The Struggles

Humidity so thick it’s like running inside a sleeping bag, even before you’re hoisting a mask over your nose and mouth every 3 minutes to accommodate a passing trail user. The roots and rocks slick as goose shit, not holding the tread of your shoe. The typical New England flow, i.e. none, with a Jackson Pollock of upturned stone and randomly branching root forcing you to dance (like everyone’s watching). Trail blazes irregularly spaced and carefully hidden, so that reading the line and finding the blazes is like trying to make a PBnJ while playing violin, with a fish.

I proceeded directly from Phase 1 to Phase 4 and stayed there, and though I never lost my temper, it was a struggle. Some runs aren’t what you’d hoped they’d be. I did recognize that in the moment. I kept my head. I looked for the flow and tried to notice how nice the woods are in the rain, tried to appreciate how few people were out.

But man, it felt like I was working hard.

In the soup thick air, I had trouble getting my heart rate down after each climb. I’d chosen a sharp up and down route, and the descents were as hard as the climbs, trying to ride the gravitational pull down through the rock clusters, feeling my hip joints bottom out, thinking about my recently healed collarbone, skirting the line of control.

“This is what I came for,” occurred to me at one point, that sense of wanting to do hard things and sometimes getting exactly what I wished for, whether I liked it or not.

At the end I stood in the parking lot, streaming with sweat. Some old men walked by and looked at me quizzically, shirtless and heaving for breath. I didn’t tell them to fuck off. Not out loud.

I laid a towel in the driver’s seat to keep from ruining it and turned the key, the air conditioner blasting into my face, the music suddenly on and loud, and thought, “Well, that’s a deposit in the bank, if nothing else.”

I was going to call this post Arrhythmia, but I was a little afraid that 1) people would worry that I had heart problems, and 2) people who need help for arrhythmia would arrive here and be irritated that I was using their very serious medical condition to describe the luxury challenges of a summer trail run.

My friend Neil calls diarrhea the ‘struggles,’ so…maybe that’s more appropriate.