Last Thursday, I dropped my daughter off at preschool and headed back outside to do battle with the canyon again. Still revved from my 6.8 prowess on Monday, I confidently suited up in my one cute, professional grade running outfit from Lululemon with pockets for tissues all over the place. The outfit has all kids of other fancy features including lower leg compression, zippers, multiple lace vents, and thumb holes, but it was the pockets I coveted. The pants have 1 on each leg, 2 at the waist, and 1 in back above the butt. The top has a large pouch pocket with another pocket hidden inside, and 2 more in the back. I also have a sports bra from them with 3 pockets, one over each breast and one in between. Put the ensemble together and I’d be the great Houdini of tissues, pulling Kleenex out of everywhere.
I parked the car and performed my standard warm up routine. I exude confidence in my warm up. I did some deep leg lunges that I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere before, and I pulled each foot up to my butt while balancing on the other leg. My knees used to prevent the proper execution of this maneuver, but I have become a master and that day I was on fire. I always end my routine with my standard arm circles gone mad. They are my favorite warm up activity and I do them before swimming and all other exercise, too. They are my weapon of intimidation for all to behold. I become a fast and furious windmill with my arms flailing about, and for a few brief moments I would chop you in half if you got in my way!
Exiting the parking lot, I was once again greeted with sufficient morning breeze to ignite the waterworks in my eyes and nose. My optimism would have held if only I could EVER make it out of the damn parking lot without tissues! As my body recalled the reality of the unrelenting slope that lie ahead, my threatening demeanor generated during my warm up vanished in favor of resigned helplessness. The sprinting muscles I thought I had found earlier in the week, mandatory for such mountainous excursions, immediately withdrew and could not be summoned forth with any amount of pleading on my part. Was I this slow on my prior canyon days? It seemed significantly harder and steeper grade than the last time.
After a brief rest to regain my composure and come to terms with the fact that I would not be breaking any distance records that day, I resumed my uphill efforts. I needed something to boost morale and spark a change in the foreseeable outcome of my run. I decided to try “fartleks.”
I’ve been told a fartlek is a Swedish term for a sprint thrown in for fun at random intervals, as in sprinting to the next big rock or tree. That may very well be what it means in Sweden, but I refuse to believe it hasn’t taken on a different connotation for the masses of runners throughout the great USA. I can’t ask a runner either, because they are never telling me the truth anyway: “it’s not that steep,” and “you’re almost there!” and “running is fun!” I looked up fartlek online and it appears to be a valid term, translated as speed play. Whatever. As far as I’m concerned, a fart is a fart and if I ever hear someone yell the word, you’d better believe I am running away. I find it impossible to say the word without cracking a smile. Since discovering the term, it has become my new sprinting battle cry. I shout “fartlek!” to myself and bolt off to some imaginary finish line. I have not yet linked my battle cry with any posterior emissions, but as it appears to be the perfect couplet, I reserve the right to do so as the need arises.
I entertained myself with this approach to speed training throughout the next mile, but the unrelenting incline finally bested me. My final fartlek was an attempt to make it to the top a tiny hill containing the steepest section of the canyon trail. Partway up this hill, I abandoned anything resembling human running form and was reduced to what can only be described as the final precursor to crawling. I couldn’t avoid marveling at the shadow of my torso bobbing laterally in an attempt to somehow generate more oxygen. My feet kicked up clouds of dirt as they tried to dig in and stop moving all together. Precisely at this time, two young, ultra fit college girls in short shorts, came breezing by. They jovially paused from their heart-to-heart conversation to proclaim, “Good morning!” as they bounded effortlessly over the hill. I huffed out what sounded like “may-leh” in response, and wondered if they knew the translation into a finger greeting. I would have felt more amicable had they each grabbed an arm and hoisted me over the hill, but I was left to my own devices. I admired the irony of my sporty outfit and doubled over form. I was a chicken trying to pass herself for a peacock, still laying eggs all over the place. Not fooling anyone.
I didn’t even regain my composure for the downhill portion of my run, and was forced to slow to a walk a handful of times. I began to suspect food deprivation as the true cause of my sluggish demeanor. I returned home and downed a decaf chai latte, some jalapeño chips, a “tuna-on-fire” sandwich, topped off with a chocolate covered granola bar. While it was tempting to call it a day, I digested my eclectic lunch, retrieved my son and the neighbors’ kids from school and boldly headed out on another romp around my neighborhood. I figured it would be hard to not improve upon my disastrous effort in the morning, and I would still be adding mileage. I ended up improving my speed back to the under 12 min mile pace I’d briefly witnessed several months ago. I took a negative and made a positive: all in all I finished a 10K, not fast and not consecutive, but still in the same day and that’s bound to help!