Several years ago, my friend and I went for a run up Diamond Head on Oahu on the morning before her wedding. It was summer in Hawaii, there was no shade, and what little breeze there was carried about 90% humidity. Five miles later and drenched in sweat, we kicked off our shoes and ran straight into the ocean to cool off. I think it was then that we dubbed the experience ‘Bikram Running.’ I hadn’t thought about that run in ages, but as fate would have it, said friend was visiting New York this weekend. I planned to see her on Sunday morning, so I moved my long run to Saturday.
It was 77 degrees and 93% humidity when I got up at 5:30, and the sun wasn’t even up yet. I was scheduled for 15 miles, but had hoped to eek out 16 in preparation for the 18-mile tune-up race next weekend. In the end, I ran somewhere between 16 and 17 in what I’m quite sure was the sweatiest three hours of my life. I am still without my Shuffle, so instead of my playlist for distraction, I got through it with the catchy mantra “heat training is more effective than altitude,” interspersed with the occasional stream of profanity. I’ve been really trying to get better at ’embracing the suck,’ and just the fact that I wasn’t completely miserable out there was a major victory for me. Even so, this one really was laborious.
I have never been good at feeling a true sense of pride in finishing an ugly workout. Banging out a good set of intervals? Sure. Even a solid tempo day? Yes. But the really hard-fought runs with a sweaty face only a mother could love? No way. No matter how difficult it was to get through, I still tend to focus on what I should have done better, and that’s largely counterproductive. I know it’s the really rough days that make me better, and will eventually get me to that holy grail, Making a Formerly Hard Thing Seem Easy. In that spirit, today I remind myself of my very first 5-miler, about six years ago, run on the bike path and trails in Santa Barbara. The last mile was excruciating, despite me slowing to something like a 12-minute pace by the end. Apparently I looked so bedraggled by the last mile that an old man actually jumped into the weeds rather than making me swerve around him on the narrow path. In the car on the way home, I was so concerned that my blood sugar had plummeted with the exertion of running such a great distance that I binged on half a bag of pretzels. (This was pre-paleo…) I’m pretty sure the pretzels then caused an insulin spike that really did tank my blood sugar, because I got home and lay limply on the couch for an hour before I could summon the energy to shower.
So really, 17 very sweaty 9:30 miles… definitely winning.