Friday night as I mentally prepared myself for the next morning’s 14-miler, I knew I faced some significant challenges. Topping the list: the quarter-sized blister on my right inner heel; my too-achy abs from a new core routine; and my just-setting-in upper body soreness from the No-I-Wasn’t-On-Rollers-Just-a-Kinetic-Trainer Incident of 2011. (A friend recommended I invest in LifeCall—of ‘I’ve Fallen And I Can’t Get Up’ fame—for future use during indoor bike workouts; thanks, Betsy—you da best.)
Then Saturday morning arrived. And it was FREAKING NEGATIVE ONE DEGREE FAHRENHEIT. Suddenly, the nasty blister and minor aches and pains seemed, well, nasty but minor. While I wouldn’t mind owning a Sub Zero freezer, I sure as heck don’t want to run in one for two and a half hours.
Now, I live in New England, so I know I shouldn’t whine and moan about cold—yes, we inflict this on ourselves, yes, we could live elsewhere. My last name might scream Scandinavian, but I’ve gotta have a dash of Cuban in me somewhere—I am a self-professed “heat-seeking missile”. Temperatures below 40 send me sprinting to the sauna. It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that negative one is, like, waaaaay colder than 40.
Channeling sanity, the first item on my agenda (once there was a coffee mug in my hand) was to consult weather.com, hoping against hope that the site would bring news of some fast-moving front that would deliver me from this evil weather. Instead, it reported that if I waited until noon, I may be rewarded with an extra ten degrees of warmth. Oh, joy. My recent $300 splurge on EMS Tech Wick and Saucony cold weather gear started to seem, as we say in Bah-stun, ‘wicked smaht’.
As I stared at the screen, Daughter #2 (aka ten-year-old Lida Rose) awoke. I asked if she’d be coming along on this morning’s Water Bottle Hiding Expedition. This has fast become a favorite Saturday morning bonding activity. Some families make Saturday morning pancakes; we pile in the car, ride Mommy’s running route and hide water bottles every 2-3 miles for later consumption. Same thing, right? “OK, but you’re gonna warm up the car first,” she stated after getting a face-blast of Arctic air while letting out the dog.
As the car warmed, Daughter #1 (aka 14-year-old Emma) emerged from her lair, hours before we usually expect to be regaled with her bright-eyed, bushy-tailed morning mood. When she saw my Saucony garb and extremely goofy PolarTec face mask (Lida calls it my “robber mask”—I am apparently wardrobe-ready for a life of crime) I got The Eye Roll. “Run on the TREADMILL!” she demanded in a disgusted tone (she has morphed into this fantastic cross between petulant teen and pissed-off parent as my marathon mania has reached for its crescendo).
Fourteen miles on a treadmill was simply not a great idea, I explained. First, I run differently on a treadmill—hence the quarter-sized blister on my right heel, from a six-miler my coach said to “do on as flat a course as possible” the day after a blizzard (flat requirement + too much snow = duh, treadmill). Second, LSD (my few diligent blog followers will remember that acronym stands for Long Slow Distance) is meant to simulate the race itself; last I checked the BAA was not providing 25,000 treadmills in Hopkinton, nor would it place any special weather order for April 18th to ensure pristine conditions. Third, spending two and a half hours staring blankly at a wall in the gym while fielding questions from eldery gym-goers (“honey, why are you working so hard? You should take a break! Shouldn’t she take a break, Louise?”) sounds a little too close to Dante’s Sixth Circle of Hell (in the event your 14th century epic poetry is a little rusty, that’s the one where you’re trapped in Flaming Tombs, just before you encounter the River of Blood and Boiling Fire in the outer ring of the Seventh Circle).
We all agreed—out I would go, whilst my kids would Wii. As I stretched and futzed with my heart rate monitor (that 10-degree-temp-bump near noon had started to sound mighty fine, so I was procrastinating big-time), Emma assumed the role of medic, running through blister-care options. We even consulted the web; believe it or not, there are whole websites devoted to fluid-filled sacs of skin. To lance or not to lance, that was the pre-breakfast question. She took her deliberations quite seriously. Like a good patient, I told her I trusted her judgment, left it up to her to choose. Stay intact it would (at least for the time being; we knew it might pop enroute). Bandages were applied, and off Lida and I went into the snow to play the role of Easter Bunny on the latest episode of Mom’s Really Weird Scavenger Hunt.
The mounds of snow provided excellent hiding places for my water bottles, but as Lida and I hid each one I was keenly aware of the very real possibility that they would be solid ice by the time we met again. While a frozen water bottle would make an excellent weapon in the event of canine attack, it wouldn’t help with rehydration. So we tried to pick sunny-ish places, hoping an extra degree or two could make the difference between drinkable and not.
Water bottles hidden, I dropped off Lida, headed out the door, pushed START on my Garmin and began the run. Twenty paces down the hill I realized I had forgotten my RoadID—the wristband that would tell any paramedics arriving on the scene that yes, I have health insurance, no, I’m not allergic to anything that I know of, and please do call my father on the Cape who can make any life-or-death decisions in the event I can’t talk. (Don’t call my mother; she’d probably pull the plug if she read the closing paragraphs of last week’s blog.) Keep going or go back? If I could have an accident in the safety of my own Bike Cave, I should probably make sure I am properly identified as I share snow-bank-narrowed roads with 4,000-pound SUVs. I pressed STOP, turned around, tiptoed back inside hoping Lida wouldn’t hear me and ask what I forgot (she hates to think I might get hurt—the mere existence of the RoadID in our lives totally freaks her out).
Once on the road again I was immediately confronted with yet another dilemma: the negative one degree weather made the robber mask critical as frostbite-prevention gear. Yet the sun was blaring—so I really needed my shades too. But combine those two pieces of equipment and you get instant foggy glasses and zero visibility, as the mask angles warm expelled air right up into your shades.
The worst of both worlds—freezing sunshine.
This reminded me of the well-meaning but kinda mean Victoria’s Secret sales lady, who loudly announced to me (and the rest of the store) during my one and only bra-fitting some two decades ago: “Oh, honey! I am so sorry! You’ve got the worst of both worlds—you’re a 38 and an A!” Like that sales lady, this weather seemed to be hellbent on CJ annihilation. It was negative one and blazing sun all at the same time. I had to decide: prevent facial frostbite or be able to see clearly? I pulled up the face mask, mounted the shades atop my head and began slogging out 9:30 mile after 9:30 mile (remember, this is LSD—with me, the emphasis is on the S).
To truncate a long story (a 2:23:36 story, to be precise): me and my pathetic 38A chest made it home all in one piece, thankyouveddymuch. Surprisingly enough, so did my blister—it never popped; instead, much to my current discomfort, it swelled to silver-dollar size. Thankfully, the RoadID proved to be superfluous, though my Garmin recorded three sky-high heart rate blips from way-too-close-calls with unobservant drivers. (People, please drive as if you might find a runner around every bend. Nine times out of ten you won’t, but that one time—well, it makes extreme caution worth it. You might even get a thankful wave from the runner. She may be insane but generally speaking she deserves to live another day.) Perhaps the closest call of the morning: a woman with bed-head, high heels and a face caked with last night’s makeup nearly “doored” me as she exited her vehicle on Hudson Main Street. Oh what different lives we lead.
In the end, only two out of four water bottles were potable and my GU Chomps (little energy chews) turned into GU Jawbreakers in my pocket so I didn’t consume as many calories as I should have. At the 13.1 mile mark, I waxed poetic on whether my knees, my feet, my brain could rally to the cause and double that distance to make it a full 26.2—a humbling question. Fortunately I have the luxury of deferring my answer for another 91 days. Upon my return, Lida gleefully noted that my eyelashes were encrusted with icicles—“ICICLES, EMMA!!! Mom has EYELASH ICICLES!!!”. My post-run ice bath actually felt kinda warm, comparatively speaking.
LSD is always about adjusting to discomfort, learning to push through pain. Yesterday I guess I got a double shot.
As usual, thanks for stopping by…and remember I am running for Children’s Hospital and sure would love to see you on my list of contributors. I’m not quite halfway to my $5K fundraising goal, so please hit the donation site today and sponsor my run via credit card. Don’t forget to leave a message–I love reading them! 🙂
I do hope your feet are blisterless, your eyelashes ice-free and your RoadIDs are never ever called into action,