig in shit. My thighs were a little surprised to be called into action, but they rallied. But lo, the heart and lungs! I had lost some conditioning. This was a bit humbling. Right around here is when I started climbing a hill. Ooof. Much more of this and I will be actually panting. Or maybe even gasping. Won’t that be fun. A thought drifted through my mind, a thought reminiscent of ancient patterning. It had big air quotes around it, so I knew it didn’t even take itself too seriously.

 I suck, cause this shouldn’t be so hard.

It dissolved as another thought replaced it.

I am running up a hill. In the rain. And I’m loving it. I am a complete bad-ass.

I confess, I did take a quarter mile walking break immediately after this. I thought to myself, “self, you have run nearly two and a half miles. It’s not three miles, but it’s not bad. This would be good enough.”  “No thanks,” replied self. “Let’s pick up the pace.” And I ran the three miles home. In the cold rain.

And it was, indeed, awesome.

If I hadn’t disciplined myself to get outside walking every day, I never would have gone out today at all. I never would have known I was capable of running more than three miles in the rain.

I wonder what else I’m capable of.

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