Saturday, December 26, 2015

Santa Shuffle

If I'm healthy and fit enough, I typically run to Hillbilly Heaven (where in-laws live) on Christmas Eve. I was healthy and fit enough in 2015, so I struck out from West Monroe Avenue at 2:06 pm. The temp was in the 70s, and the skies had finally cleared after several days of rain. But since I usually do my long run on Friday and Christmas Eve was Thursday, I didn't know how my legs would respond. Tuesday I had hit them pretty hard with 6.17 multi-paced miles and followed that up with some squatting and swimming.

When I make that run, I do it in several ways. Sometimes I decide ahead of time on a run/walk pattern. Sometimes I run the whole way with no walk breaks. Sometimes I just leave the house and let my legs make the decision once I am on the road. I chose the latter on the last Hillbilly Heaven run.

I thought it was going to be a lot of walking for sure when I first shuffled out of my driveway onto the street and headed west towards Highway 82. My legs felt weak and my mind was uncertain. But like they did on the journey run, the legs felt better and better after I warmed up. I ran the whole way. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fast, but I did it. 

I made it out of town and onto Humphrey's Highway with some fatigue but also with the idea that I could shuffle all the way. Writing this I just realized that I have never seen the name "Humphrey's Highway" on any map, and I look at maps a lot. I love maps. I had just as soon look at a map as look at a woman. Officially it is Highway 430, but all my life I have never heard it called anything but Humphrey's Highway. I don't even know who Humphrey is/was. He may have been a representative or a supervisor or a governor even and the road was named after him to honor his service. Or it may have been called that in jest like a lonely county road I often travel is dubbed the McKellum-Greene Expressway. I don't remember who McKellum was only that he wielded some sort of political power. Greene was a State Representative who lived on the lonely road that even now, forty years later, leads only to catfish ponds where dead raccoons outnumber living people. While these two gentlemen were in office, they were instrumental in having that road paved. At the taxpayers' expense of course.

I was thinking none of that, however, when I shuffled onto Humphrey's Highway and headed south into the warm wind. What was on my mind was heat acclimation and hill running ability. A couple of months back, my heat enduring abilities were at an all-time high. Despite being the day before Christmas, I needed that now, and I wondered if it was indeed warm enough to extend or preserve that fitness niche. About the hills, I have never been very good at them. My legs are too weak, my Vo2 max is too low, and my belly is too large for good climbing ability. The hill one must negotiate to leave the Delta and enter the loess bluffs that tower over Mississippi's flat lands is a difficult one even in a car. When I run that thing, it always wipes me out.

Actually, I was already wiped out when I jogged up to the bottom of the monster with 11.82 miles of shuffling on my legs. Don't forget, one of my goals for this winter is too run up that thing four times in one day. I did that once when I was in my twenties. Late last summer, I made it up twice and came back a couple of weeks later thinking I could do three times only to fail at one and a half times up. I walked down that day in defeat, but vowed to come back more fit and less fat. Today was different, however, in that I had run all the way from town. I really don't remember how long it has been since I ran all the way from home and then up the hill. But I did it. My time on the Big Hill Mile, as I call it, was a miserable 13:16. But I did it.

Not only that, but I continued to shuffle past Acey's Store. Now matter how fit or how young I once was, I never had anything left after running that hill. Now I had one thing left: audacity. I am going to shuffle in no matter how pitiful I look or feel doing it. And I did it. When I got the the house at Hillbilly Heaven, my granddaughter ran out with arms wide open.

"Poppy!" she said running towards me.

"I'm soaking wet, Sweetie," I protested. "Hug me after I take a shower."

And she did. And so did my grandson. It was a good run, a good day, a good evening. Total run was 15.7 miles. Total hugs from my granddaughter about a dozen. Life is good.
With Caitlin after the run.