North tundra as in Michigan (hey, it's north to more people than you might think). Frozen as in the icy slick conditions that happen unexpectedly when temps FINALLY hit the low 40's as it did here this past weekend but with still a good 6 inches of snow in some areas. Things melt. Water moves. Shady areas where the sun don't shine morph into ice skating rinks of various size.
As for Muffin Man, that would be the affectionate nickname I'll be using for yes, yet again, another mystery runner who would sincerely appreciate my not blogging him into infamy (FYI: Muffin Man is not the Kenyan. Nor is he related to the Kenyan. Any likeness is purely coincidental). He will be referred to as the Muffin Man due to his near addiction to freshly baked muffins (of almost any variety) but only following outdoor long runs (at least as far as I know).
On a complete and utter side note: I still have not discovered why exactly it is that newer runners like to keep their running a secret. Attention new or newish runners: practically every other runner in the world knows what it is like to pick up the sport for the first time or start from scratch from a hiatus of some sort (i.e. injury, illness, time constraints that vaporize your running, pregnancy, or even just a vacation with tasty chocolatey baked goods or ice cream or some combination of the two). We get it alright. And not only do we get it, we are SO STINKING PROUD OF YOU FOR ANY RUNNING YOU DO be it long, short, fast or slow. And as for the non-runners, well, if they've got cracks to make just smile and nod and picture them in their underwear with a bag of potato chips lying on the sofa watching the Biggest Loser with crumbs getting tangled in their mess of beer belly hair and lost forever in their belly button as they tease and ramble off the reasons why you shouldn't or can't run. That being said it should further be noted that in my experience, non-runners are quite frequently even more impressed with what you are doing. So don't hide it gosh darn it (sorry for the mom cussing). You might inspire somebody else to lace up the running shoes and start exercising. And if that doesn't do it for you then try this for a mantra as you run: "one day my fat pants will be your skinny jeans."
But I digress, as usual. Anyhow, Muffin Man, my sister, and I went out for our long run this past Sunday THRILLED because finally the connecting trail that adjoins our two local parks should have (let me repeat that in case you didn't notice the bold italicized print, that was should have) been thawed out. You see both parks have trails that are plowed all winter long. It's just the trail connecting one park to the other that nobody seems to want to claim responsibility for which means you either run through a good foot of snow all winter or you opt to run one park or the other. The park with the longer trail is flat as a pancake and boring as all get out. The other park has a much shorter trail but has no less than 5 hills. Mostly we opted for the longer trail in order to not have to keep running the same trail back and forth (ok them, not me. Mostly, I opted for the treadmill. I'm not big on cold weather running). But we're all running the Martian 1/2 Marathon in a few weeks which is not exactly what one might call flat. So I was REALLY wanting to get in those hills this week (and from this point forward). So, I suggested in a not so nonchalant sort of way that we run short park and they obliged. I mean from as far as the eye could see down the connecting trail, things looked clear. Unfortunately, what lied beyond our vision...not so much, but this we didn't know.
So we started off at short hilly park in our weird little way of running separately together our various distances. My sister and I opting to run one way to get as much of our mileage done in short park as possible. She was running 10. For me, 11. Muffin Man headed out the opposite direction to tackle his 14 which meant he'd run short park, the entire connector and some of long park on his own, then back.
Short park was not too bad, a few slick icy spots including one that was nearly invisible and took down a couple moving FAST on bikes (they were ok...not so sure if one of the bikes survived though). A short way into the connector was my sister's turn around point (who btw I must say ran an excellent 10 miles following TWO WEEKS of being out sick. Way to go Sis!). I had the distinct pleasure of trudging on for a mile which I quickly discovered was going to be through some pretty snowy patches. In fact, that connector mile was over 11:00 minutes. I had been running a 9:30 pace (and someone please explain to me why it seemed so freakin' hard to pick my pace back up to 9:30 after that mile. I might as well have been just starting my run at that point my legs were so tight. The next mile was 10:30 before I was able to loosen up again...errr...frustrating).
As I finally hit the turnaround, all I could think of was poor Muffin Man out there in the Great Beyond trudging away in the hills, ice and snow all because I forgot to consider the STUPID TREES that would obviously block the sun and prevent the treacherous conditions from melting properly before I opened my mouth to suggest we run short park instead of long park. I was pretty sure I ruined another runner. So I did the only thing I could think of...I prayed for him.
And let me tell you something. God answers prayers and in a big way, because not only did we recover Muffin Man, but we recovered him without any twisted broken body parts and he was not laying in some mound of snow suffering from hypothermia. No. This dude was on the trail just as happy as my toddler with a hair brush (weird I know, but hair brushes are for some reason the highlight of her day. Ok that and now that I think of it, also, ironically, muffins. Go figure.) as if he had just run on the most loving and forgiving trail in the most ideal conditions. We found him at mile 12 back in short park with just 2 miles to go. He smiled and waved like a rock star to his adoring fans (which is pretty much an accurate description of us as well I do believe). I ran up and asked him how he was doing and if he needed anything. Nope. Just fine.
Which leads me to this...this guy is much faster than he thinks...I think or else I think I am much faster than I actually am. You should see me two miles from the finish on any of my runs. I ain't talkin' much. A smile is an awkward curl up one side of my mouth and the most wave anybody's getting is a couple of fingers lifted in the air. That's all I can muster. So I'm thinking he's either sandbagging or maybe he's just better about realizing when a run is just not going to be what you thought was that day. He mentally shifts gears, quits looking at the watch and enjoys it for what it is. Kudos to him for that because it takes some people a long time to figure that out.
As for my run, it was about three minutes slower than intended, but with the frozen tundra mile and a few other icy patches that forced me to take teeny weeny itsy bitsy (yellow polka dot bikini) steps so as not to fall, I'll take it. But man those hills kicked my you know what. My quads are pretty sore today. Looks like I've got some more hill work in the near future.
'Til next time...
P.S. I would be remiss if I did not give mad props to the Mobile Mile Marker (my Dad) not only for his ingenious use of available resources, but also for creativity and a terrific sense of humor. He marked each mile by making a miniature snowman and placing him strategically (so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic I presume) in the very center of the trail. The best one which actually made me laugh out loud was one of the last miles which he not only rolled three minuscule snowballs to create his body, but also found some tiny sticks for arms. I can only imagine what other runners and cyclists thought seeing the little men every mile. Nice work Dad.