I used to be a stickler for a training plan, following it down to the letter. But I being a mom has taught me to improvise, to roll with the bumps and curves that get in my way. Take last week: We went on a short family vacation (at long last!) to a lovely town on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. I knew the terrain would be relatively flat, so I swapped out that Thursday’s workout—90 minutes of hill running—with this Thursday’s one of 20-minute warm-up, 5 tempo miles, then a 20-minute cooldown. Seemed simple enough.
With a misty haze hanging in the cool air, I headed to the end of a trail I’ve run during previous visits. The proprietor of our cabins assured me the trail had just been completed, but about 10 minutes in, I was greeted by a “Trail Closed” sign. Originally from the East Coast, I wasn’t deterred: I kept running. No way I was backtracking. When I reached the section of the trail being worked on by backhoes and dump trucks, I slowed to a walk. None of the workers said anything to me, but I suddenly felt too brash. (As I frequently do on the West Coast!) Later on, when the trail drew parallel to a road I recognized, I decided I’d hop on that on my way home.
The tempo miles took it out of me—the sun had burned off the morning fog, the mercury was rising, and I was empty-handed (no energy gels, no H2O). I was supposed to have averaged 7:45-8:00 miles, but I had only managed 8:25’s. A year ago I was delighted with such tempo times, so I didn’t beat myself up over it. In fact, I told myself that if it only took me 15 minutes, not 20, to get back to our rental cottage, I’d be good with that. I mean, come on: I was on vacation here.
Yeah, in my dreams I reached my final destination in 15 or, heck, even 20 minutes. Instead the road stretched ahead of me, refusing to take me where I wanted to go. What should have been a 2-mile return trip, at most, stretched past three, then four miles. Then, going against every SBS-fiber, I started walking. I was angry and dejected. Like the I’ve-had-enough JetBlue flight attendant, I starting hurling invectives. I suddenly hated running. Hated being out on the road, away from my family. Even as I was ranting, I knew it was all because of a lack of glycogen in my system. If I only had a little sugar coursing through my veins, my brain and muscles—and me—would have been much happier. But instead I was tapped out.
Then, again like Steve Slater, I did what I’ve dreamed of doing for years. No, no beers and inflatable emergency chute, but I stuck out my thumb to hitch a ride. Here I was, in a friendly, small town on the edge of the continent: What evil could befall me? Easy: All the drivers could cruise by without even slowing down. Oh, man, now I was tapped and ticked! Realizing I had no other option, I fared forward, switching from a podcast to music. (Ironically, I chose the Dixie Chicks to simmer down. It wasn't until I finished the run did I realize the CD I'd chosen is named Taking the Long Way!).
Eventually the road lead to our cottage. But my run had stretched to 12.5 miles, not the 9 it was supposed to be. Later, when I wrote about it on my Facebook status update, another Portland Marathoner-in-training sagely advised, "I would have just tacked on 3.5 miles, and called it my long run for the week." Ah, clever woman. I bet she wouldn't have taken the road in the first place.