Oh running shoes, they take up so much space, you’re already bringing 4 pairs of shoes for less than that number of days, besides, it’s just a long weekend, the last thing you’ll want to do is run… I mean it’s a romantic getaway, c’mon now.
I went away for a few days. My running shoes stayed home. Between “packing” for said getaway and then “recovering from jet lag” and then “family in town,” I didn’t run for a solid week. Well, as long as we’re being honest, a solid week plus a couple of days.
What I did do was drink a lot wine… midday rosé especially… and eat a lot of Spanish cheese in a climate far more pleasant than the New York heat wave. Then my brother was in town. Lovely! So there was beer, as there typically is and should be when family is involved. My training plan chart was sadly neglected, an entire row of boxes left blank, unchecked, abandoned. The only thing I ran was my credit card… over and over and over to pay for all the indulgent sundries.
This past weekend, it was the time to get back to it. Four and a half miles at the gym went well enough, though maybe that was just a CNN report on “The Bravest Woman in Mexico” and an episode of Community distracting me from the pain. The next day’s longish run could have been better… and by “better,” I mean a lot faster, but hey, two laps around the park.
It wasn’t until Tuesday’s running class that the exercise gods turned their full wrath on me for my rosé indiscretions. As is often the case with Tuesdays – aka the Lord’s day to mess with heathens like me – nothing goes right. I leave work later than I should to get to class on time. I don’t make it on the first subway to said class because it’s too crowded. I miss the entire stretching series. I have forgotten my contact lenses and my hat, two things I never forget. This wouldn’t be such a huge deal, were it not raining. (Handy tip: Hats are great for running in the rain. Glasses with raindrop smears all over the lenses are not.) Poorly outfitted and tightly muscled, I fall into line with the warm-up jog in the rain.
For several weeks now, I’ve been wondering if my new custom orthotics – which really aren’t new by any means, it’s just I spent a good 9 months getting them adjusted to the point where I could even think about running in them – are really working out. I wanted to believe that my $400 and half dozen podiatrist office visits had not been in vain. Sure, I had a two-inch-long blister on the arch of each foot, and maybe it was all in my head, but I seemed to have gotten slower since I started running in them. Maybe I was just still “adjusting” to these Forrest-Gump-esque devices. Maybe the blisters would just become happy calluses. Maybe I felt slower because it had gotten hot. Or maybe I’d put a pound or three back on following a strict post-New-Year’s diet. Probably, a combination of all of the above.
But warming up Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that I was never going to settle my differences with these orthotics. The blister on the non-existent arch of my left and flattest foot felt less like a skin-surface annoyance and more like a tiny being inside my foot, threatening to erupt with any footfall. I imagined the throbbing two-inch blister bursting open, leaving a strange gushing gap in my foot. It would become infected. The infection would spread. Part or all of my foot might need to be hacked off.
The gods still spitting down on us, we moved continuously from warm-up into our speed training: three one-mile intervals. I couldn’t think of an interval series I was less interested in doing. They were short enough to be fast and numerous, long enough to be painful.
I’d decided to run the first interval with the fastest group, adding to my booze penance. It didn’t go very well. Two-thirds of the way through, I lost pace, and I ended up finishing with the second group when they came up from behind. That scenario repeated itself for the second interval. I started with group B and finished with group C. By the third and final interval, I was feeling pretty great about myself. You are awesome. There are no consequences to not running for over a week. Oh wait, there are…
At least much of the last mile was downhill, but when the course flattened out, I could feel myself struggling yet again. In my core, where there should have been a ball of muscle and strength, a little rescue motor, all I could feel was a big hard brick of cheese, bouncing about. C’mon body, I haven’t had a sip of wine or more than a nibble of anything with gluten for 5 days, that should count for something, I think to myself. But it doesn’t.
In that miserable moment, I pledge to give up drinking, cheese, sugar, my once-a-month gourmet hamburger — everything. I will go vegetarian, or vegan. I will become a celibate nun who abides by a raw diet. Anything so as not to have this feeling. Anything to feel as fast and sleek as I did a month ago.
At last, the final interval comes to an end. We jog back slowly to cool down and even that feels hard. The small puddles forming in the roads are dirty and oddly colored. There is nothing fun about running today, only the vague promise that there might be tomorrow, or the next week, or the next month.