After three years, I finally bought a new pair of running shoes (I know, my orthopedist is cringes with you). When I broke them out of their box, their bright reds and oranges erupted fresh soles to create in me a burst of athletic energy. It was like the sun was rising out of my cardboard box, like I held the horizon in my hands. They were perfect.
With my glowing holy grail in hand, I turned to look out the window, where I saw rain. Pouring rain. It does that here. And, when it does that here, that means one of two things: mud or puddles (the combined antichrists of new shoes).
But I had to run. My sport/eating habits/happiness demanded it. I waited for the rain to relax and made it out onto the trail. A few minutes into the run, feet still dry and happy in their colorful sanctuaries, I approached a wetland portion where I proceeded to bounce and bob from side to side, slowing, speeding, ducking and diving to avoid the viscous Vermont puddle works. I summoned whatever agility U14 soccer had once taught me, and twinkle toed, spin moved and laterally slid across the boggy path.
“Quick feet! Quick feet!” I chanted to myself, as I closed the gap between the muddy way and dry road. I’ve done it, I thought, I’ve walked on water. Granted, it had taken me five minutes to cover a 400 meter stretch, but dry socks were worth it.
Just as I was getting complacent, I hit a boardwalk that, rather than standing above water, was simply floating on it. My right foot dipped into the claws of the stagnant spring water, and with it my illusions of dry, agile superiority shattered.
You know, there are few things more unnerving than getting your shoes wet. The water infiltrates your soles, closing the gap between your shoe and sock with an icy cement wall. It separates your toes and shocks your entire system, shooting warning signals up your ankles, through your knees, all the way to your heart and brain that react with a sudden fight or flight instinct. It just feels completely unnatural. At first.
Once the seal has been broken, though, once your socks expand and your toes relax and the water warms up to match your body, wet shoes aren’t so bad. On the run, I mourned my submerged shoe for a moment, but continued on to have an excellent day on the trail, splashing through puddles and slipping through mud, it just took a little discomfort to get me there (I feel an extended metaphor coming on).
A couple of weeks ago, I drove down to Stratton for an uphill running time trail (why, yes, I DID bring my new shoes). It was the earliest I’d ever done such a hard effort, but that didn’t phase me much. I was racing five weeks ago, I thought, I’ll pick it up again no problem.
Um. Problem. I’ll spare you the nasty details, but we’ll just say the experience was somewhat akin to my right foot hitting water, except centered in my entire cardiovascular system and rather than cold, it was all kinds of twisting, pulling, aching hot. It was a brutal, distressingly uncomfortable experience, one that I was not ready for.
Fast forward three weeks and I’m standing at the bottom of a hill getting ready to double pole up it as fast as I can. It’s been a while since I’ve double poled. It’s going to hurt. Images of the uphill run flash before my eyes as I prepare my body for what’s coming.
First interval: not bad. Second interval: better! Third interval: Ok that doesn’t feel great. Fourth interval: why am I still going uphill? Fifth interval: What? I’m done!
Turns out, today’s experience was unlike the uphill run. There was some discomfort, but nothing shocking. It was splashing through a puddle after already getting my shoes wet; I had already broken the seal.
We stand at the start of a long training season, one filled with challenges, adventures and (hopefully) rewards. For whatever minor difficulties we encounter now, we know that they won’t necessarily make the path smoother (read: dryer), but attacking them now will certainly make it more fun. The best part, is that when we get to the other side, we realize how much faster we got there than the people who kept their shoes dry.
Welcome back everyone!