nov 4/3 MILES

37 degrees
humidity: 91%
mississippi river road path, north

Humid again. Didn’t bother me as much this time. Kept up my plan of doing each mile faster than the last. Listened to music. What do I remember from my run? Running behind someone dressed all in black. I followed him as he stayed on the bike path instead of traveling below the road on the part of the path that travels right above the gorge because I worried that it might be too slippery. Slowly creeping up on and then passing another runner dressed in black pants and white jacket.  Wondering how far ahead of her I was getting. Encountering her again, once I had turned around at the greenway trail. Feeling mostly good with only a few fleeting flashes of doubt and desire to stop.

Kept working on my sonnet assignment when I got back home. Came up with 2 versions. Don’t quite like either.

Attention

is the beginning of devotion
devotion, the beginning of prayer
prayer, undertaken while in motion
motion, gliding in and through outside air
a prayer that is given with lungs and feet
inspiring trees and absorbing the ground
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but to hear the sound
of time slowly dripping like the drops of sweat
that fall from my face and sit on my skin
cooling me down as they evaporate
counter-clockwise time, moving out, not in
I listen and imagine I can hear
my Self—a slow steady release into air.

Attention

is the beginning of devotion
devotion, the beginning of prayer
prayer, undertaken while in motion
motion, gliding in and through outside air
a prayer that is given with lungs and feet
inspiring trees and absorbing the ground
a letting go to a steady beat
desiring nothing but to look around
and count the leaves or catch a fleeting glimpse
of river, near the stand of mesic oaks
and to witness time as it slowly drips
like the sweat off my face that slowly soaks
my shirt and evaporates from my skin
my sense of Self moving out and not in.

nov 2/2 MILES

38 degrees
humidity: 96%
mississippi river road path, south

Decided to run today even though I ran yesterday because it seemed calm and dry and not too cold. It was too humid. Hard to run in such thick air. Yuck. Ran 1.5 miles, walked for a few minutes, then another half mile. Not much fun, but it was beautiful, staring across to St. Paul. A few trees left, with grainy mustard yellow leaves. The river, a blueish gray.

august 21/3 MILES!!!

68 degrees
74% humidity
mississippi river north/south/north/south back to 36th street parking lot

I ran again today for the first time since August 4, a little less than 2 1/2 weeks ago. The first 10 minutes were difficult, with lots of pain, even though, as the doctor prescribed, I took 3 ibuprofen 30 minutes before running. Probably the most pain that I’ve ever experienced while running, which isn’t saying that much because I tend to stop if I’m feeling a lot of pain. Then, when I’d almost hit a mile, I started feeling better. Maybe my knee and quad had warmed up or I was used to pain, not sure, but I felt like I could keep going. The doctor had told me to try one mile and if that felt good, another mile, and if that felt good, one more mile. So that’s what I did. By the end of the third mile I was tired and glad to be done but now, 2 hours later, I feel fine. Not too sore. And I can lift my straight leg, from a sitting position, off of the ground!

Some passages from Mary Oliver’s Long Life that I want to remember:

flashing like tinsel

at the center: I am shaking; I am flashing like tinsel. Restless…”(90).

seasons: falling/fall/followed/follow

summer falling into fall, to be followed by what will follow: winter again: count on it (90).

obedience to mystery

Opulent and ornate world, because at its root, and its axis, and its ocean bed, it swings through the universe quietly and certainly. It is: fun, and familiar, and healthful, and unbelievably refreshing, and lovely. And it is the theater of the spiritual; it is the multiform utterly obedient to a mystery (90).

green and blue dyes

The constancy of the physical world, under its green and blue dyes, draws me toward a better, richer self, call it elevation (there is hardly an adequate word), where I might ascend a little–where a gloss of spirit would mirror itself in worldly action. I don’t mean just mild goodness. I mean feistiness too, the fires of human energy stoked; I mean a gladness vivacious enough to disarrange the sorrows of the world into something better. I mean whatever real rejoicing can do!

brassy and wonderful

We all know how brassy and wonderful it is to come into some new understanding. Imagine what it would be like, to lounge on the high ledge of submission and pure wonder (91).

between our own best possibilities, and the view from our own window

It is one of the perils of our so-called civilized age that we do not yet acknowledge enough, or cherish enough, this connection between soul and landscape–between our own best possibilities, and the view from our own windows (91).

august 2/4 MILES

67 degrees
74% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

A good run. Ran faster than usual for three miles and then a bit slower, with 2 short walk breaks, for the last mile. Should I have kept running and not stopped? Was I being mentally weak? Not sure, but I’m still happy with my run.

About 4 minutes into my run, the walking/running path dips below the road and runs alongside a steep hill and above a floodplain forest and a dirt path that leads to the Mississippi River and the sand flats. I love looking at this forest and trying to see what’s down there. Maybe a tent? People walking? A dog or fox or coyote running? Today, when I did this, I caught a glimpse of the river, sparkling bright from the early sun. Just a small flash, piercing through the thick trees.

note: On the National Park site for the Mississippi River Gorge, they refer to the trees that I like checking when I run as the “floodplain forest” and the beach by the river as the “sand flats.”

 

july 31/13.6 MILES

70 degrees
81% humidity
dew point: 64
mississippi river road path, south/minnnehaha creek path/lake harriet/minnehaha creek/mississippi river road path, north

Ugh. Hard. Hot. Humid. I really don’t like running in the summer. Even so, I didn’t give up and kept moving the whole time. More walking than running in the second half, I think. Running to Lake Harriet has become my new long run route. It’s time to write a new running route essay. Here’s a list of landmarks along the route that I might incorporate into an essay or writing experiment.

The Run to Lake Harriet, Some Landmarks

  • 36th Street parking lot on the river road
  • the double bridge (a bridge for walkers/runners and one for bikers) near 44th street on the river road
  • under the 46th street bridge, near Ford parkway
  • Minnehaha Falls
  • Minnehaha Parkway and by the old neighborhood that we lived in for 10 years
  • the light at 34th
  • the four way stop at Nokomis
  • the light at 28th
  • Mel-o-glaze, where they sell “legal crack balls,” at least that’s what their sign proudly proclaims
  • the dinosaur park
  • lake nokomis rec center
  • over the small steel bridge that has a stand of trees that smell just like the UP
  • under the cedar bridge
  • the light at Bloomington
  • where Rosie learned how to bike
  • where the running and biking path split and where it becomes confusing and disorienting the first few times you run it
  • the bunny
  • the woods, part 1 (running under the freeway)
  • the woods, part 2 (where I saw the freaky cat just chilling out in the woods by the path, staring at me as I ran by
  • where you come out of the woods
  • running down the wooden platform and not up the big hill
  • the woods, part 3 (where you separate from the biking path by crossing over a small wooden bridge)
  • lynhurst park, where I fill up my water bottle
  • the woods, part 4 (between lynhurst and lake harriet)
  • Lake Harriet!

Reading through this list, I started thinking about words we use for roads/paths and bridges.

Bridge

link
overpass
platform
arch
branch
span
trestle
extension

Path

trail
lane
road
sidewalk
parkway
artery
byway
track
route
street
groove
rut
walkway
footpath

july 26/4 MILES

72 degrees
90% humidity
dew point: 69

Did I go for a run or a steam bath, just now, outside in humidity so wet that it dripped off the trees? The dew point was high too, but it didn’t feel thick, only moist. Felt pretty good on my run. My knee didn’t hurt and I could handle the humidity and the dripping sweat. Briefly walked twice to make sure that I didn’t run too fast and that I was recovering and not racing.

Yesterday, I started work on something about Monday’s long run:

Almost

Almost three hours.
Almost one hundred and eighty minutes.
Almost one fourth of my waking hours.
Almost sixteen miles.
Almost two thirds of a marathon.
Almost the age I got my driver’s license.
Almost too much.
Almost too long.
Almost too tired.
But not quite.

july 21/8.2 MILES

72 degrees
86% humidity
dew point: 70

I had originally been planning to run my 16 miles this morning, but when I got outside and felt how thick and heavy the air was, I knew it wasn’t happening. So I did my 8 miles instead, with several walks. At about 5 miles, I had to stop and create a make shift band-aid for the blisters on two of my toes. I ripped up the paper towel I had and wrapped it around the toes. It worked pretty well. Note to self: always put band-aids in my pack!

july 18/4 MILES

75 degrees
87% humidity
dew point: 70
mississippi river road path, north

Yuck! Uncomfortably thick and heavy. The first half of the run was okay, but my legs started to hurt and my pulse started to race after the turn around. I stopped to walk a few times. I really don’t like running in the heat. I’m not looking forward to the Torchlight 5K tomorrow night.

It seems fitting to post a collage version of my humidity/dew point fragments that I’ve been working on in this entry.

Bad Air! Bad Air!

“What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air!”

unpleasantly warm

It was hot. It was not a good idea to run this morning. Only 7:30, but it was hot. Already, the day shot. No more running, biking, gardening, just hiding inside. We should have left earlier. Maybe 6? Before it was hot. I forgot how miserable 77 can be when there’s humidity and a high dew point. And the wind, it was hot too. We only ran a few miles before we stopped. It’s too hot, I said to Scott. And he agreed.

damp

The dew point is the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair, or any other part of your body, because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

muggy

Oh you! You muggy, buggy thing. So thick it makes me sick! Why can’t the water you contain be refreshing like the rain? Why must you make me feel so moist, a word I detest hearing almost as much as I despise feeling its effects: sweat that drips and sticks, heavy air that presses down on my body, sinking me deeper into the ground and making it almost impossible to fly or even to lift my legs up off the damp earth.

moist

How many cups of sweat can fit
Under the brim of my baseball cap?
More than 2?
It’s hard to
Determine but
I keep
Trying to figure it out while I run through the thick air. I think my cap has
Yielded at least 3 ounces of water per mile.

thick

When you mix up the words in dew point you get: not wiped. Not wiped? I guess if the dew point is low. Anything under 50 would work. Otherwise, it should be totally wiped, but those aren’t the letters in dew point. You also get: wit open’d. Really? Could more miserable conditions = more wit? I suppose for some comedians, this is true. And you get: owed pint. Owed pint of what? A pint of blood that traveled to the surface of your skin to help cool you down instead of flowing to your heart? Or the pint of beer that you owe your body for putting it through the misery of running in the heat and humidity?

oppressive

The Index of Human Misery, the Dew Point Version:
<50: very comfortable
50-60: manageable
65: uncomfortable
70: so thick and hard to breathe.
75: ugh!
80+: stay home, it’s not worth it.

wet (blanket)

Have you ever said,
Under your breath, in the
Middle of your run,
I really don’t like humidity & humidity heard you & replied: Well, I
Don’t like you either!
I am going to make you even more miserable because of your
Thoughtless comment!
Yesterday I think that happened to me.

stifling

The effects of heat and humidity on your body as you run:
increased sweat,
depletion of electrolytes,
flagging energy,
dehydration,
the pumping of more blood to the skin and less to your heart or your muscles,
sweat that can’t evaporate to cool your body,
elevated heart rate.

sticky

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat. It’s not the heat, it’s the atmospheric moisture. It’s not the warm temperatures, it’s the moisture in the air and in your hair, on your skin, in-between your toes, on the back of your neck. And it’s the stickiness between your fingers as you rub them together, trying to keep your hands relaxed. And it’s the fibers from the cottonwood seeds, the catkins, that fly into your eye or your mouth or get stuck in the sweat on your face.

relief

86 degrees. Hot! Difficult! Some success, some failure. A hot wind, blowing in my face, which is already bright red. The sun beating down. My pulse heating up. No running playlist to distract me. And no memory of the running chants that I created to keep me going. What am I thinking about, other than: when am I done? why am I running in this heat? will I make it to Lake Nokomis for open swim? I stop and walk several times. But then I’m at the lake and it’s cooler, with a breeze coming off of the water, and I’m almost done and I’m trying to get past two other runners that are running just a little bit slower than me so I speed up for the last half mile. It feels good.

open swim: 2400 yards
bike to open swim/back: 8 miles

A great swim and a good bike ride. Some serious exercise today. 116 minutes worth. Talked with a woman after the swim today and she told me that she just learned to swim 2 weeks ago and managed to swim an entire loop tonight. Wow! Very impressive. I told her that I learned to swim when I was 6 months old and it took me until I was 38 to swim across the lake! She also said that she’s signed up to do a half ironman triathlon (1.2 mile swim/54 mile bike/13.2 mile run) this fall. That’s hard core.

july 15/14 MILES

74 degrees
77% Humidity
mississippi river road path, south/minnehaha falls/minnehaha parkway/lake nokomis/minnehaha creek path/lake harriet/return

14 miles! The longest that I’ve ever run! It didn’t feel too bad. I ran the 7 miles to Lake Harriet without stopping then stopped a few times on the way back to walk and fill up my water bottle. Even though it was hard, I felt good and was enjoying it. It helped that for the first 50 minutes I listened to an On Being podcast about running as spiritual practice. 10 runners talked about their experience with prayer, faith and running. Since I’m interested in the idea of running and breathing and paying attention as forms of prayer, I found this podcast to be fascinating. One of the runners, Sarah Khasawinah, had this to say about running:

In the Qur’an, multiple times, God puts thankfulness up there after believing in God, and being thankful is constantly one of the most important things. And when I’m running, I feel like I’m actively expressing that gratitude — first of all, by being able to use my limbs and the faculties that God gave me to run. And also, I’m outside, and when my strides are comfortable, and I feel like nobody’s looking, sometimes I’ll sort of spread my arms out and just think, “Thank you, God. This is beautiful.”

While the something greater that orients me and motivates my gratitude is not God with a capital G, and is not connected to an organized religion, I really appreciated what she said. I like to express gratitude when I’m running and I have wanted to spread my arms out and embrace the world! I haven’t done it, but I’ve thought about it.

july 13/8 MILES

60 degrees
77% humidity
the almost downtown turn around

60 degrees! I run so much better when the weather is cooler. Today was a very good run. I ran up and down both hills without stopping and felt strong and happy to be running.

I’m collecting fragments for (maybe?) a collage on bad air, which at this point I’m defining as humidity, heat and dew point. Here are two more things to add:

1

the effects of heat on my running
a
bright red face, an increase in 
coughing and
clearing my throat, a strong
desire to stop doing anything,
especially running, very
few happy thoughts
going through my
head, shallow
inhaling,
jagged breathing, no
kick in my stride,
legs feeling
mushy,
not strong
or
powerful, all
quickness
rapidly evaporating while
sweat refuses to do the same,
too much moisture for that, so it pools
under my baseball cap and down to the
very tip of my ponytail, a
wick that collects the
(e)xtra water then drops it on my arm or leg or bright
yellow shirt, sometimes making
zigzag patterns on it.

2

Do point me to the pool or the lake or the air conditioning or anywhere that isn’t here, where the temperature is high, the heat index is higher and my desire to do anything but run is at its highest.

3

Hugh, mid tee or Hugh, mid t (shirt) or hew, mid tree?

open swim
3 loops: 3600 yards

My longest swim of the season. Great conditions for it. Overcast. No wind. Cooler. Felt good. On the way out of the water, I dropped and lost my nose plug. The first causality of the season. No big deal; nose plugs are under $10.

july 6/2.1 MILES

75 degrees
69% humidity
mississippi river road path, south/mississippi river road path, north

Completed a quick tempo run this hot and humid morning. Felt good. Realized that during my race on Tuesday, I didn’t use any of my spells/mantras/chants. I didn’t think about my breathing. Maybe that would have helped?

Biking: 8 miles
Swimming: 1500 yards

Here’s something I wrote for my writing class this week:

In Out
Take in oxygen Release carbon dioxide
Take in the world, the colors: the greens and browns of the gorge floor, the grays of the sky on a cloudy day, the electric blue of the yarn bomb on the railroad bridge, the bright yellow-green of the runner’s shirt, the orange of the traffic cone, the red of the stop sign, the purple of the lilac bush, the pink of my jacket, the silvery-white of the river as the sun dances on its surface. Breathe in and accept what the world is offering: Energy. Life. Inspiration. Release worries and doubts, expel that which is toxic, force out and offer up what you don’t need, what you don’t want, what doesn’t provide energy or life. Expiration.
Favorite reason for holding my breath, kid version: completing 10 back flips in a row under water at the neighborhood pool. My sister and I used to practice this all summer. One time she dreamed that Darth Vader had kidnapped me. He tied me to a grill and threatened to kill me unless she could complete 10 back flips in a row without stopping to breathe. She did it, of course. What you might say to your kid when she’s freaking out: Calm down and take some deep breaths.

What, in retaliation, she might do: Turn blue.

Breathing in winter is ______.

1. difficult, my lungs are burning!
2. fun when it’s so cold that the snot in my nose freezes up.
3. the best. I love the cold, pure air.

Breathing in summer is ______.

1. dangerous. Watch out for the bugs!
2. incredibly difficult after an open swim.
3. so thick! I hate humidity.

What you need for breathing: lungs, intercostal muscles, a diaphragm, comfortable pants What you don’t need: someone telling you to calm down and breathe.
Breathing and ethical imperatives, inspired by Judith Butler: A life that is livable is only possible when you have room to breathe. A life that is valuable/valued is only possible when you breathe more good air in. What Nietzsche writes about bad air in On the Genealogy of Morals: “What is it exactly that I find so totally unbearable? Something which I cannot deal with on my own, which makes me choke and feel faint? Bad air! Bad air! It’s when something which has failed comes close to me, when I have to smell the entrails of a failed soul!”
Smells smelled while breathing during a run: burnt toast; smoke from a fire, below me, somewhere deep in the gorge; skunk; rotting leaves; too much perfume on the runner I passed; chemicals after the rain; the sewer; the inside rim of my super nasty baseball cap that I’ve been wearing, and have never washed, for almost every run and almost every race for the past 5 years. Number of times I’ve attempted a snot rocket or shooting shot not out of my nose, mid-run: 1.

Number of times that attempt has failed: 1.

What breathes: noses; mouths; skin; leaves. living things. What doesn’t breathe: that annoying race t-shirt; my mom, not since Sept. 30, 2009.
Reasons why we breathe: so we don’t die; to embrace the world; to take in oxygen; to calm down; to walk; to run; to fly; we don’t need a reason, our body will do it anyway. Reasons why I can’t breathe: too much humidity; running too fast; a stuffed-up nose from inhaling lake water; finding out my mom was dying from stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
How to breathe in: Use your lungs. Breathe in deeply through your nose and mouth, with your diaphragm. As your abdomen extends, so does your invitation to the world to enter and fill you with wonder and gratitude. How to breathe out: Relax your shoulders. Let your body do the work of forcing the carbon dioxide out. Let go of the toxins, the resistance to grieving what you are losing or have lost. Prepare for another breath.

july 1/7.5 MILES

62 degrees
87% humidity
dew point 57
lake nokomis loop short, slight variation

This run was harder, but I still followed my plan, stopping every 1.25 miles. What happened on my run? At first, I couldn’t remember. It seemed like it was just about getting through the run and sticking to my plan. Then I started to remember some things. Here’s a list.

Things that Happened on my Run

Lots of runners greeted me on the path. Most of the time, I greeted them back. Missed one when she ran by too fast. Saw some rowers at the lake, one had rowed over to the floating dock and was lounging on it as I ran by. Didn’t encounter any big groups of runners, but two mini pelotons (bikers) on the path. Saw some ducks and some dogs. Heard some birds. Had some bugs fly into my eye, but not my mouth. Didn’t encounter any sprinklers. Stopped at two red lights. Was passed by one runner, who greeted me. Found myself watching his strange gait. His legs moved smoothly and rhythmically, but his arms were hanging low and wide. Stepped off the path by accident and my knee let me know I’d made a mistake with a quick, sharp pain, followed by a duller pain for a few minutes. Forgot which direction I was planning to go for a few seconds, took a wrong turn, and then had to backtrack about 20 feet. Ran by 2 playgrounds, one that had kids playing, the other that didn’t. Heard the rowers practicing on the river and at least one car honking. Were there more? Also heard some loud rustlings and big plops while running at Lake Nokomis. Was it the waves from a boat or something else? A duck? A fish? A dog? A….?

june 30/4 MILES

67 degrees
76% humidity
dew point 57
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

A good run. Followed my plan: Run 1.25/Walk 30 sec./Run 1.25/Walk 1 min/Run 1.5. Ran with headphones, so I didn’t really think that much, which was fine.

I’ve been thinking more about open swimming lately. Here’s a abecedarian poem about it:

Open Swim

Annoying things happen during an open swim.
Bad weather, big waves
Causing choppy water that can make me
Drift off the course. Bright sun in my
Eyes, blinding me. Bright sun on my
Face, burning me.
Goggles that can fog up, although that
Hardly happens anymore now that
I use baby shampoo in the lenses.
Just a little.
Keep it on the
Lens for a few
Minutes, then gently rinse it out. My
Nose used to get really stuffed up after swimming. I could
Only breathe through my mouth. At night, I would
Panic, unable to fall back asleep,
Questioning whether or not it was
Really worth it to keep doing open
Swim. It is. I searched for a solution. I
Tried sprays and pills, which didn’t work. Then, I tried nose plugs.
Uncomfortable and ugly. But effective.
Very, very effective and cheap.
Whenever I swim now, I wear them. I bought an
eXtra pair, just in case I lose the first one. I keep both cases in my
Yellow backpack, always making sure that I
Zip them up tightly, in the pouch on the top.

june 20/3 MILES

63 degrees
dew point 53
70% humidity
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

Got a late start because of rain, so decided to do my shorter run today. Listened to the new Lorde album while I ran. Managed to hear the daily walker say good morning to me and answered back with my own good morning. Felt pretty good, despite the heat and high dew point. Other than saying good morning, I don’t remember that much about the run.

open swim
2 loops/2400 yards

A good swim. The waves were choppy on the way back from the little beach to the big beach, which I don’t mind. I feel tired and have a warm glow all over, from sore muscles. So wonderful. I love swimming across the lake. It’s so much better than swimming in a pool, doing endless laps and flip turns.

So, what do I think about when I’m swimming?

  • Where’s the buoy?
  • Am I still on course?
  • Any other swimmers around that I might run into?
  • There are a lot of airplanes in the sky today.
  • Is my nose plug working, or will my nose get horribly stuffed up around midnight and keep me up all night because I can’t breathe?
  • Should I do a third loop?
  • These waves aren’t bothering me too much, just tiring me out.
  • The buoys are a little screwed up and messing with my big beach to little beach trajectory.
  • My calf feels fine.
  • I can’t believe it’s summer already and I’m swimming in the lake.

My thoughts during an open swim are really mundane. Because of my vision problems, I spend a lot of time trying to site the buoys and stay on the course. I really don’t need to spend that much time on it. I’m an excellent swimmer who swims straight and rarely strays too far. Maybe I can train myself to focus more on the textures and sensations of the swim next time?

june 18/5 MILES

60 degrees
dew point 60
lake nokomis, twice

Yes, the dew point was the same as the temperature. I guess, because it was only 60 degrees this morning, this didn’t bother me quite as much. Scott and I ran the first loop of Lake Nokomis together, then I ran the second one by myself while he got ready for his 5K race. After I finished running, I swam 2400 yards in Lake Nokomis, or two loops (the big beach to the little beach and back to the big beach). What a great morning! The run was pretty good, although I was tired at the end. But the swim was excellent. The water wasn’t too choppy. I could see all the buoys. And my calf didn’t cramp up in my wetsuit.

During my run, I chanted “I am flying, I am free. I am where I want to be” a lot. It helped.

During my swim, I thought about the dark, murky water and how I couldn’t see at all underwater. I was struck by the contrast between that dark water and the sky, with its patches of blue, some clouds and the occasional airplane.

 

june 17/7 MILES

71 degrees
dew point 67
84% humidity
all around austin, mn

Wow, that dew point’s a killer. Ran with Scott in his hometown. The first 4 miles were rough. Then we walked for about 3 or 4 minutes. After that, it was a bit easier. Managed to finish the 7 miles, which I’m taking as a victory, even though we walked twice. None of my recent runs have been pretty, but I’m still managing to get them done. Someday soon, it will get easier. I’m sure of it.

june 14/3.1 MILES

72 degrees
77% humidity
62 dew point
mississippi river road path, north/mississippi river road path, south

In Please Add This to the List, one of the writing experiments is:

Attempt writing in a state of mind that seems least congenial.

In earlier, happier times, when it wasn’t so hot and humid and my long runs were only 10 miles, I tried out this experiment by composing a poem while running up a steep hill. That “least congenial state of mind” lasted for about 4-5 minutes and then I was back to “gee, isn’t it fun to run in the most pleasant weather ever!” Sara. That was early April. Now it’s June and unusually hot and humid and almost every minute running outside seems to put me in the “least congenial state of mind.” It’s difficult to be creative and curious when you feel so tired and drained.

Dew Point, 6 Versions

1

Looking through a running forum about humidity and the dew point, I found a great phrase: The dew point as an index of human misery. I want to create an index of human misery, relative to me. What would it include?

Sara’s Misery Index, some ideas in no particular order
  • Waiting in lines, especially lines with aggressive people trying to cut ahead of you or clueless people not moving up.
  • Sitting through a ceremony that lasts over 2 hours in very uncomfortable chairs.
  • Flying through 2 hours of non-stop turbulence.
  • Being stuck in very small spaces or in the middle of a row or next to someone wearing too much perfume.
  • Not being able to breathe.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night with restless legs.
  • Ending your swim and getting a charlie horse in your calf.
  • Being forced to listen to smooth jazz, especially Kenny G, at the Mall of America on a Saturday in June.

2

Do point me to the pool, please. It’s 80 degrees. But the heat index, taking into account the dew point, is 95. Too miserable to run.

3

Dew point, shmew point
I hate you too point.

4

How much dew can the dew point do if the dew point can’t point dew?

5

The higher dew point, the more you sweat. Are you a salty sweater? I am. Here are a few signs that you might be too (according to Runner’s World): Your eyes sting when you get sweat in them or your sweat tastes salty or your skin feels gritty or your hat has white streaks, called “cake sweat”,  after you run. What to do, if you’re salty sweater too? Remember, salt is your friend. Eat a pickle. Drink an energy drink. Don’t talk about salt behind her back, telling everyone that she’s mean and unhealthy and trying to kill you.

6

When you mix up the words in dew point you get: not wiped. Not wiped? I guess if the dew point is low. Anything under 50 would work. Otherwise, it should be totally wiped, but those aren’t the letters in dew point. You also get: wit open’d. Really? Could more miserable conditions = more wit? I suppose for some comedians, this is true. And you get: owed pint. Owed pint of what? A pint of blood that traveled to the surface of your skin to help cool you down instead of flowing to your heart? Or the pint of beer that you owe your body for putting it through the misery of running in the heat and humidity?

june 13/3 MILES

68 degrees
88% humidity
mississippi river road path, south

The air was so thick and heavy this morning. Hard to breathe, especially through my nose. Ugh! I hate humidity. I need some sort of counter-spell or charm or way of deranging or paying attention to humidity so that I can endure it.

Words for Humidity

  • muggy
  • thick
  • moist
  • steamy
  • wet
  • sultry
  • damp
  • irriguous (well-watered)
  • dank
  • sticky
  • oppressive

Oh you! You muggy, buggy thing. So thick it makes me sick! Why can’t the water you contain be refreshing like the rain? Why must you make me feel so moist, a word I detest hearing almost as much as I despise feeling its effects: sweat that drips and sticks, heavy air that presses down on my body, sinking me deeper into the ground, making it almost impossible to fly or even to lift my legs up off the damp earth.

Hum/i/dity

hum a ditty
maybe, you’re as cold as ice
or ice ice baby
or freeze frame
or cool it now?
yes, cool it now.

Hey You!

Hey you.
Under that tree.
Maybe you could spare some water?
I’m thirsty and I
Didn’t remember to bring my water bottle. Normally,
I always remember to bring it. But not
Today which is the day I need it most, when the air is so thick and hot and heavy.
You know what I mean?

Sensitive

Have you ever said,
Under your breath, in the
Middle of your run,
I really don’t like humidity & humidity heard you & replied: Well, I
Don’t like you either!
I am going to make you even more miserable because of your
Thoughtless comment!
Yesterday I think that happened to me.

3 ounces per mile

How many cups of sweat can fit
Under the brim of my baseball cap?
More than 2?
It’s hard to
Determine but
I keep
Trying to figure it out while I run through the thick air. I think my cap has
Yielded at least 3 ounces of water per mile.

june 7/5.85 MILES

74 degrees
mississippi river road path south/minnehaha falls/mississippi river road path north

A tough run. I should have, but didn’t, bring my water with me. I really dislike the heat. Until my kids are on summer break, which starts next Thursday, I can’t start running until 8:30. By next week, I’ll be running by 6 or 6:30. It should usually still be cool then. I hope.

This is when my training starts to get really tough. The miles are increasing, along with the temperature. I’m not lacking motivation; I want to be out there running. It just feels hard. I would like to blame it on the humidity, but it’s not humid, just warmer. And, it’s not even that warm yet. So, what’s the problem?

In trying to work through this question, I did the following writing experiment:

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

It’s not the humidity, it’s the heat.

It’s not the heat, it’s the atmospheric moisture.

It’s not the warm temperatures, it’s the moisture in the air.

It’s not the warm temperature, it’s the moisture in the air and in your hair, on your skin, in-between your toes, on the back of your neck. And it’s the stickiness between your fingers as you rub them together, trying to keep your hands relaxed. And it’s the fibers from the cottonwood seeds, the catkins, that fly into your eye or your mouth or get stuck in the sweat on your face.

It is the heat and the humidity and the effects of both on your body as you run:
the increased sweat,
the depletion of electrolytes,
the flagging energy,
the dehydration,
the pumping of more blood to the skin and less to your heart or your muscles,
the sweat that can’t evaporate to cool your body,
the elevated heart rate.

It’s not the heat or the humidity it’s the dew point, the temperature at which water condenses. The closer the dew point is to the temp in the air, the longer the sweat will stay in your hair because the air is too saturated and your sweat can’t evaporate, which is how your body cools you down.

But, here’s the problem:
Today, as I slogged through my run, struggling to stay upright for 60 minutes, the heat wasn’t too bad, only 74—still high, but it could have been more. The humidity was a mere 37 percent. And the dew point? Only 45! The chart that I found online didn’t even bother describing a dew point so low. It started with 50-54, marking it as very comfortable running conditions. Very comfortable?!

So it’s not the heat, not the humidity, not the dew point? Could it be me? Maybe. But, today’s run was no failure of will; it was a test of fortitude. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t fly or breathe in the world or even run the entire time. But I kept moving, accepting, and not resisting, my limits.

It’s not defeat, it’s humility.

may 23/6 MILES

54 degrees
75% humidity
the franklin hill turn around + a little extra

Today I woke up tired and discombobulated. Decided that my playlist was definitely needed for blocking out the world. It worked. It was a good run. I felt disconnected, almost in a trance. Especially while running up the hill. As I made my way up it, I stared at the bridge at the top, only seeing it as a hulking shape. Quick flashes of movement entered by peripheral vision as bikers whizzed by. So cool.

Several miles later the trance-like feeling was replaced by a euphoria. Was it endorphins kicking in? Maybe. Does it matter if it can be explained chemically, scientifically? There is still something magical or mystical or sacred that can happen in those moments.

In an op-ed for The New York Times a few years ago the runner/author Jaime Quatro suggests that the high that runner’s get from running has three layers. Layer one is the conventional runner’s high, the sense of euphoria. Layer two is a feeling of invincibility; you can do anything! save all the starving children! garner massive applause from adoring crowds! Today, I felt like I could almost outrun the cars. If you’re lucky, which I was not, you can reach layer three:

a state of prayerlike consciousness. Past the feel-good vibes, past the delusions, my attention moves outward: I’m intensely aware of the cadence of a bird’s song, cherry blossoms weighted-down after a rain. Things light up and I experience an interior stillness that somehow syncs me more profoundly with the exterior world. It’s a paradox: only when I’m fully present in my body do I begin to experience the absence of myself.

As we move outward, we stop thinking so much about ourselves and start paying attention to the world. So much to say about this! About care, curiosity, Weil’s idea of attention. But I have to sort it out first. Maybe I’ll try to do that on my run tomorrow.