Halfway through my long run, I stopped back at home base, asking Mark to say something nice.
“You’re doing awesome,” he said. “And remember, this is supposed to be hard. It’s supposed to be ugly. If it was easy, you’d be doing something wrong.”
Part of me was actually relieved to hear those words.
Because the great weekend workout had gone from good to painful quickly.
My 2-mile swim in Lake Erie went rather well. It was a slow start, as I panicked a few times in the first 600 yards and struggled to feel comfortable with the waves. But I thought of my key word for the weekend: ADVENTURE and soon, my stroke developed a rhythm and I was riding the choppiness of the water instead of fighting it. My swim, oddly enough, felt pretty darn good.
Then came Sunday and the last BIG BRICK of my Iron Distance training. The workout — a four-hour bike ride followed by a 17-18 mile run. Clearly something has clicked in my brain because the workout didn’t sound daunting anymore.
But I wasn’t terribly excited about it either. I felt this mix of dread and whining, knowing it would be difficult and wanting it over. As soon as possible, please.
Sunday morning was a chilly 62-degrees and my friend Hitch joined me for my four-hour ride while Best Boyfriend Mark went off on his 18-mile run. Part of me was extremely jealous of Mark. He could run in this nice, chilly weather. It was going to get warm quickly and I would be running in heat. Wish I could run now (enter pout here).
But this was another day for adventure, right?
So a mile into our ride when Hitch and I encountered a flock of roosters in the road (do roosters travel in flocks?) I laughed and stopped to whip out my camera from my back jersey pocket. Too funny, right? Absolutely needed a picture of this, right?
As I reached to grab the zip-locked back, the roosters started … walking toward me. Rather quickly. Making noises. Um, Hitch, I think the roosters are attacking me. I tried furiously to clip in my pedals and start going, but had trouble getting in, partly because I’m nervous (do roosters attack?) and partly because I’m laughing so hard. I clip in, pedal away and don’t look back.
OK, so my safari woman Osa Johnson probably never furiously cycled away from a handful of roosters in the road. I wasn’t taking any chances.
About 9 miles later, we came upon two women attempting to fix a flat tire. Outfitted with some great looking tools from a big-box store kinda place, they were missing two critical pieces — a set of tire levers and knowledge of how to use any of the equipment they possessed. Hitch gave them a basic tutorial in flat-tire fixing and a small voice wanted to emerge in my head — a voice that wanted to be annoyed at helping these women. But two things quickly subdued that habitual urge:
No. 1: This was a weekend of adventure, right? Adventure does not imply things going on a prescribed plan. At least, not in my developing definition.)
No. 2: I can use all the good karma I can get.
Back on the road, Hitch and I continued our journey through some rolling hills. The second half our ride took us on a few climbs. Apparently, Hitch wasn’t expecting that. But then, he still kicked my ass on the climbs. I, however, threw caution to the wind and caught up on the downhills. Normally, I’m terrified of the downhills. Where this confident riding came from, I have no idea. Perhaps it was embracing the rest my legs would be getting. The heat was starting to radiate off the roads and the whinny dread of the upcoming run was growing.
Back at Best Boyfriend Mark’s house, we completed 60 miles in hills at a moderate pace. I changed out my clothes and got my gels and water bottle ready for my run. OK, I thought. Let’s do this. Having just returned from his 18-mile run (and looking good for right after 18 miles) Mark offered to meet me out at the 4 1/2 mile mark with water and sports drink. Cool beans, I thought.
The run started OK, as most of my runs do.I kept a good cadence and a pretty good pace. It was hot with a blazing sun and the plan became to stop every two miles for a sip of liquid while at every four miles take a gel.
By Mile 3 I was in tears.
It was hot. So hot. It was Africa hot. Tarzan couldn’t stand this kind of hot. (Biloxi Blues anyone? I may or may not absolutely love Matthew Broderick.) And I still had (18 minus 3 is) 15 miles to go?
My body was achey. Not in pain, but achey. Worse was my head which just couldn’t get moving. I thought about ADVENTURE … but what was adventurous about running 17 to 18 miles in rolling hills in 82 degrees?
With about five miles done, Mark found me. He had ice water. I drank and started crying again. He told me these are tough conditions. This is hard. He reminded me I biked 60 miles in hills. He said I was doing just fine.
I started rewarding myself after every mile with a walk break and a squirt of Gatorade.
The halfway point was back at Mark’s house. I refilled my water bottle with cold Gatorade and received my second pep talk. Yes, he was right — it was supposed to be hard. It was supposed to be challenging. It was about substance not style.
I trotted off in the opposite direction for an out-and-back: four miles out and four miles back.
Now, if there is any question as to why he has earned the proper title Best Boyfriend Mark let me offer Exhibit One: About 1.5 miles into that second half of the run, he came up behind me on his bicycle. Complete with a baggie of ice to put in my hat, a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of ice water, he rode beside me the entire rest of the way. He talked. He told me stories. He told me how good and strong I was looking. He told me “nonsense” when I apologized for a few longer-than-I-would-have-liked walk breaks.
I was still struggling, but I wasn’t crying anymore.
Finally, I had found my place of adventure on the run.