Outrunning the Storm

photo courtesy of National Geographic photography

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I decided to try something new in my training. For 10 plus years I’ve done my long ride on Saturday and my long run on Sunday. That’s standard protocol for most triathletes. The rationale being that you have to run on tired legs on race day so it makes sense to run long the day after a long ride in training. It seemed to always work.

Lately though I’ve been struggling through my long runs. It could be the cumulative fatigue of a long season at this point. I’ve read about training programs that recommend splitting your long workouts up – one midweek and one on the weekend, so that you are fresh for both. You don’t have to run on tired and sore legs on race day. I had been running on sore legs too often on Sundays.

I was willing to give splitting them up a shot. Wednesday afternoon after work I went for a 13 mile run. Crazy for a Wednesday afternoon, but that’s where I’m at in my plan.

I parked at Thompson Station and pulled on my Fuel Belt loaded with Roctane drink and gels. It was 86 degrees with 65% humidity, so I started slow, figuring it would be tough just to cover the miles in those conditions.

I ran 6.25 miles at 9:20 pace and felt great. For once I’d started slow and stuck to my plan. I crested a hill on West Harpeth Rd. and spotted 3 big dogs in the middle of the road ahead. I’ve been down that road hundreds on times on my bike and have never seen those dogs, so I was surprised. That point of the run is out in the country, so I thought it wise to turn back a quarter mile early instead of taking my chances alone running towards the dogs.

I turned around and ran slowly back from the direction I had come, uphill. I glanced over my shoulder at the dogs. All three were running in the middle of the road towards me. Middle of nowhere. Alone on foot. 6 miles into a long run. Being chased by 3 dogs.

Instinct made me pick up the pace. I looked at my Garmin as I climbed the hill: 6:30 per mile – uphill. I reached the top a quarter mile later and it flattened out, so I took another look back. Still coming. I sped up. I’d found 5k speed that I thought was long gone. I covered 2 miles at 6:15 pace. When they gave up the chase and I finally stopped running I realized that I wasn’t hurting as badly as I thought I would be.

I can still run fast. I just don’t.

After my chase with the dogs I slowed back down, with 5 miles still to go back to the car. I ran easy.

As I ran South I began to notice that it was unusually dark for 6pm. “Fall is coming,” I thought.  “I guess those long summer days must be coming to an end.”

It got darker and a cool breeze began to blow. It was refreshing. Like I had with the dogs earlier, I looked over my shoulder. The sky was black. Dark clouds rolling in, swallowing the daylight. Lightning filled the entire expanse of blackness and I saw flashes reaching out for the ground below. I had 3 miles to go and I was about to be caught in a severe thunderstorm.

When the first rain drops fell I picked up the pace again. 7:00 minute miles this time. Eventually pitch dark. Just me and the storm. But I ran with enthusiasm. With frenzied purpose. Don’t get killed on a Wednesday afternoon.

3 miles later I reached the car and jumped in just as the worst of the storm rolled over. The car shook with the high winds and the lightning lit the sky, like a scene from a horror movie – the killer tapping at the window.

The sky was clear when I started the run. The storm came on suddenly. That’s late summer, I guess. You just never know when to expect storms. But, as I found out, you can summon strength you didn’t realize you still had when they come. You have strength beyond your preconceptions about yourself.

I smiled as I sat alone in my car, wiping rain from my eyes, looking up at the storm. I had outrun it. And the dogs. On a Wednesday afternoon after work running 13 miles alone in the country.

Je t’aime mon bebes,

– Daddy

TRAINING:

Mon: REST

Tues: Swam 1800 / Ran 30 minutes

Wed: Ran 13 miles

Thurs: Swam 1800 / Ran 30 minutes

Fri: REST

Sat: Bike 27 miles (cut short by rain)

Sun: planning 60 mile ride plus a 3 mile brick run