Tuesday, November 08, 2011

40 minutes to 40

"You Get What You Give" - New Radicals

Just before I opened the door, my lips twisted into a curve. I turned on the iPod for inspiration, and the New Radicals went first. 
I dread, and enjoy, the tempo runs more than any other except a race. They are short but intense runs that resemble races in many ways except in the most extremes of discomfort. They are weekly. They are on Mondays, two days after a long run of a dozen miles or more, and like Mondays in many other ways, the body rejects the fact that the weekend is over, and it's time to go back to work.
Complicating things was, of course, Colorado. Colorado is a wonderful state to live in, until we start to turn away from the sun. Then it's still lovely, but it's also unpredictable and, at times, a nasty son of a bitch. A few days before Halloween, we got 14 inches of snow. And then, because Mother Nature apparently has a mischievous or cruel sense of humor, depending on who you are, we got another 10 a week later, just as the last snowflake had melted from our previous fluke storm.
Snow means cold, of course, and this was about as jarring a transition as you can get from Colorado's beautiful, even erotic, fall weather. Just a few weeks ago I raced in crisp, cool air, with just enough of a nip, like a really good bowl of ice cream. Sorry, beach lovers, but fall in Colorado is paradise. And then, just like that, it was the Gulag.
My first breath goes down wrong, and I start to cough in jagged spurts, my lungs rejecting the icy air in pissed-off disbelief. The tips of my fingers are narcotic. My cheeks are anything but rosy. My eyelashes start to frost.
Look, I tell my body. I don't like this either. But we've got a job to do. The New Radicals said so. You Get What You Give.
I begin my run up my neighborhood road. I've been up it probably 500 times. Many times I'd thought about what I had to do that day. Since it was probably a Monday, I'd also think about what I'd have to write. Today, I had to concentrate. Today I'd be looking for ice.

"Virus" - Bjork

OK, a song about need. If there's any run I need, it's probably the tempo run. The easy runs are for recovery and reflection, and the long runs give me endurance, and the speed work gives me, um, speed. But the tempo runs give me everything. My mile splits, if I didn't slip on a patch of ice, would probably read 8:15 (warm up), 7:20, 7:15, 7:25 (damn hill), 7:13. Or something like that. But not too far from that something. Tempo runs are about holding an uncomfortable, but not brutal (i.e. racing) speed. You could speed up, but you'd like to slow down.
As always, my legs, still a little grumpy from the miles I'd piled on it two days before, aren't ever really excited to be cutting through the air so aggressively. Aging does that to you. After so long, and I've been active, if not always a runner, for two decades, the will to give in starts to fade.
Doesn't it? 
I crack into my first mile at 7:10. My breath jumps out of my mouth. I can see the cloud before it scurries away to make room for the next. This is why I need tempo runs. As a weekly reminder that I can still do this. And the work it takes to stay there.

"Steppin' Out" - Joe Jackson

An oldie but a goodie, this song found its way into my weekly running mix for this line:
"We are young but getting old before our time; we'll leave the TV and the radio behind."
This line is so appropriate this week.
I wonder if Jackson wrote the song today, he'd include a smartphone?

"Dancing Queen" - ABBA

Note to self: "Dancing Queen" is probably not a good song to include in a running mix. It's definitely not a good song to listen to as I start to head up The Hill. 

"Embrace The Gutter" - The Autumn Offering
Ah, that's better.
Embrace the nasty in your life, then make it your ally. Make it make you better. This is what I think about as the steepest part of the run looms before me, and my breathing starts to hurt.
Breathe, dammit, breathe. 

"My Will Be Done" - Unearth
Someone asked me once why I listen to heavy metal. How can you run with someone yelling at you like that, she asked.
"Now I strive to find my own way
My Will be Done
Work these hands until they bleed
My Will be Done"
They aren't yelling at me. They're yelling with me.
I've just crested the hill. I'll recover. I'm pretty sure.

I turn 40 tomorrow, though it's likely today when you're reading this. And runs like this one give me the confidence to face it. I don't need a sports car, a cheerleader or a gold chain. I have my feet, my fitness and the attitude both give me. As I sprint toward my driveway, "I'm gonna learn how to love you," Susan Tedeschi sings in my ear, and oh, I'm so nearly there.