Yesterday taught me that I am a runner in a saboteur’s body. In an effort to work off the pre-baby weight and to get in shape enough to do the badass Warrior Dash in Oct., I’ve taken up running 3 days a week, following the Couch to 5K 30-min. interval training schedule. For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been running on a treadmill at the gym and only yesterday got the guts to try a cross-country run out at the Manassas Battlefield Park. This was a mistake.
To begin with, I tried running at one location, made it halfway up a Hill of Death and my heart exploded out of my chest. I wasn’t even through one running interval, so I said “Screw it!” and went back to my car. Then I remembered a nice-looking trail farther up the road that consisted of a small bridge over a long section of lake water—at least, every time I passed it in my car, it looked like a scenic trail that I always thought would be fun to jog. If I did that sort of thing. So, considering I now did, I decided to try it out. Even though the bridge I remembered was flat (like a treadmill) I gave myself mental points for at least being outdoors. It was a start, right? Besides, it was a really pretty, warm day—great for an outside run, right?
Now, maybe you’ve already figured this out, but a long bridge over water, while scenic, is essentially a boardwalk on top of a swamp. In the springtime. Which is like the red light district for randy bugs. Because I’m not very bright, I was reminded that mosquitoes live in swamp water the hard way. More specifically, after I’d already delivered my rump roast right into their living room. I got bit so many times, I’m pretty sure I contracted malaria.
And after my first running interval, which led me conveniently off the boardwalk and up what felt like a 90* hill, I almost quit again. Must’ve been the lack of oxygen. But as I was wandering, defeated, back down the hill I’d just lurched up, I got mad. Mad that I’d come all the way out there, been dinner for about 70,000 mosquitoes, and could hear my blood pressure in my ears and STILL wasn’t through with the first quarter of my workout. I got mad at my extra belly fat and the fact that I still couldn’t fit in my pre-preggo jeans and that I had a zero-liter lung capacity. I got mad that my body was betraying me so spectacularly. And that as I was standing halfway down the hill being mad, an eighty-year old Oriental lady hiked briskly past me with a cheerful smile, not out of breath in the least.
I get easily discouraged enough to quit most things, but if I get mad, then it becomes A Thing. A Must-Be-Attainable. So I looked at the hill I had to go BACK up in order to keep going and was all like:
Then I looked at my feet and was like, “I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY THIS GRASS!” I think I scared the Oriental lady. So, I started up my iPod and continued my run intervals, trying to hold onto the mental image I had of myself springing gracefully along the rolling path like a gazelle. In my head, I was even smiling angelically, like I was having fun.
About 10 min. into it, I gave up looking like I knew what I was doing. No controlled, smooth breathing when I passed groups of hikers, with a sucked-in stomach and long, easy strides. Oh no, not at that point—I was just focusing on not dying in front of them. I pep-cursed myself freely, not caring who heard me yell insults at the guy narrating my podcast, and scratched whatever part of me felt like it was getting bug-bitten. I passed the same family at 3 different points of my run (once going and twice, somehow, coming back) coincidentally scratching my butt cheek each time. They probably thought it was part of the workout.
And I think I figured out why I love running on the treadmill so much more. It’s not just because running outdoors is harder, because I’ve run until I almost puked on the treadmill. No, the reason I love the treadmill at the gym is because each morning, I’m running right for whatever braised chicken or creme-filled dessert the Barefoot Contessa’s making on Screen 5. All I have to motivate me when running cross-country is me telling myself, “You will run to X landmark over there and then you can stop and go home” and then repeating that for another point once I get to that landmark. (This works because I’m both very gullible and can be quite forceful when I have to be, so I fool myself every time.)
But, fueled by rage, I made it through the entire 30 min., even though I ran too far. (I learned that lesson about the time I turned around to return to my car: regardless of how far you run, you will have to walk that same length BACK. Stupid physics…) Yes, it was only one run. Hardly the ultra-marathon it felt like I was doing. But that one run was a sweaty, unattractive success. I have the feeling I’ll be very proud of myself if I ever make it to the point where I can run the whole length of time XC. Unless I die first. And that would suck, because I have a personal commitment to haunt anyone that kills me, and the only thing worse than dying fat would be returning as a fat ghost.