Early morning runs, creepy ticks… playing catch up.
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.