There's nothing like dog shit to take the wind out of your sails on a good run. Total momentum killer. I'll explain in a second.
For me, running is a series of highs and lows. Throughout the course of the run, this can take a lot of different forms. The highs can be incredible. When you're in the middle of the run, you can find that perfect pace for your body and feel like you could run forever. Some people refer to this as runner's high. For me, that's the best possible feeling during a run. When you hit this point, you start telling yourself things like "I know I said I was only going to run 3 miles today, but hell, I feel like I could run a marathon." Of course if you're only used to running three miles, you're not going to actually be able to come close to a marathon, and your body is usually quick to remind you of this fact. Let's say you found your groove and you're "jamming" (as my friend from the team, Jeff, would say). Your head is telling you that you can run forever, but your body knows better. The process goes a little something like this: "I'm jamming, I'm jamming, I'm jamming"...cramp! And just like that, you've gone from an incredible high to a major low. Suddenly, you're struggling to make it the three miles you said you were going to run originally. If you are lucky enough to work out the cramp, then you're on your way back to another high, but it's never quite as high as the first, because you're constantly weary. Cramps are usually the biggest culprit when it comes to having my momentum killed. However, sometimes something much more sinister comes along.
I started the run today with the expectation that it wasn't going to be a very good run. Whether it was fueled by the guilt of not running for a few days or actually genuine, I woke up this morning really feeling like I wanted to run. However, faced with the grim fact that I made the mistake of eating Taco Bell last night, I was not expecting good things from my body today. At the beginning of the run, things were pretty much just as I expected. My muscles felt sluggish and I found myself practically waddling up the first hill near my apartment. I couldn't stop thinking that I probably looked like one of those ladies that run while lifting three pound weights. In the world of awkward runners, these women are the queen bees. They almost always wear visors and spandex and wear a plumage of colors that should have died in the 80s. If you've never seen them before, just know this: You really really really don't want to look like them if you're trying to be taken seriously during your runs.
I crested the hill in what I was sure was about 25 minute per mile pace and it was right about then that I hit my first high. Suddenly, my muscles woke up and I found myself "jamming." It felt really good, and while I expected it to die when I turned the corner to run up the next hill, I was shocked when it didn't. My body felt as in sync during a run as I can ever remember it feeling. I made it up the second hill and made the turn for the long straightaway before the last turn that would take me to the home stretch. Right after I started on the straightaway down La Jolla Village Drive, I hit my second low. Usually a low comes at the hands of one assailant, but this time, two things hit me at once: I got my first cramp (Curse you, Taco Bell!) and the sun decided to come out from behind the clouds. Double whammy. Despite the forces working against me, I made it through the straightaway and turned the corner down Town Center Drive at what I felt was pretty good pace. Then, magically, two things went right that led to another high: My cramp went away and two broken sprinklers sprayed my legs with water. Even though it felt much hotter out then when I started, I was feeling good again. I powered through the last hill with ease and was in full jamming mode when I reached the final stretch. I was so close to the end I could taste it. Right on cue, the Thrice song "Red Sky" came on my ipod. If you haven't heard this song, you should. If I ever choose the music for a movie one day and I need a song for a final scene in which the main character (who the audience assumed was dead) bursts through a curtain of flames in slow motion and kisses his romantic interest while she sobs and tells him that she knew he wasn't dead, "Red Sky" would be the song. It's nothing short of triumphant, and that's exactly how I felt coming down the home stretch.
And then, cruelly (some would even say completely unfairly), it hit me- Eau de dog shit. It smelled like the gardeners of the area had used mastiff dung to fertilize the area around me. And just like like, jamming mode was over. Instantly, my legs felt like lead, my stomach felt like it had been hit by a truck, and my lungs felt like curling up and dying.
This is not a completely unfamiliar phenomenon to me while running. A while back, right after the Hood to Coast last year, I was near the end of a run and completely oblivious to the fact that I was nearing a Carls Jr. at breakfast time. Eerily, the smell of breakfast at CJ's is nearly identical to what I smelled today. Coincidence? I leave you to reach your own conclusions.
Whether it's CJ's or a dog who possibly ate too much CJs, it doesn't take much to sabotage a good run. I don't know if I realized this until today, but I think that I don't really take note of smells at all when I'm running until a bad one comes along.
That all said, I think in the end I can take way more positives from the run today than negatives. While I wasn't exactly a speed demon on the road today, I felt infinitely better and more comfortable than in Run 1. I can already tell that I'm not going to need as much time to recover from this run, and I think that's a huge plus. As long as I don't feel too bad tomorrow, I'm planning on running again on Wednesday. Gradually, my goal is to up my mileage until I'm running a respectable distance on a regular basis. I'm going to get there before the race. I'm just hoping there aren't too many more surprises waiting in ambush for me like today.