Tempo by Necessity

Yesterday was a warm version of a typical February day in Connecticut. We’ve had mild weather all winter, so I have been spoiled (part of the reason I decided I had to do Providence this spring–who knows when I’ll get this little snow and ice in a New England winter again?), and yesterday’s 37 degree rain did not make me quick to get out the door. Usually I run right after school, either at practice with the kids I coach, or after they’re done, but before I ever step foot in my house and start thinking about all the organizing I could be doing or snacks I should be eating. Yesterday, though, I went to the grocery store, cleaned up my room a little, engaged in some of my typically paralyzing attempts to make a decision (the treadmill or outside? music or no music? a fartlek or a tempo run? strides or 200s on the track?). By the time I got out the door, I had 64 minutes before my friend planned to arrive for a dinner that I had yet to start cooking.

Thirteen minutes into my run, headed in the direction of the local high school track, I decided I’d just pick up the pace, maybe do, like, a tempo mile, recover a bit, do an actual measured mile, a few 200s and head home fresh and rested for my terrifying indoor 5k this Saturday and with plenty of time to get the veggies roasting and the dishwasher emptied.

I felt fantastic. I ran 5:00 hard hard, and even ran the recovery hard. I decided to change plans and do something like 4 x 1200 (this used to be my absolute least favorite workout in college, and every time it was on our schedule, I’d start getting nervous for Wednesday practice on Monday morning). By the end of the 2nd 5:00 segment, I felt really strong.

Somewhere in the oxygen depletion or the Rhianna or something, though, I got turned around. King Street became Williams Street which then hit Kings Highway which, in the near-dark and through Rhianna’s voice, and a minute or two into my 3rd fake 1200, looked like the same thing as King Street… and all of a sudden I was in another town. I asked some texting-while-driving teenage girls for help, but when the directions I was asking for were in another town, they looked genuinely alarmed, and just kept telling me how far I was from where I was trying to go. The minutes we stood there in the rain, my watch still running (dammnit! I had such a good run and I wanted to measure the route and feel all justified in my soreness today) were cutting into my brussel sprout roasting time, and then into my shower time. By the time I took off toward home, in what I knew was not the most direct route, but the only one we’d been able to communicate with one another, I had about 25 minutes to run what I thought was probably about 23 minutes worth of running, and, if I was lucky shower, or at least get rid of my two-day-old coffee cup in the sink.

The way home was magical. I ran fast, I felt good. It was getting dark, and I was worried about the headphones and the traffic and the rain, but I was also really excited to be in good enough shape to decide, “well, instead of 2 more fake 1200s, I’m going to do a 23 minute tempo run right now.” At various points along the way, I checked my watch, and as I saw I was building enough of a cushion to at least take off my wet shoes before my friend pulled up, I started thinking about the more primal aspect of running.

I am not one of those runners who signs up for Warrior Dashes, or even really likes to run on grass in cross country. I will admit to using the treadmill when it’s much under 30 degrees out, but in the runners-high-I’m-going-to-make-it/Rhianna euphoria, I thought “this is why I run! So I can survive! And get to people quickly!” (I pushed the realization that in addition to obviously having absolutely no sense of direction, I can not do a pull-up, or even a push-up, really, from my mind, under the pretense that I’d never need those kind of survival skills).

I made it home in time to take off my shoes, empty the dishwasher, put the dirty coffee  mug in, and throw on yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Dinner tasted running-hungry-amazing, and my legs were so tired that they woke me up all night long. I’m happy.


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