But it's alright.
Week two of my return to fitness started with a 4 mile time trial in Standish this evening. This loop was where I used to test my race readiness on my way home from work when I worked at Maine Medical Center a decade ago. I would park at the gravel pit and make the loop in a counter clockwise direction aiming for 26 minutes for the loop. The first three miles are flat and fast, then it gets ugly. Starting out tonight, I couldn't remember exactly how the hills would come at me in that last mile, but I remembered they were there.
Just as I recalled, the early miles were flat, and (I liked to imagine) fast. I felt smooth. My stride was stretched out and my turnover was quick. I was landing on my toes and pushing off effortlessly. I was really moving... or so I liked to think.
It was getting dark as I turned the corner at the three mile point, marking the start of the hills. Luckily, it was too dark to read my watch without trying to find that little button that lights up the face, and I can never find that so I didn't try. I started up a gradual long climb, thinking "this isn't as bad as I remembered." Then I went down a little hill and up another. It almost leveled off for a moment and I started thinking I was home free. Suddenly I saw it looming ahead of me in the dark, the big hill. The one that always tried to push me back from that 6:30 pace I would be trying so hard to maintain. It looked like a gray wall extending to the skyline. Oh yes, now I remembered.
My breathing felt worse than I ever remember it feeling. My heart threatened to explode in my chest. Boy, did I miss being fit at that moment. But I pushed through it and made it back to my car. I checked my watch. It was very disappointing. 34:12. How could this be? On a few good days, I have broken 25 minutes on this loop. Now I am barely under 35. All I could think to say was, "ugh." and I meant it from the bottom of my heart.
But I'm over it. Now I have a point to build from. I didn't get out of shape in a few weeks, it took a year and a half of working too much and not working out enough. It's going to take some time to get back in shape. So yes, it's even worse than it appears, but it's alright.