To say that I did not have high hopes for this morning’s long run was an understatement. I am walking the fine line between being committed and over-trained. Triathlon training is awesome when you do it right. When you don’t and you just mishmash your training schedule together by marrying a bike race plan and a half marathon plan with your swimming program you wind up having a schedule with a shitload of double workouts. That works for me for the most part since I have the time. But the risk of injury increases as the volume increases. And injury is something I fear with every part of my being.
Injury would mean I would surely burn my house down and my kids would show up to school looking like feral children – unfed, unwashed and filthy. Training keeps me sane. So. The pressure is on to not get hurt.
I’ve been trying something new. The long, slow run. I used to run every run, bike every ride, swim every lap like it should be faster than the last. If my six-mile run today was slower than the one a few days ago than surely I was not showing improvement and I was doing something wrong. But the truth is I just get super tired. Because I don’t ever rest.
So. I am trying. This morning’s plan for a long, slow run should have been just fine. But my stomach was not stoked on this idea. Runners know. The stomach rules the mind. If you wake up and poop before you put your shoes on – you will surely have a super sweet run. Wake up and poop many times before you put your shoes on – danger ahead.
I decided to risk it. Routed my run past some of my favorite bathroom stops (to avoid this situation) and off I went. Running slowly is tough when I listen to tunes so I opted for podcasts. I am head over heels in love with Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Anonymous podcast. I hit play on my phone in iTunes. I hit go on my Garmin. I erupted into laughter as I looked at the title. Hot Scoop. 56 minutes and 12 seconds of poop stories.
I love a poop story. I do. As I wound around downtown in and out of the Hog Day 5K I was chuckling. Nothing makes you feel like a bigger fool than running in the middle of a 5K with four water bottles. Ever see one of those kids wearing a jacket and gloves and a scarf on the first day that it is less than 70 degrees outside? I felt like that kid. Anyway… the miles and the poop stories were ticking by and I was settling into the slowest run in history.
I always, always run roads that I know. I add up miles in my head and have a plan all of the time. I am not sure exactly what came over me but I turned up a street and found myself on a road that I’ve never run before. It just went up. And up. And up some more. All of a sudden I noticed a new feeling. I didn’t care that I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t care that it was all uphill. I couldn’t see the end but I was content to just keep trucking along because I knew that eventually I could turn around and come back down. The street name – Hill Avenue.
Just as I got to thinking that I really should probably look at the map and make sure I wasn’t going to dump myself out on a highway I saw a cemetery, Rosewood Cemetery.
In the spring of 1990 I got a teeny tiny rose tattoo. It is one of only a couple of tattoos that I have ever picked off of a flash sheet. This teeny little rose is quite possibly the most common tattoo in all of the world. I have seen it on ankles and shoulders and wrists in my travels over the last twenty-six years more often than I count. (Holy, shit I have a twenty-six year old tattoo!) The image on the Rosewood Cemetery sign – it was my red flower.
I ran past the cemetery for another few minutes before I bumped into a highway and opted to turn around and enjoy the downhill ride.
I struggled with the downhill. The data-driven psycho in me wanted to take advantage of the downhill to drop my average speed back down to something I would consider more respectable. But I tried to keep it slow. I focused on my breath. I focused on everything around me. And then like a gift from the universe I looked up and saw Occoneechee Mountain. I live less than half a mile from there but rarely have an opportunity to really see it.
I stopped and took a picture and just looked. I love where I live. That’s kind of a big deal, guys. Not everyone can say that. It’s hard to see it in the picture but in the background there…. that’s a mountain!
Just about here the poop stories were wrapping up and Chris Gethard moved on to chat with a young woman who was in what she described as “a cardboard boat.” She was sinking, in spite of her best efforts to cobble together a life that was well-designed. Was it just made of the wrong materials? Chris’ podcast is a beautiful opportunity to listen to people talk and an even more wonderful opportunity to hear Chris share the many tidbits of wisdom he has collected after a decade in therapy. Here I was running down a road I have never run when he says something to the effect of “My therapist told me to never walk the same way home from work twice. The easiest way to get a fresh perspective on things is to literally look at new shit. Every day.”
I have these new orange running shoes that I am not sure if I hate. They are so orange. Traffic cone orange. A woman asked me the other day “do those make you run faster?” I said “They damn sure better because they sure as shit don’t look good.”
Running along and thinking about looking at new things I saw three orange roses. I would never plant orange roses. But they were beautiful. And it made me kind of like my shoes a little better.
Sometimes I write a blogpost in my mind and try to get it all down before it’s gone. Today I just had a feeling… this perfectly unplanned feeling of being content. I just wanted to remember it. Slow down. Go a different way. Let go of expectations. Listen to the poop stories. Laugh. Keep going. You have no idea what you might see.