The alarm, set to “gentle nudge” volume, went off at 4:30am. I think that car commercial song was playing…you know, the one that goes, “Toniiiiiiiiiiight, we are yooooouuuunnnng.” Ugh. I slammed down the “off” button. I didn’t even hit snooze. Didn’t want to risk hearing another crap song, and getting up at 4:30am is bad enough, trust me.
“Don’t think, just do,” I told myself. This would be my mantra for the next 3 hours.
It had been hot. It was hot. Even at night, the temps barely dipped below 80 degrees. It was like David Beckham hot outside. Sizzling…if you know what I mean. Tattoos and all. I mean, it was going to be very hot and humid, and at 4:30am, the thermometer already said 75 degrees and 79% humidity. Ok, don’t think, just do.
First things first. I extracted a cup of French roast from the Keurig machine (Thank GOD for those things). As I sipped my coffee, I pulled my frozen hand-held out of the freezer. A bit of Gatorade had dripped and thus was frozen in the shape of an oblong droplet from the spout. I bit this off and it dissolved quickly on my tongue, which was hot from the coffee. Next, I packed an insulated cooler bag with a regular water bottle filled with Gatorade (not frozen), two Popsicles, and one frozen ice pack to keep everything cold. This all went by the front door, along with my frozen hand-held.
It was still dark outside, so I cursed once or 10 times as I tripped over shoes and bunched-up throw rugs and dog toys and kid toys, not wanting to turn on the lights and disturb the rest of the family. Once in the bathroom, I turned on the harsh, bright, unforgiving overhead light and quickly dressed myself in the running gear I had laid out the night before: Sports bra, running skirt, socks, shoes, and…I stopped at the sleeveless top. It hung heavily from my hand. It was already 75 degrees and I had 14 miles to do. I still wasn’t feeling my strongest after taking more than a week off from marathon training due to extended family issues. It was humid. Dare I? I glanced at myself in the mirror: I was in good shape…not perfect by any means….but I was satisfied with how I looked when I considered the amount of time I was willing to put into working out and the level of dedication I was willing to give over to diet.
However…there was this one area of concern…that area between the belly button and hip bones…the lower abdominal PANNUS, if you will, and the bane of my fitness existence. My current level of fitness dedication did nothing to touch that war-torn area that had been exposed to three tours of duty in the Childbearing Wars. No, the panniculus was here to stay unless I made drastic cuts to diet and drastic increases to the workout, which I just wasn’t willing to do yet.
But it was hot. It was humid. It was early…no one would be awake. No one would see. That settled it. I made my decision. God have mercy on my neighbors’ souls…and eyes…I was going to do something I had NEVER done before….I was going….shirtless.
“Don’t think, just do.” I hitched my running skirt up as hiiiiiiiiiigh as it would go, which was just below my navel (to hide my shame), I twisted my hair into a knot on top of my head, I brushed my teeth, and I exited the bathroom.
At 5:07am, when I walked outside, I knew I had made a good choice. The humidity hung heavy, like wet sheets on a clothesline. I threw my insulated cooler bag under the tree in my front yard, slipped my left hand through the strap of my frozen hand-held water bottle, strapped my iphone onto my upper right arm, plugged in the earphones, cranked the music, and I ran.
A veil of blue covered the morning, which quickly gave way to a gauzy mist of rosy pink. The sun was was a big, burnt orange hanging low in the sky. The air was dense. I could see the humidity, and I was drenched in sweat within 10 minutes of running. During the first hour, I only passed 4 cars, 1 runner who barely grunted a greeting, and one sly fox who stealthily crossed the road right in front of me and then slipped into the blue dim of the woods without so much as a sound. Where was he going? He wasn’t carrying breakfast in his mouth. I pondered that fox a bit.
I circled through a sleeping neighborhood and I smelled a skunk…very strongly….and I smelled flowers. I weaved here and there, up and down the rolling hills, and I smelled grass and honeysuckle and sometimes a garbage can. The air didn’t move. I think it was still asleep. It was just me and the birds who moved. And move the birds did! They chirped and cheaped and hoo hoo’d. They hopped and dove and darted here and there on the damp, grassy lawns. A robin proudly displayed his worm to me as I ran by. He didn’t seem to mind that I was shirtless and neither did I.
At the end of Mile 6, I circled back around to my house and refilled my now completely melted and empty hand-held with Gatorade from the insulated cooler bag. I ate a Popsicle and doused my head in cold water from the hose. Then, I continued on.
The next hour was a bit tougher than the first. Even though it was just after 6am, there were more cars out and about, which made me self-conscious of my shirtlessness and my pannus bane. The sun had turned from a low-hanging, burnt orange to a higher-hanging burning lemon. The heat, humidity, and the rolling hills were starting to take their toll on my recently-returned-from-hiatus legs….plus I was getting bored. BUT I trudged on. Up the hills and down the hills. Twisting through the neighborhoods. There’s that skunk smell again. There’s someone walking her dog. Where are the runners? Am I the only one dumb enough to run today? And cars…. Where would all these cars be going at 6:30am? Ok ok…sigh…Don’t think, just do. Don’t think, just do.
Up until Mile 11, I felt ok. I didn’t think much. I just did. I was moving very slowly (probably about a 10:30 pace),but my lungs and legs felt good. My hip wasn’t bothering me at all and seemed all but cured after a full week of running. But then, at Mile 11, my energy just …poof! … left. I kept running, mind you, never stopping to walk even once, but I felt my feet shuffling under my knees and I knew it was time to wrap it up. No 14 miles today…I would stop at 12
And so I did. I stopped at 12. I had been out for more than 2 hours when I finished up. It was indeed a long, slow run and I averaged a 10:39 pace. My household was still asleep as I crept back indoors. Even the dogs were still asleep. And thankfully, most of my neighbors slept through my brazen shirtless run, otherwise there might now be all sorts of laws in place about running in only a sports bra….but geez, give me a break! It was hot!! Another long run in the bank. Not what I had intended, but still those miles all add up on marathon day, which hopefully will NOT be a hot one.
And that, my friends, is how it happened one morning, early, on a hot, summer day.
And now in honor of hotness and summer and sports and people who can proudly go shirtless, here is a great video inspired by the summer Olympics that one of my DailyMile buds (Pam) posted. I thought it was very nicely done and kind of makes me want to do that 12 miler all over again in 100-degree heat. Enjoy.