Well, I’m not quite sure “dashing” is the best way to describe it, but we were attempting to make our through the snow. Yesterday, Andrea, Marzia and I braved the winter streets for our first true “winter run.” We postponed the run until 1:00 in the afternoon, after waking up to a forecast of -4 windchill (we found out later that forecast was way off and it was in fact a beautiful morning!). Nonetheless, we enjoyed starting out with the sun shining on us for a change instead of the moon and stars guiding our steps.
The first mile was brutal. It took us 10 minutes to go 1 mile on the snow packed trail. It felt like we were running in sand. Putting forth a large degree of effort, only to go a tiny ways forward with each step. We were using different muscles and working our legs different from our runs up until this point. At 1 mile, we took a quick potty break at Mullet’s, and took off towards downtown. I had 16 miles on the training schedule. Marzia was shooting for 10, and Andrea something between 10 and 16.
We continued on, winding through downtown Des Moines, jumping over the mounds of snow the plows had built up on each street corner, careful to avoid the large puddles of slush accumulating from the sunshine and the cars speeding past. I must say that the looks we received as we ran past the crowds finishing up their shopping in the East Village and from those cars, who were forced to stop as we ran across streets, were a mix of alarm, shock, and pure annoyance that we were out there, running, clearly interrupting their busy Saturday schedule. I admit, we must have looked like 3 crazy girls braving the snow, slush, and ice that covered the streets and sidewalks in the wake of the blizzard we had just 2 days before. Marzia summed it up best when, halfway through the run, she looked back at Andrea and I beaming and said “I’m so lucky I have crazy friends like you to do this with me!” And it was true! Three years ago, I would have been one of those drivers looking at us in disdain and annoyance for braving something that I wouldn’t have had the guts or the drive to do.
I wouldn’t quite say that we were running through a winter wonderland. The streets of downtown Des Moines were covered with a black, greasy, slime. And it stunk like raw sewage. There was nothing beautiful about the first half of the run. We were out there because we wanted to be (for the most part… also because it was what our training plan told us to do…), for the joy of running, and simply because we could!
As we headed back to round off the 10 miles with Marzia, we started off back down the trail we had started on and I took a second to hang back and take in the scenery. There, ahead, as we approached Greys Lake, was the winter wonderland. The river glassy, framed with snowy banks. Tree branches outlined with snow, dripping with icicles. I got my second wind in that moment and caught up with Marzia and Andrea. We decided to continue on with a 3 mile loop, and I could keep going to get in my 16 miles, if I wanted to at that point. We were all huffing and puffing from the trek on the snowy trail. It felt like work. But it felt like I was accomplishing something.
We bid Marzia goodbye after the 1st mile of the 3 mile loop and Andrea and I ran around Greys Lake. The trail was clear, albeit slushy. The sun was still shining, although starting to set. It was calm and serene. My body was aching. My legs were slowing. I wanted to quit. Knowing that Andrea was nearing the end of her run, I had a decision to make. Keep going and finish my 16 miles or call it good and say the extra effort in the snow was the equivalent of 16. As reality sank in, I knew the answer. I had to keep going. In four weeks, as I’m running the P.F. Chang’s Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon, I’m going to feel like shit, and there won’t be an option to quit then, so there wasn’t an option to quit then either. I bid Andrea goodbye, wishing her a Merry Christmas, and trudged on for the last 3 miles. It’s funny what your mind finds to occupy itself when you’re hammering it out, alone. As soon as I left Andrea, the song Tempted by the Fruit of Another by Squeeze immediately filled my head. I contemplated changing my mind. There was a small trail merging off from the one I was running on that would take me directly back to my car. I could be done. Marzia and Andrea were both done. I could be too. As I continued to sing along with the song in my head, I stayed on course, running right past the trail back to my car. I took in the lake, the snow-covered ground, dug deep and kept going. About a mile later, I was giving myself a pep-talk with only 2 more miles to go. As I was telling myself how tough I was, Hanging Tough by New Kids on the Block started playing in my head. That’s right. I was a biiiig fan in my early teens (come on! you know you were too!) It brought a smile to my face as I pictured the group dancing it’s epically bad and famous hanging tough moves to the lyrics. At this point, I was at mile 15.3 and I was back to my car. Again, faced with the dilemma of do I quit now or do I keep going? Being an “A type” personality, I like round numbers. And, quitting at mile 15.3 only shorted myself. So, I kept going on a short out and back to get to a nice even 16 miles. By the time I finished, the sun had gone down and the slush was turning into ice, making for a dicey last mile. And I was cold and cramping up. Perfect time to be done and I had persevered!
Another new experience in the books! Maybe I’m not the wimp I think I am after all :).