Life of a Runner (Part 89)

Hello readers! This is a really big week for me, so I hope you’re ready for a bit of a longer read than normal. I had cross country camp and Mines of Spain, but this is going to be an amalgamation of running, running tips and advice, a pinch of nostalgia, and a whole bunch of my inner thoughts, which can sometimes be a lot. If you can make it through all that, I really appreciate it! Thanks for being one of my devoted readers! Now, let’s get to it.

Monday

5.5 miles, 1:01:44 (11:15/mile)

My first day at camp was a success! We went up to the High Trestle Bridge for our workout, which started at around 4:30 in the afternoon. That was tough because by that point, it was really hot and we had been traveling all day. I don’t know about the kids, but I was not hydrated. The workout we did was run for 7 minutes, walk for 1 minute, for an hour. I ran with a couple of the high school boys for most of the time. Around the halfway point, though, I started to get into trouble. When we turned around, I had some pretty bad cramps (probably from dehydration). That did not make running very fun at all. But then I also started to get chills. That is usually the next sign of dehydration, and it usually means you’re in trouble and you need water and shade ASAP. You can tell when you have the chills because it is 90 degrees outside but you have goosebumps, or even your teeth are chattering. I, unfortunately, did not have shade, but I did have a little bit left in a bottle of water. I poured some on my wrists and drank a little, but I did have to walk for several minutes before the chills subsided and the cramps mostly went away. The rest of the run, I was with one of the parents and a couple of boys. I made it to the end alive, but I was definitely not 100% healthy after. I did make sure to drink a lot of water that night. All in all, my first run at camp was a success. Also, I was just so excited to see everyone again! It made me really excited for school to start and cross country season.

Tuesday

Morning: 2 miles, 19:22 (9:40/mile)

This morning, I was put in charge of the group of middle school girls. The high schoolers were going to do 3 miles, and we were just going to run to breakfast. I was grateful for that because I was a bit tired and not ready for anything longer or faster. Plus, I had a nice time with those middle school girls. I took them to the lodge for breakfast, but we had split into three or four different groups, so when the first group got to the lodge, I turned around and went back for the next group and ran with them to the end. I did that twice until everyone was back. That’s why my run was about half a mile longer than the kids’. I also had them do a couple of strides after. When the high schoolers got there, we did core. It was a very productive morning!

Afternoon: 4 miles, 38:32 (9:37/mile)

This afternoon, after an outing to the mall, we ran on the Neal Smith Trail in Des Moines. This was also at around 4:30 in the afternoon, and it was sweltering. Let me tell you, this week is mostly supposed to be in the 90’s, and we don’t have air conditioning at camp, and so we are mostly hot all the time. And then we went running two days in a row at the hottest part of the day. And yes, reader, I died a little bit. We were to run fifteen minutes out, turn around, and then fifteen minutes in the other direction and back. Most people did some kind of interval where they ran for several minutes and then walked for several, but it was so hot. As soon as we started on the trail, it felt like I couldn’t breathe, because it was all wooded and enclosed, so there was no airflow. Ooohh it was rough. So I just ran the whole thing, no walking. I know the kids prefer the other way, but I can’t do it. The run/walking just doesn’t work so much for me anymore.

The other thing that made it tough was I started chafing. The chafe started last night, but today made it three times worse. I took a break at the halfway point, thirty minutes in, and it was not pretty. But I sucked it up and continued on. I ended up only doing five minutes out and five minutes back in the other direction and calling it quits at 4 miles. The inside of my thigh was raw from chafing. It hurt so so so bad. If you’ve never had chafe, you can definitely look up pictures of it. Men are famous for finishing marathons with bloody nipples because of chafe. Mine is not exactly the same, but it happens mostly when it’s humid. My shorts start riding up and then skin rubs against skin or skin rubs against the shorts, and the friction causes the skin to open up and painful stinging wounds appear. If it’s bad enough, it’ll bleed. Some of you may remember the time that happened to me at cross country conference my junior year of college. That was very bad. This was not that bad, but it does not feel good to run with. I felt really bad about cutting the workout short, but it’s only Tuesday. I wanted to be able to make it to the end of the week. Also, I had some very nice people help me tonight with the chafe and with giving me a ride home (thanks Becky and Jason!) so that was nice.

Wednesday

Morning: 2.7 miles, 25:14 (9:26/mile)

We did the Kate Shelley Bridge run this morning. This is famous for being a very steep hill that sucks the life out of you. The run was a bit shorter than last year, but we started and finished in a different spot. It was also in the morning. You may think, “Well, that will be better because it is not as hot!” Normally, you would be right. But it is summer, so the weather will do what it wants. It was around 80 degrees when we started, and the tricky thing about this run is there is no shade. It’s all out on a gravel road. The hill is a beast unto itself, but once you make it past said beast, there is a long flat section that seems way worse. Sure, you can’t breathe because of the hill, but it seems like you just can’t recover from it because the flat part takes whatever is left of your strength and crushes it. We, luckily, had a breeze on the way out. Unluckily, that breeze hurriedly disappeared as soon as we turned around. I ran by myself the whole time. The girls ended up a ways behind me at the end, but I thought they were going to catch up on the downhill because I was not feeling groovy. This was not like last year, where this was my triumphant run where I let loose and got into my racing mindset. This was just another “finish and survive” kind of run. The downhill at the end helped, it helped me get moving a bit faster, but it was all lackluster because of how much the run sucked on the whole. Also, the chafing didn’t bother me this morning! So it didn’t get worse, though it’s probably not going to have a chance to heal until the end of the week. I’ll just have to use a lot of gel to keep it from getting worse. (Gel or deodorant helps prevent chafing)

In the late morning, we did a pool workout, which was fun to watch. Sure, I swam for a bit, but I mostly sat on the side with my legs in the water getting sunburnt. Oh yes, the two things I forgot to bring on this adventure: sunscreen and bug spray. I suffered. I also kept reminding the students to not just drink water but other fluids as well, a lesson well learned from Schuetzen.

Evening: 5 miles, 52:55 (10:35/mile)

We ran tonight at the Iowa State cross country course. Our run started at around 7:30 at night. By that time, it had cooled off, the sun was setting, and a breeze had picked up. It felt gorgeous. It was like a cool blanket had been wrapped around me. This was the best I’ve felt since arriving at camp, and this run showed it. I ran with a group of the high school boys — Gavyn, Ben, Robert, and Michael — and kept them on track (but mostly kept track of the time). We did a somewhat hard to remember workout that was printed on a sheet of paper for us, that involved intervals of running and walking that varied. If you wish, the workout is in parenthesis following, and it is listed running minutes first, then walking minutes (3–1, 2–2, 4–1, 1–2, 1–1, 3–3, 1–1, 4–2, 5–1, 0.30–1, 0.30–1, 6). It felt amazing. I even got to say hi to my former colleague, Olivia! It was really fun to run with the boys and chat with them, too. Overall, tonight was my favorite so far.

Thursday

Morning: 5.5 miles, 56:00 (10:34/mile)

We did our longer run today. It started between 10:30 and 11, so it was starting to heat up. We broke into two groups: most of the high schoolers would be doing 10.5 miles, most of the middle schoolers would be doing 5 miles. I put myself with the middle schoolers because I did not think I would be able to make it ten miles at that time of day with the amount I’d been hydrating. It turned out to be a very smart choice. I ran with a small group of three boys and one girl, and they were all in middle school. They were on top of things! Right away, they decided they were going to run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes. That was fine with me! We kept a great pace for the most part. They were getting pretty tired by the end, and they really wanted water, but I tried to encourage them as best I could. We crossed the High Trestle Bridge again, on our route that took us through Madrid and past the bridge, and there was little shade along the way. The times we had a breeze were few and far between. Those kids did great, though. They stuck it out until the end, even though the run was half a mile longer than we thought it would be. Then we found out that the high schoolers’ run was cut short to 7 miles due to the heat, and I felt even better about how they did! Those kids were out there and they only went a mile and a half shorter than the high schoolers in that heat! I felt really proud of them for that. Plus, it made me feel like I definitely made the right choice by going with them.

Afternoon: We did the fun run through Ledges Park, involving a mud fight. Three middle school girls ambushed me, and I ended up with mud coating my back, my arm, and one side of my face. I smelled disgusting, but we had a good time. I’m not counting it as a run because we mostly jogged or walked, but we did go between 2–3 miles total, I think.

Friday

2 miles, around 20 minutes

My watch died during the long run yesterday, so I didn’t have a timer going. But the main goal this morning was to try to keep everybody together on our run over to breakfast. It was the same route as Tuesday morning, and we ended up mostly staying together. A small gap appeared between two groups, but they caught up at the end. It was just a nice run to stretch our legs out. I was feeling quite sore. I turned around and went back because one girl fell behind a bit. She felt bad about it, but I assured her this run is not a big deal, it’s just about stretching your legs out. It was so nice this morning, too! About 58 degrees when we started, which felt amazing. I woke up chilly for the first time! It was a great run to close out our week at camp.

Last night, we did the campfire tradition, which I really enjoy. Last year, it made me miss my Cornell teammates so much, since I never really got to say goodbye to them at the time. This year, it made me think about my running career, my teams of the past, but also my future in running and my future as a coach. Now that I have my coaching license, coaching is definitely something I want to do. I’m starting this year, as the assistant high school boys track coach. Running has just always been such a big part of my life, and to share it with others is something I want. Also, the seniors giving their speeches definitely made me emotional. I’ve been in their shoes, and I know how it feels. The whole night was one for reflecting, I think. And for cherishing the memories built around running.

Anyway, that morning, we left camp and went home. And I headed up to Keystone to stay the night with my parents before waking up super early for the Mines of Spain trail race!

Saturday

7 miles, 1:12:36 (10:32/mile)

Wow! What a great race! But it did not start out that way at all. Actually, at the start line, I wanted to cry. I was so nervous, my legs were sore and tired from this week, my stomach didn’t feel great, and I knew I was dehydrated. But still, the airhorn went off, and the 4-milers and 7-milers took off as one, diving down into the trail. The beginning is always a mess, with people trying to get out and find their stride. I took off slower than usual, which might have been a mistake. I had a hard time finding my pace at the beginning, so it was like a miracle when Mum showed up. We ended up running together for the first mile and a half or so. It felt so great! I felt like I was doing well, and she kept me calm and encouraged me to pass some slower people. We ran together until the point where the 4 mile splits from the 7 mile. I went left, she went right. After that, I fell apart. There have been only a few times I’ve missed my mom more than at that moment. For a few minutes, it was like old times, the two of us running together. I wished — not for the first time that morning — that I’d done the 4 mile. Anyway, when the course splits, the 7 mile goes off onto a loop that involves a lot of stairs going uphill. I started walking up the stairs, and I fell into a mental trap. This trap was full of doubt, full of negative thoughts, and I needed to get out or I was going to fail. I started to have issues with my breathing, and so I started repeating to myself out loud, “You’re okay.” That helped a lot, and I got myself to keep moving, even if I was walking. I had to let go of my expectations for myself and where I thought I “should” be or how fast I thought I “should” be going. I just took one step after another.

Once I made it over that mental barrier, I was good for a mile or two. Actually, the first four miles went by relatively fast. I was very glad for that. Another obstacle that occurred around the same time was my appearance. My spandex shorts started riding up almost immediately, and although I was worried about the chafing, that really didn’t bother me until the end. They rolled up all the way up my thighs, and also my shirt was a bit short, so I just felt like I was showing all this skin and I felt like I looked like a disaster. At that point, too, I wanted to stop. But I finally told myself to get a grip, and that I shouldn’t care what I look like, I’m out here to kick butt. So, just like that, I was on track once again.

The four miles took me up to this super steep hill that would lead to the bluff. That steep hill almost killed me, too. I had to repeat, “You’re okay, you’re okay,” to myself as I went along. I made it to the top and hustled down the stairs to the bluff. Then I told myself to just take it all in. I didn’t stop, I kept going, but I made myself look around, because that was what made me fall in love with this race two years ago. Seriously, I think this is the most beautiful race I’ve done. That little stretch makes all the pain worth it. It is just gorgeous and it is what I love about trail running. After that, the fifth mile took everything out of me. The fifth and sixth miles put a halt on all my progress, and I had a really slow mile time. A bunch of people who I’d passed earlier passed me. That mile seemed to last forever. And I knew the hard part was still coming: the stairs out of the trail. I managed to speed up again once I was on familiar trail, and when I saw the sign that read “to finish”. Then came the stairs. I was with an older guy on the stairs, and we both made jokes about there being more than last year and how much it hurt. That made it easier to go on. Plus, I reminded myself I basically did 22 miles of stairs at Schuetzen back in June. I thought back to one of the seniors’ speeches from camp. She had said, “Cross country has made me realize I’m a lot stronger than I think, and I can do a lot more than I think I can.” I knew that was true, that I was also stronger than I thought. That really made me keep going and finish out that last mile. Before I knew it, I was coming up out of the trail to the finish line. My legs felt like Jell-O. I was shaky and shivering a bit, and my mom had me walk over and sit down almost right away. I drank some water for the first time since before the race (maybe that was part of my problem). I was upset because I looked at the clock as I finished and it was a lot slower than I thought I would be. I was quickly corrected by Mum, who told me the clock was going on the half-marathon time, which started 15 minutes before us. So I ended up being really happy with my time!

And, it turns out, I was first in my age group! Who would have thought it? There was a tiny bit of a mix-up, so I didn’t get an award, but I really didn’t care. Getting myself through that race was what really mattered, and doing it in a pretty decent time was just the icing on the cake. During the race, especially during the uphills, I kept thinking to myself that this is a metaphor. For the last few months, I’ve been in a pit. I’ve been unhappy with the shape I’m in, unhappy with my running, unhappy with my runs and my times, and now I’m pulling myself out of that pit. I’m pulling myself out of the pit of my out-of-shape-ness and pulling myself back to where I want to be. I really think I’ve finally turned the corner. I’ve finally made it out of the pit.

Now, a lot of that continuing up out of the pit has to do with where I go from here. My biggest wish is that I want to keep this going. I want to keep running similar mileage, and build these good habits before school starts. I don’t want to slip backward. I only want to go up from here. I know I’ve got it in me, I just have to stay strong. I just have to keep telling myself, “You’re okay.”

So, this week totaled up to 34 miles. The most I’ve done in a week all year! There are a lot of good things that came from this week, and I really mean that. The reason I left this week without a title is because I was looking back on all my titles, and I thought this was perfect the way it was. Running is such a huge part of my life, and sharing that with people is a gift. And I’m just so grateful to be able to call this story mine. I want people to experience a bit of the life of a runner, or one runner. That involves a lot of different things. So I thought I’d keep the title at least short and simple, even though this entry certainly was neither of those things. I also just looked back and saw how many of these I’ve written now, and it’s just amazing to me that my life can have so many different chapters, especially just the running aspect of my life. It’s just a reminder that you always have another shot at things, another chance to turn your life around or start doing things differently.

I took Sunday off, for obvious reasons. I’ve got to rest and roll out my calf that’s been bothering me the last few days. But I promise I’ll be back next week. Thank you very much for reading. I’ll see you then.

— Morgan

Teacher, Runner, Reader, and Writer. Destined for great things, I think.