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Early morning runs, creepy ticks… playing catch up.

07/18/2013

Well, look what the cat dragged in after four months.

 

Here are the Sparknotes of my recent running adventures. In April, I set a 5K PR (18:43) on a really flat, fast course. Then in May, I ran the Broad Street 10-miler in 62:44 (6:16 pace), PRing at every distance from four miles and up along the way. Guess that’s what happens when you race a flat (shhhh, “net downhill”) course with no turns, ideal weather, and what was likely some variety of a tailwind. If you want to feel good about yourself as a runner, come run Broad Street. I’ve got a couch you can crash on.  

 

Then summer happened and running has been not-so-good ever since, mostly because I’ve been working long hours in the field in New Hampshire and waking up around 3:45am in order to squeeze running in at all. I come home covered in ticks and mosquito bites, but the work itself is wonderful: I get to spend all day listening to birds, looking at plants, walking around in the woods, and playing with the data in GIS, all with some high-quality people at my side.  

 

The really nice thing about having to fit in most of my mileage before sunrise in the summer is that it’s never too hot and I don’t have to fuss around with putting on sunscreen.

 

The cons are that waking up and finishing your run before sunrise in the summer is… rough. Because,

A. 3:45 am is an insultingly early time at which to wake up on a regular basis.

B. In the summer, NOTHING HIBERNATES. I scare up a bear or some other type of charismatic megafauna at least once a week, so I’ve been sticking to the same two stretches of road until it gets light enough to see, because due to crashes and sightings I’ve deemed all other accessible roads to be teeming with bears, moose, deer and skunks. Nothing on earth fills me with a greater primal sense of dread than hearing a crash in the dark woods, turning my head, and silently shrieking in horror as my headlamp illuminates a giant bear just bumpgalumping his way across the road. I’m fine with seeing bears or moose in the daylight when I’m on a more even ocular playing field, but not at dark-o-clock-4am when I’m trying to have a transcendent meditative running experience.

 

It’s tough to admit to myself that running has been hard this summer, because it’s usually something I find to be a joyful escape. I ran about 90 seconds slower than I expected to in a local 4-mile race. Although the reason is it was hot and I simply didn’t feel like running hard and consequently phoned it in for the last three miles, the result – a minute slower than last year’s – wasn’t exactly a self-esteem boost.

 

It’s all no matter, really. All I have to do right now is stay healthy and maintain a base. The big work starts in September. My only true goals right now are to keep on running high-ish mileage, keep my hamstrings from rebelling, and avoid getting Lyme disease, the last of which may be a challenge since I’ve pulled off at least eight embedded ticks since summer started, along with countless crawlers. The ticks are terrifying. I pull off my field clothes and wash them at least twice a week, and even on days that they’re washed and I hang them up to dry on the shower curtain, I’ll see 1-2 ticks that have crawled out of the seams and are waiting patiently on the white walls of the bathroom, slowly waving their shudder-inducing tick arms at me in hopes that I will graze by them and provide their next blood meals. Down the toilet you go, you creepy little assholes. 

 

But here’s the real stuff. I’m signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon again this fall, and I want 2:59. I want 6:50s, 6:51s. I need to keep grinding through and putting in the miles. They’re going to be slow, because hey, most of the time when I start my watch, it’s somewhere between 3:49 and 3:57 AM, and I barely feel like a human being. It’s hard. I desperately want to find some joy in these early, early, early runs, and some days are better than others (especially the days that it isn’t raining. Is it just me, or has it been basically flooding all summer on the east coast?)

 

BUT. There is light at the end of the tunnel (LITERALLY!). Bird breeding season is dwindling down to a trickle, and just this week we finished our last point counts of the season, which means work won’t start until 7am most days from now on. I am so excited to sleep in until almost 5. It’s going to be incredible. 

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/18/2013 15:47

    If anyone can easily bag a 2:59, it’s you. Amazing 10-miler. Flat or hilly, you still did the distance with that speed. Congrats.

  2. 07/18/2013 15:58

    First of all: HI! I am happy you’re still on my internets, as they say.

    Second: 3:45 am is unfathomable to me, not just because I will never be an early bird but because 3 a.m. even stretches my “night owl” tendencies. In fact, if there’s one hour during which I’ve never been (still) awake or waking up, it might be the one that starts with a 3. I have no real point here other than: DAMN.

    Third: 2:59! Go get it. And come tell us how it’s going!

  3. 07/18/2013 16:41

    You must want to beat the shit out of every person who whines about getting up at 6 a.m. I’m so glad you’re back and I hope you don’t get the Lyme’s.

  4. 07/19/2013 02:29

    I can’t even warp my head around waking up at 3:45 to run. Daily. I used to do long runs at 4 am and I hated it and it made me cry. Seriously. (Part of why I don’t run long anymore. There should not be crying in running.)

    I think you’ll hit 2:59. You’ve got the base. You just need to sharpen it. Get it!

    I look forward to running in a more rural area. All I have to watch for are homeless dudes and possums.

    • 07/27/2013 06:26

      Possums looks like something that crawled straight out of hell. They creep me out and are scary. I feel you on that kind of reaction to the 4am runs. They fill me with an incomprehensible dread, and I agree — it’s unsustainable and shouldn’t be that way.

  5. 07/20/2013 11:12

    Congrats on your big PR’s! 3:45 a.m. to run is horrendous. I really need to learn not to whine about my schedule. :) I truly don’t know how you’re doing it, but I’m glad it’s working out. What types of things are you studying in the field?

    I think in a few more marathons you’ll be ready to attack that Olympic Trials standard! I really think you’ll get your 2:59 or better this fall.

    • 07/27/2013 06:30

      Your schedule sounds pretty nuts to me. It seems like there are a lot of obligations on a farm that one never really gets a break from, where as I couuuuld choose to run after work, except that I just find it so much harder. We are collecting data on migratory breeding birds, along with the vegetation they are using for nesting/territories. Also doing some forestry and fish stuff… kind of a mix of everything interior-forest related!

  6. 07/21/2013 02:30

    Good to hear from you. 18:43 is a nice 5k PB! I’m checking flights for Broad St as I type. They tried to set up a ‘fast flat’ 10k course here, but it’s by the lake on an out/back course (dead stop u-turn) and 9 years out of 10 there’s a headwind for half of it.

    I think you can run 2:59 (baring tick-induced illness). Keep logging those miles — that will get you there. Speaking of bears, I’ve been watching the doco ‘Bears of the Last Frontier’, which has been fascinating. They’re not as scary as I thought, but still, wouldn’t want to be running past their doorstep every morning.

    • 07/27/2013 06:33

      The deadstop turn is exactly what my PR 5K was like! Luckily we didn’t have any noticeable wind that day, but it most likely would have been a tailwind in the second half, and that’s better than the alternative. Broad Street is FAST. The no turns thing is pretty wonderful.

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