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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Everyone Needs a Miserable Run Once in a While

I set off late this morning looking forward to a 13.5 mile run.  The weather was again cool and gray, and yes, wet.  No rain, just wet, thick air.  Aliso/Wood Canyons was crowded with runners and hikers and mountain bikers.  I think most people like this kind of weather for their activity.  I’m not too keen on humidity.  Though it was cool out, it was hot. 

My cough was minimal, my nose ran, and I was still congested.  Still, I anticipated a good run.  Very quickly into the run however (just 1.5 miles), I needed to get the long sleeve shirt off.

A quick pose at the ranger station:

I was slow and sluggish making my way to Wood Canyon.  My pace lethargic, I began thinking about the term, “junk miles.”  I’ve heard and read the term on many occasions, but never put much thought into it.  Junk food is food with so-called “empty” calories – in other words, nothing good for the body.  If I were to think about junk miles in the same way, the term “junk miles,” doesn’t make sense.  I mean, isn’t running any type of miles better than sitting?  Running was always difficult for me.  Even though I have good runs, sometimes, seemingly “easy” runs, they are NEVER really “easy.”  Miles are always a chore for me, my effort is never “junk.”  In fact, when I first began running and people asked me why I ran, one of my pet answers was, “Because of the last step.”  Using another person’s words (I don’t recall where I read this):  “Why do you keep hitting yourself with that hammer?  Because it feels so good to stop.”

Running Mentally Sensitive Trail contemplating “Junk Miles”:

Well!  I was beginning to think this morning that I may have stumbled on “junk” miles.  I could hardly put forth any effort.  I was slow and tired quickly and found nasal breathing very difficult with a runny nose.  Then I went and did the stupid thing and climbed Mentally Sensitive.  That about took everything that I had.  I slid back some in the dirt.  I used my hands to push off from my thighs.  It was awful.  Truly awful.  The air thick, my shirt was drenched.  And before I even made it to the top, I decided to shorten today’s loop.  I didn’t feel good about myself.  But I knew that this would pass – not today.  Today I was set for a miserable run and that was that.  I merely had to get through it and run again another day.

Climbing Mentally Sensitive:

I thought to myself, “First chance I get to run back down to the canyon for a shorter loop, I’m taking it.”  Turns out, the first chance is down Meadows Trail, resulting in a 7 mile loop.  I would not have minded a 7 mile run.  Problem was, there’s a funny little thing about me.  When I reach a ridgeline, I GOTTA SUMMIT.  Therefore, I found no logical reason NOT to run to Top of the World, then run down to the canyon first chance I got, still cutting my original loop short.  No logical reason, except for the fact that I could barely lift my feet.  Up hills were a tremendous chore.  I was in near-agony.  Yet I ran that MISERABLE ridgeline onward to Top of the World.

There!  I summited:

I ran West Ridge to the first opportunity I had to run down to Wood Canyon.  That trail was Mathis.  And it was muggy, and I was slow.  And I found it extremely difficult to pick up my pace even a little.  Still I ran on, convinced by then, that even though I felt I could barely run these miles, they definitely were not junk miles.  If I could continue running feeling so dull and draggy, then I was putting forth a great deal of effort.

In all I ran a little over 10 miles this morning.  And I entered my truck without a smile on my face. 

Running down Mathis Trail:

I got to thinking on my drive home how it’s these miserable runs that really make me as a runner.  It’s the miserable runs that I learn most from.  It’s the miserable runs that I remember more fondly than the “easy” runs.  The first time I ran the Calico 30k (my first long distance trail race), I crossed the finish line with bloody knees and tiny pebbles embedded in my arms.  I felt like vomiting for at least an hour.  At that point, I had never had a more miserable run.  The third time I ran Calico, I crossed the finish line with my best time, feeling strong.  I placed third in my category and went about the day feeling lively.  Which race do I look back on more fondly?  The one full of misery.  Why?  Because I conquered.  I made it through the torture.

Though today’s run was not exactly torture, it was dang well near.  It certainly was miserable! 

Oh the glory. : ) 

California Poppies at the bottom of Mathis Trail:

The miserable profile:My Activities Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-23-2012, Elevation - Distance

The miserable satellite:My Activities Mentally Sensitive down Mathis 5-23-2012


  1. That's a tough run when you are feeling yucky. I think these runs make us strong mentally for those hard times during difficult races. I've had some bad runs lately but this morning's was much better. Rest well Lauren!

    1. Thanks Johann. I feel like you are a true friend though we have never met. I have been resting well, trying to get 100% well for this weekends 24 hour race. So good to read that this morning's run was much better for you. Thanks again friend!

  2. I agree about the value of miserable runs. See you this weekend at Nanny Goat!

  3. Thanks for reading Rachel. I agree. There's a great value in miserable runs. Thank goodness I'm so stubborn. I guess we both are. I suppose all runners are. Otherwise, we'd never get past those miserable runs. See you at Nanny Goat!