This rang true on Saturday when my alarm went off at 3:23am. Welcome to summer in Las Vegas.
I immediately hit snooze. "I'll just run tomorrow," I mumbled to Brian.
He mumbled back. "I'm golfing, remember?"
Darn it. Now what? Just skip it, that awful voice whispered. You aren't even in training yet. No one will know if you don't go. You're tired; yesterday you did 5 miles, leg day AND spent six hours at Wet n Wild. It was true; my body felt like a desiccated piece of beef jerky. I knew I was dehydrated. After all, yesterday's high was 111. Six hours at a waterpark in the blazing sun racing after a five year old was exhausting. Even if I had worn my hydration pack and consumed 32 oz of water per hour, I would still be feeling the effects. Instead, I had consumed barely thirty ounces of water the entire day and eaten a soft pretzel covered in those tiny, delicious salt granules. Very poor planning on my part. Everything on my body hurt.
These early mornings were starting to wear on me, too. For the past 8 weeks, I've been getting up at 4am or earlier to get my runs in before bootcamp, usually 3-5 times a week. Sleeping until 5am was now a treat. Brian referred them as my "trucker hours." I'm essentially a walking zombie by 8pm. This is the challenge of training through the summer when you live in a desert. Either rise before the sun or run in the sun and roast. Today's high? A toasty 113. It was already 88 degrees and once that sun came up, it was going to be hot, hot, hot.
The other part of my brain decided to chime in on this conversation. If you don't get up now, you won't get your run in, it reminded me gently. This voice sounds decidedly like Scott Jurek: kind, reassuring, determined. The 5K is next weekend, then you are out of town for two weeks. It's much harder to get your runs in when you aren't home. You need to get up. Besides, what is the first rule of marathon training? Never miss a long run!
I stared at the ceiling, listening to both voices, wishing desperately I had picked a better, easier, more-climate friendly hobby. With good snacks. Scrapbooking was looking better by the minute.
The war in my brain ended promptly when the pro-running voice accurately pointed out, Scott Jurek has the same internal fight. He ran Mount Si back-to-back-to-back as a training run...then turned around and did the same thing the next day. C'mon, get up and run. Get up, Kim.
So I did.
I jammed a toothbrush in my mouth and tried not to think. I put my shirt on. The anti-running voice reminded me that it doesn't matter if I skip a day; I probably need extra rest.
I took my shirt off.
I looked over at the warm, cozy, dark bedroom and sighed heavily.
You'll feel so much better after a run.
I put my shirt back on.
I'll admit, I was secretly hoping a kitten would trip me down the stairs. Any obstacle, hurdle, or roadblock was welcome. But the cats were still asleep, the coffee was ready, and my hydration pack sat on the counter neatly, exactly where I laid it out last night. All systems go.
As I drove, I tried to reassure myself that running at 4:30am was not dangerous. I'll be fine, right? Yes, this is the earliest I had ever set out, but it was also the hottest time of year. I couldn't figure out what I was more afraid of: hungry animals or bad humans. Running alone was stupid, I muttered. I should have stayed with the group; the Lulus were already out. In fact, as I drove down a very dark Hwy 159, I saw all of them charging up the road, reflecting like shiny jewels in the light of my headlights. They were not running the loop, which is why I opted to do my own run. I needed to run the Loop. It was calling. It had been too long.
So I parked, my car one of only three in the gravel lot, and geared up. It felt strangely reassuring to don the hydration pack. Sixty four ounces of water strapped to my body and all the pockets a girl could ask for. In my shorter runs, I'd been forced to stash the key fob in boob alley, a rather unfavorable location for many, many reasons. I don't even run with my phone anymore, mainly because I don't have a place to put it. (Lululemon shorts, as much as I love them, are consistently getting shorter and shorter. My Midwestern modesty was now a thing of the past). But with the pack, I had a choice of twenty-seven different pockets. Keys, gel, music, heck yeah! I'll bring my phone too. Why not. There was even a pocket to store my head lamp once the sun came out.
My lamp didn't last that long. I had a strong beam of light for about three minutes until it dimmed and then went out completely. Argh! If the first rule of marathon training is never miss a long run, the second rule should be always check the batteries in your head lamp. Rookie mistake. Now it was just me, a very black canyon, and a plethora of scary thoughts.
The first two miles, I kept the music off. Instead, I concentrated on the noises around me, listening for the sound of animals in the underbrush and the eventual growl of the puma as it would inevitably attack. I devised a plan; if I don't scare the big cat away, I should be able to still make it to Summerlin hospital in time. Blood loss might be a problem but I'm A+; that's a really common blood type. They'll be able to stitch me up in no time. Just gotta protect the internal organs.
My quads felt like fifteen ton steel beams and my hamstrings were singing. The ridiculous number of squats we did yesterday combined with the many flights of stairs at the water park had taken its toll. I started to negotiate with myself - why not run six miles instead of the thirteen? Three miles in, three miles out. Six miles is a totally respectable distance. After all, I got up at 3:20 in the morning! And it's black as night, my head lamp is dead, and there's a strong possibility I'm going to end up as some creature's breakfast. I deserve a shorter run.
I ran quietly, listening to the desert around me, content with the new plan. What was that in the bush, that rustle? I took off like a shot. This isn't scary, this isn't scary...this is really stupid. My mom would be so pissed if she knew I was doing this. (hi, Mom). Hell, I AM a mother; why am I doing this? This isn't scary, everything is going to be a-okay...just keep running.
I got up the monster hill at mile 2 and popped into the outhouse. While I had been focused on larger animals, I had underestimated the insect world. This guy was hanging out on the wall next to the toilet paper. He was the size of my hand.
When I walked out, the sun had come up.
The relief was palpable.
I'm going to make it!
The faint strains of daylight made the canyon feel like a new world. The scary animals and serial killers instantly vanished. My legs felt warmed and ready, not heavy and stiff. My fatigue evaporated. Hell, I had just peed right next to a wolf spider. Red Rock had nothing on me. I was going to rock this run!
So I did.
I didn't stop at mile 3; I went all the way to my turn-around at mile 6.5. I flew down the Wall then back up. I smiled at three cyclists. I passed a group of runners going up as I went down and we all smiled and waved. I sipped water, enjoyed the music, and watched the sun touch all parts of the rocks.
Life is beautiful.
It's an incredible feeling when you go from "I can't, I can't" to "I can...I am...I did."
My last two miles were an easy-peasy 8:38 and 8:29. I returned to the car in one piece, free of animal attacks, drenched in sweat and having avoided the imaginary murderers and rapists that lurk in the canyon.
To think I had almost skipped it.