My 20k race marks the start of a week in Tampa for work. I’m attending a major conference, with a huge spectrum of meetings and sessions that cover the week from 8am to 10pm. Staying on schedule with my training is going to take a bit of ingenuity.
Driving to an unfamiliar city right after the race, I can tell I’m not quite as focused as usual. At one point, I decide I’ve been going way too long on a stretch of highway, pull over, decide I’ve passed my exit, go back, and finally realize I hadn’t gone too far after all. My usual driving style does, I admit, include a certain number of u-turns, but its the altered sense of time and distance passing that strikes me. I take a large drink of my diet coke and a deep breath, and decide I’m still okay to drive. I miss my exit downtown, but this one is kind of my usual, mentally waving to my exit as I fly by it. Its an easy u-turn to fix this one, though, and in just a minute I’m pulling into the hotel driveway. Getting out of the car is a sharp reminder that I’ve been driving for over an hour as my recovery from a two and a half hour race — ouch! I’m stiff and ready for a nap. I just need to get to my room. The clerk asks me what my medals mean. “Means I’m the third fastest racewalker in my age group.” I say with a smile. Oh I need to hang in there and reach a horizontal surface. “Okay, here we go” the clerk says. “That’s a corner king suite for 6 nights.” “Huh??” I reply, somewhat taken aback. Definitely not the standard conference-discounted room I’d reserved. But its mine, and oh, is it ever the place to do race recovery! I’m getting a little spacy, and I tell the clerk that I’ve just finished the race and am more or less okay, but I really really need to lay down and rest a bit. He’s just great — checks me in early, helps me up to my room and everything. I get some ice for my foot, take some more ibuprofen, and stretch out for a rest. After a bit I’m recovered enough to unpack and start getting ready for Monday’s early start. I’m still pretty draggy, although I don’t know if its from the race itself or the stop at Steak n Shake afterwards, so I order up room service for dinner and call it a day.
Monday’s easy — its a zero day, so I stretch a bit and get through a long day at a hectic pace. Tuesday, though, my schedule has me doing 400m repeats. Just one small problem — no track! A couple of folks at the race had told me to walk on Shoreline Drive, and I decide to just do the intervals by time, along this trail. I run out of the conference as soon as I can, but its still fairly late by the time I change and head out. The worst part of the route is that I have to start by crossing the length of the convention center terrace. I hope that my athlete clothing will serve as some sort of camouflage to my professional peers, and it seems to work. After this there’s a somewhat unpleasant stretch, right alongside a crowded noisy 6 lane street, complete with a few homeless folks. I’m instantly homesick for Portland, where nobody would ever rave about this piece of sidewalk. A little further, though, and it gets a lot nicer, more distance to the traffic, more grass, lots more joggers, no more homeless. I do get a few looks, because I’m doing the repeats fast, but I am forced to change my assessment of Shoreline as a place to walk. I’m looking out over a sunset sky over water, and its pretty. By the time I’m heading back, its getting dark, and I have to take off my sunglasses. I’m pretty alert in the final stretch, which is almost empty at this point, but I make it back without incident. (Someday, somebody somewhere will publish an actually useful travel guide that addresses safety. Until then, its just always a crap shoot.) I’ve more or less accomplished the workout, but I’ve entirely missed an early evening session I’d hoped to attend. I gulp down some sports drink, do a quick cleanup and re-dress, and head out for a dinner reception.
I do two more workouts on the Shoreline Drive, because its faster to retrace my steps than to figure out anyplace else to go. By the end of the week, I go in the morning. The knowledge that I’ve only got one chance to get in the workout, and its right after the #$#&^@ alarm goes off, actually helps me get out of bed. Well, okay, I admit, the morning sun reflecting off the buildings of the downtown skyline through my wide living room window helps some. I cannot afford to lose an entire week’s training because of this conference, and I can’t afford to miss many parts of this conference for training, so I need to push. No time to be a whiner. Friday morning, there’s a wonderful moment, when I step onto the scale and see a new number. I’ve reached my goal weight for the Seattle half marathon, with a week to spare! I’m so happy I barely eat at lunch. At dinner, though, I can’ t resist some strawberries in warm chocolate sauce. All week I’ve been dining at buffets of roast beef, free drinks, and huge dessert tables, trying to skip over things and eat halves of things as best I can.
Saturday I have a few hours before my flight home, but I’m tired and determined not to repeat the mistake I made my last trip, when I boarded a plane right after a three hour workout, ended up in the middle seat of the non-reclining back row, and had to be treated by a chiropractor for a back sprain the next day. I decide to just take a stroll along the beach and skip the schedule. I don’t have much time to research a destination, and although I think I’m headed to Caledesi Island State Park, I somehow end up in a place called Honeymoon Island State Park. This is pretty ironic, considering the emotional roller coaster of a week I’ve just had. Some days, the universe just really loves f*cking with my soul. Its just too pretty for me to stay cynical, though, I love walking barefoot along a shore, in and out of the water. There are lots of shells and rocks, so I have to pay some attention to where I step, but its sunny and not very crowded. I reach the end of one strip of sand, and have to go over some rocks and around a bend to the next stretch, only I encounter a not-too-small obstacle — my path is blocked by a stork, hanging out quietly, checking me out. I don’t know if bothering a stork is illegal, the way bothering a harbor seal is at home, but this bird is upright and taller than many children, so shooing him out of my way like a seagull doesn’t seem appropriate. On the other hand, this is the only walk on the beach I’m getting this trip, and I really do want to continue on. I decide on a patient approach: I take a step forward, then wait, and the bird takes a step or two away from me, then I take another step, and so on. Neither of us takes our eye off the other for the entire incredible dance. Finally, several minutes later, the path is clear enough for me to walk by and still leave five or six feet between us, so I continue on. Eventually, I’ve used up my allotted time and my extra buffer, and really need to get to the airport.
Flying is pretty uncomfortable when I’m training alot. I don’t get a back row seat this time, but still, after some amount of time things start to tighten up and complain, and I’m flying diagonally across the country, which takes awhile. I stretch as I can, and always comment to the flight attendants that I’m in training, because I’m convinced that my odd postures of stretching my feet and legs in the aisle will alarm them in some bad misguided way. My second flight is full of young children, crying and yelling and kicking the back of my seat; I realize Thanksgiving week has started. I get through with a couple of glasses of wine and my noise reducing headphones and shuffle. My row companions get through with four cocktails each, so I figure I’m not doing so badly, even though they don’t actually get their hair pulled by the monster behind us, as I do. Riding home from the airport, I greet the Portland skyline happily. I’ve been gone awhile, and it’s good to be home. I’m tired.
The next morning, I wake up in the dark, thinking, great time to finally make it onto East Coast time, figuring I’ve woken before dawn. Turns out, though, that its just one of our dark Portland days. Welcome home. Its raining away, and there’s so little light that opening the blinds at all is a complete waste of time. My schedule says “long walk” but my brain says “19 miles in this?? No way.” No more room service, sigh, and I end up eating pasta from the freezer for breakfast, but by the end of the day I’ve at least restocked and unpacked and stretched and reluctantly accepted that my time in Florida is over.