I knew I was in trouble the second I walked out the doors and stepped into an air that felt like being bare-hugged by a dirty, morbidly obese uncle (and I don’t even have one of those). Simply my short walk home left me coated in a thin veneer of sweat. This workout was going to be bad….but it must get done regardless.
I put on my shorts, shoes and thinnest socks I could find before heading out the door and up the street. My shoes still held the sweat from my run 2 days ago and would only gather more with each step forward. Not 2 miles into the run and sweat was rolling out from underneath my hair and finding its way into my eyes…and this was just a slow warmup. I always know I’m in trouble with the weather when I get to my five mile warmup completion and my shorts are already saturated with sweat, dripping the excess out the seams down my ankle and pooling into my shoes. Again…this is just the warmup.
I had an interval workout on the log of 8 minutes hard with a 3 minute recovery jog leading into 6 minutes hard, repeating the recovery jog and finishing with 4 minutes hard. I usually look forward to these broken efforts, but I knew from the get go this was going to be a struggle against the atmosphere. I was right.
I paused a couple minutes to psych myself up for the effort and then pulled myself into a quickened pace that felt strong, but within the bounds of control so I could still finish the next two efforts. Of course, 6 minutes in my breath had started to fall out of rythym and I struggled to take in enough dampened oxygen to carry my legs onward. I finished the first rep and savored the recovery, but knew the next 6 wouldn’t be as easy. I kicked right into them and found myself checking my watch far too often as the minutes ticked by slower and slower as the effort went on, like a tractor pull contest getting harder and harder as the finish nears. I drew out the recovery jog even slower and concentrated on breathing slow and trying to get my heart rate down in the suffocating air before the final effort came. I started in on the last 4 minute rep hoping the minutes would fly off my watch, but found the same pattern repeated as I tried to just run continuously over the crushed gravel. Time simply would not fly and I looked at my watch every 30 seconds waiting for the struggle to end. I pushed hard for the last 2 minutes, but my breathing was erratic and I couldn’t bring any strength into my legs. I just fought not to give in to the voice in my head that said, “Cut it short. Blame it on the weather.” The importance of the effort loomed though and I finished the workout off…now I just had to find my way back home with a 5 plus mile “cool down” in the unforgiving humidity.
I drug my legs up the trail and eyed the canal next to me, deeply considering taking a plunge in hopes that my body temperature would drop, but I resisted knowing the general pollution levels of our water bodies in this city. I continued into the surrounding neighborhoods and worked my way towards home, looking for some sort of relief along the way.
I pulled up to a stoplight where an overweight cyclist pulled up along side of me…..NOT dripping (literally) in sweat like myself. I saw rain clouds in the distance and verbally offered, “I wish it would rain. I can’t breathe in this shit.” He nods and grunts out a “Yeah”, before pedaling through a break in traffic. I did the same and turned onto another street a few miles from home, sporadically sheltered by front yard trees. I tried to keep some sort of pace ahead of a desperate foot dragging effort, but even going so slow it was difficult to keep my heart rate from shooting upwards.
I noticed then how desperate I was for relief from the heat and humidity and found myself scanning yards for a sprinkler, but adding insult to injury, any sprinkler system I did find was turned off. I imagined finding a secret switch on the heads poking from the grass like mushrooms that would set the water spraying…but this was merely imagining. I didn’t give up hope though and continued to scan for any unattended sprinkler system…with no luck.
Everything was an insult as plastic water bottles lay in the gutters, drained of every last drop possible. Gatorade containers held only ant-infested lines of baked syrup. I questioned if I found a relatively full bottle of water if I would drink it or not…I didn’t negate the option. To my left I heard a trickling of water and excitedly turned my head to see a dirty birdbath with a mechanical waterfall that was useless for any relief. I half expected to start seeing mirages of enclosed and air-conditioned water fountains flowing freely with gatorade or banana smoothies. Instead I saw a thuggish looking man walking on the sidewalk in front me carrying a newly purchased coke….and a coke has never looked so good. I fleetingly entertained running by and grabbing it in one swift motion, but laughed at the possibility of running any faster, let alone having the strength to twist off the cap. I considered simply asking for it, playing to his deeply veiled compassionate heart, but figured the reality of our relationship would land me with a solid black eye. I kept running. And somehow, without even an iota of relief from the water boarding humidity, I made it home.
Without stopping for even a minor pause I went straight to the fridge, poured myself a glass of water in the biggest container we have and downed it sloppily, purposely letting the cool liquid spill over my lips and down my body. I followed that by finishing off Noah’s inexplicably untouched smoothie then followed that by another glass of water and another and another, my heart rate and breathing finally relaxing into a manageable state.
Seriously…I’m done with this humidity. The only thing that gets me by is the notion that this is toughening me up, both physically and mentally. It’s one thing to simply run in this mess, but it’s something else entirely to complete workouts and run yourself to near temporary dehydration when it’s probably more advisable to stay home in your air-conditioned luxury. I can only hope that all this effort will pay off when the temperature and subsequent humidity drops to manageable levels. I expect a breakthrough and nothing less. The question is, on both accounts, when is that actually going to happen?