Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Hawk

I woke up early to a loud thud. My youngest son fell out of his bed. He told me he had a dream and rolled onto the floor. I laid awake for an hour after that, and finally got out of bed. I had a long run planned today, but it was a gray, wet morning, and combined with my lack of sleep, a long run didn't seem at all appealing to me. I knew I was going to have dig deep to find the motivation to do this one.

Today was a planned 12 miler. I have a half marathon coming up in 3 weeks, and I needed a long run. I wanted to run on the fitness path where I did a lot of my training over the winter. The entire path is 11 miles from my house and back. I figured I could add on an extra mile at the end, traversing through my neighborhood.

I sipped on my coffee and checked this morning's weather. The current conditions and forecast didn't help my lack of motivation.
It wasn't the temperature that scared me, it was that wind. 

Living near Chicago (even though I'm 15 miles from the lake) means that a lot of our weather is affected by the winds off Lake Michigan, which is due east from where I live. Weathermen often refer to that wind off the lake as the "hawk". Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote an essay about the hawk earlier this spring. Wind traveling across the lake is cooled by the water temperature and blows cool--heck cold--pretty far west, depending on the strength of the wind. When the wind direction is in the east or the northeast, I can count on a pretty raw feel to the air. I have to plan my route accordingly. I suppose I could drive an hour west and find much, much warmer conditions. And yes, I'm a weather nerd. In case you were thinking that.

The fitness path I wanted to take is west of me, and the returning 6 miles would be directly into the wind. Knowing that I didn't want to run that hard on my way home, I changed my plans, and decided to run the other direction to the local retention pond, which is east, dealing with the wind mainly the first half of my run. I knew that the wind across the lake water would be tough to deal with too. So I picked what seemed to be the lesser of the two evils.

The first 2.5 miles to the park were as brutal as any I can remember in recent history. The wind, which was blowing right through me, would occasionally gust and I felt like I was being pushed backwards. Truly. It also started to lightly rain. Sure, why not? I felt like turning around and heading home. It would have been easy, and the wind would be at my back, pushing me home.

But no. Must run....

I got to the park and as I approached, tried to gauge the wind off the lake and decide which direction I wanted to run. With the wind blowing straight east across the water, it didn't seem to matter which way I ran, so I followed the posted rules and ran in the pedestrian lanes. The lake is a mile long, and so I plodded along with the wind at my face. I kept thinking that I had to do this 2 more times. I kept telling myself that the wind would be at my back very soon. Hang in there!

At the end of the north side of the lake, I rounded to the other side and voila! the wind was at my back. I fairly zipped along as my run felt effortless. I felt great! My legs felt light! I felt like a Kenyan! Ok, not that fast...but still! I passed some walkers bundled up like it was January, not late April. Of course they weren't moving very fast, probably not working up a sweat. 

I believe that I looked like the wicked witch of the west with the wind at my back--it was blowing all my hair forward. And there were whitecaps on this little lake!
I made one trip around, and continued on to my second lap. Back into the wind. Hating running at this point, I felt my legs slowing down but I kept pushing forward. As I rounded the end of the lake, I saw a rollerblader coming towards me. There is a small hill down and around the corner and I thought he was going to wipe out. Arms flailing, he righted himself and shuffled along. No helmet, I thought to myself. Not good. Now with the wind at my back again, I picked up speed and headed towards the park shelter, where I could get water and take a gel, with the hope that I might get a little boost.

About halfway down that side of the lake, my stomach began to rumble. Good thing I decided to run to the park today, because there are bathrooms. Looked like a pit stop was in order. I took care of business and took my gel. I decided to change directions for my final loop, rounding the lake in the opposite direction, hoping that maybe, just maybe the wind would be calmer on the the south side of the lake.

Nope. Grumble, mumble, grumble, I pushed ahead, into the wind. I approached the end of the lake again, and happily left the wind behind. As I ran my final lap towards the shelter, I came up behind the roller blader. He was still flailing and taking choppy strides. All I could think to myself was that he was going to hit the pavement and I was going to have to stop to help him. I pictured his cracked skull and blood on the path. My mind went wild with this scenario. Not at all up for that challenge, I picked up speed and shockingly, I passed him. So not only was he dangerous on wheels, he was slow too. I felt like a total stud, passing someone on wheels. When does that ever happen? I wanted to say something to him, tell him to get a helmet or some lessons or something, but I pushed ahead, relieved that he would no longer be my problem. 

I completed that lap, and crossed the street to another little park and headed towards home. The path in this park takes me over a creek and out to a very busy suburban arterial road. I had to run east briefly and that wind! the hawk! almost brought me to my knees. Thankfully the rest of my run was with the wind at my back. I ran on the sidewalk and came to a busy intersection. The traffic signal was green, but as I approached I kept praying: please turn red, please turn red. I wanted to stop and catch my breath. But noooooo, it was green and so I plodded through the intersection. The next light turned red and I took that opportunity to breathe and stretch out my hamstrings, which were starting to complain.

The other body part that began talking to me at this point, which was mile 10, was my toe. Yep. My toe has been behaving itself, occasionally reminding me that it is still angry, but hasn't sent any signals to me lately. When I started to feel it twinge, I adjusted my gait. It occurred to me at that point that leg fatigue certainly affects my stride, and that maybe I'm landing too hard on the toe. Once I had that awareness and made some adjustments, the toe quieted down again. 

I got to the park in my neighborhood. Mile 10.3. Decision time. Do I go home and call it a day at 11 miles? Or do I push on for the 12 I set out to do? I thought about my upcoming race. I knew I would do okay even without this long run. But I made a commitment to myself to do 12, and I'm a woman of my word. It would be a mental victory for me as well. So I circled around the park, and headed up the frontage road for one more mile. I ran past the church, where the masses are in Spanish and the parishioners pour in. I went to mass there once with the people I used to work with. The mass is exactly the same except in Spanish. So I knew what was going on. The funny thing was, the priest spoke to me in English when I went to receive communion. How did he know? 

I finally turned onto my street.

Wouldn't you know it, my Garmin read 11.95 when I got to my house? So I ran an extra block, got to 12, and told my OCD to hush. 

I was surprised at what I saw on my Garmin: 

That run was hard. But I'm happy with that finish time! My fastest split time was mile 8, when I passed the inept rollerblader. My slowest split time was mile 11, when my toe started talking to me. 

Glad I got it done. I hope I can bring it to my half. And I hope the hawk stays away.

Anyone do a long run today? How was it? Do you have to plan your running route according to the weather? How many weather apps do you have on your phone? 

Monday linkup #bestfoot


  1. Wow great run - no wonder you felt tired, you kept a great pace! That wind sounds brutal. Cool running top!

    1. Thanks! I was in a dark mood, so black seemed like a good color for the day.... :)

  2. Great job! Good luck with your half! :)

  3. That's a phenomenal time for those conditions! Can't wait to see what you do at your half!

  4. Great run! Wind is the hardest element to handle, IMHO. I guess in Chicago area, though, it's part of the deal, right?

    1. Thanks! And I ask myself, why do I live here? Today its 45 and pouring rain. Which it will be doing for the entire week. Smh.

  5. wow that is a great time for wind issues! NICE JOB!

    I have nominated you for the Liebster Award. Follow the link to my blog about what you need to do.

    1. Wow, thank you! I'm honored! I'll start working on the questions...

  6. Sounds like a GREAT run!! Way to power through! Its those tough runs that really make the difference

  7. I felt the same way about my run today! I am right on Lake Michigan and deviated from my usual 5k route. Instead of going right on the lake, I stayed on a path about 30ft off it... and was still getting splashed by the mist of the huge waves caused by the wind! Speaking of which, the wind was brutal....
    But like you, I ran all my miles today even though I really, really, reallyreally didn't want to before OR during :0) Keep it up!!

    1. So so hard to be an outdoor runner in Chicago! But we do it...and good for you, getting it done!

  8. Wow! you're a rockstar. I know it's all for the training, but that wind would have convinced me to stay home. Way to stick it out!! Good luck on your race. I have my first half Memorial Day weekend. #bestfoot

    1. Aw thanks! When you live in Chicago, you just have to suck it up....