Ye Olde Taper has begun. In the week ahead I’ll be running much less. A big race, one of my favorite, is a week away. I’m going to keep the race secret until I write a proper report on the event.I banged out 11.61 miles today in pretty good form. The heat was an issue, hovering above 80F for the duration. One weather report stated I was running in 84F, another reported the temps up to 90F. Some stretches of sunny roads, of course, felt much hotter to me than 84F. I dove for shade like…someone who’s hot. By mile 8, I was out of water. By mile 6 I had stopped sweating. By mile 4 I didn’t know where I was. By mile 2 all I was thinking about was next week’s race – would I redeem myself or would I show poorly, either way I’d suffer. By the start of the run I just wanted some peace and quiet. 

And so I headed out the door on heavy legs, toting 20 oz. of tap water, a Gu gel, two salt caps. I ran down into the dregs of ruined brownstones, across the river and headed for California, PA a few miles away up the next hill. I don’t know what to call the landscape here. Maybe they’re hills, maybe they’re mountains. They rise 300 to 500 feet up, so I guess they’re hills. Boats and jet skis stitched the placid river with lacy foam. High humidity and the heat pushed me into slower a slower pace. The incline that rises from the river is nearly 2.5 miles long, and by the time I get atop it, I’m a river of sweat.

I struck off onto a freshly mowed swath of green grass through a field. I nearly ran over a groundhog. It bolted from the edge of the grasses gown up nearly to my chin, realized its error, turned tail and scampered back into the thick dry grass. Frogs croaked around me, birds took flight. There were all kinds of critters in the tall grasses. I ran too close to the green stalks and actually got bit on my neck by a fire ant. It must have been on the oats, either that or it had been sleeping in my beard and bit into me when my coursing sweat bore it away. 

I meandered through fields I didn’t know about. The way the paths were cut reminded me of the cross country paths at the nearby college. The fields were separated from the campus by an apartment complex with a foot path worn along its perimeter. If I were on a cross country team, I’d be running all over the place. Along the edge of the woody areas I spied quite a few black raspberry plants with the berries still quite small, hard and green. Black raspberries are sweet, really really sweet, but only faintly sour.

I foresee the need to make a pie. Make an example of the black raspberry, let all the other fruit know what the score is, as if to say, “Hey fruits, you’ve been lying about, getting painted, getting you’re pictures on yogurt tubs, living the high life. But you’ve never slipped into anything like this flaky, hot coat. You’ll be swimming in a bubbling stew of fruity goodness if you’re lucky like the elusive wild black raspberry.” As if to say just that. Fruit cares little for my schemes. 

Call the weather searingly hot, muggy, with a chance of pies.

I emerged from the fields in a neighborhood. I ran through it, and another one like it. No one playing outside, no one walking around. Running is a great sport if you’ve grown accustomed to being alone a lot. The paradisaical subalterns of my indoor century gots me down. I got those Go Outside Blues. As big as the sky, these blues. I look up, but all I see are these smeared clouds melting into a dense white layer. Thunderstorms tonight. The heat and humidity wracked me. On the way home I took a detour into CALU stadium, ran into a restroom by the track and dunked my head and washed my hands and downed a bottle of cool water and then filled my water bottle. Ten minutes later I sucked that down, too.  

I really needed this hot run. I have to deal with a lot of heat at two specific events coming up. Again, upon reaching home, I bent over, gasping, clutching my knees, getting my breath back. Upon straightening back up I nearly blacked out again. If I put myself through this I have a greater chance of surviving next weekend’s run, and, obviously, I plan to survive and surmount challenges which lay ahead, like candy paving the sweet road to Hell.

Again I fought the urge to dive in the river and cross it. With the drunken wave runner action it’s probably for the best that I didn’t tempt fate. 

I could easily go back out and run 10 or 15 more miles. That itch is a good itch to have. 

Apparently I twisted my left ankle in a difficult trail race in April, a half-marathon. I remember – it was early in, maybe a mile, two miles into the course, and everyone’s settled into their paces and I rolled my left ankle hard in  tangle of loose roots. I fall, tumble like a drunk and lurch back to my feet. A runner just behind me remarked, “Ow! You just rolled your ankle good. You okay?” I responded that I was, but I knew I’d twisted it a little. A month later I rolled the same one on a railroad trestle run – stupid is as stupid does – and that’s when I noticed the pain in the ankly was all the way through the ankle joint, on the left, the right, in the midst of the joint, around the heel quite tender. 

Running is probably my favorite way to rehab a sprain. And today, after pouring water on my head in a dimly-lit restroom, I felt the ankle itch the way a deep injury does when it’s healing. So, that’s good.

Day 9 of the Juneathon was a good day.