Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blue Light Special

Living on the east coast of Florida poses two serious challenges for long-distances runners: terrain and climate. It's flatter than a surfboard, and the heat index is off the scales.

Training for a marathon in the subtropics is downright crazy.

No escaping the heat. You just have to run before the sun gets up, because as soon as the sun crests the first yardarm, it's already into the high 80s with the humidity ratcheting up the heat index several more degrees. We have two temps: what it says on the bank thermometer, and what it feels like. There ought to be a third category: what it feels like running.

Finding a place to get in some decent hill work isn't easy, but if you live along the Intracoastal Waterway like I do, you go for the next best thing: a causeway.

The one I run is the US 192 Causeway, or the Melbourne Causeway. The official name for the span is the Ernest Kouwen-Hoven Bridge, named after a Dutch man who emigrated to Florida, and liked to build bridges and grow timber. He built the original Melbourne Causeway in 1919, and the Florida Legislature named a subsequent bridge after him in 1977. Nobody locally calls it by its proper name, and very few people who grew up here even heard of Kouwen-Hoven. My friends who grew up here call jokingly call it Mt. Melbourne.

Yesterday I ran to the blue light at the top of old Ernie's bridge, stopped and turned around, making a nice 5.5 mile run on a hot-as-balls Saturday morning. Here's the song, "Blue Light," by the band Bloc Party.

That's a big milestone for me, because it's the first time since injuring myself in the Tupelo Marathon that I was able to exceed 15 miles in one week. Not that I'm setting any land speed records yet.

Also, it marks the second time I tackled the causeway since I began running again three weeks ago, after a year of suffering from a back injury I got running the Tupelo Marathon. I call this route The Blue Light Special because of the blue navigational signal at the crest of the causeway, which I suppose serves a two-fold purpose: it lets boaters know where the channel is at night, and keeps planes from flying into it.

But it doesn't keep people from jumping from the top of the span, 55 feet above the Indian River Lagoon. People have died doing it, and a brass plaque right near the blue light serves as a reminder of what happens to fools who dare to dive off the bridge at their own peril. Don't wind up like "Doug Bob" commemorated here -- born in 1986, died 2002 -- you do the math.

Anyway, I think I hit another milestone that comes with old age -- erm, make that wisdom. When it hurts, stop. Which is why I stopped at the blue light and turned around. I could have kept going across the two-mile causeway, and done an eight-mile run instead of 5.5. But the heat was getting to me, I'd run all out and was pretty spent by the time I hit the top of the causeway.

And my SI joint was pinging something fierce, along with a little pain tickling the piriformis muscle. I knew it was time to quit, that my body had had enough for the week and I should be happy with what I'd accomplished reaching that 17-mile mark in one week, without dying of heat stroke.

Maybe I'll double-down and hit the Blue Light Special twice tomorrow, the day before I go in for my steroid injection.

OK. Now for a cool running song, the one that was pounding in my head while bopping down the causeway: Step On, by Happy Mondays:

1 comment:

  1. k. WHEN i ran here (you'd have to carbon date me for that one) up a 4 am and we ran on the beach..want it a little harder? go into the soft, lighter workout? hardpack. its that or the parks at also 4 am because like you noted, people don't get how hot it get when the sun comes up here in august while your running. heatstroke is common here with athletes doing 2 a days and kids would die. good blog j. i didn't know the name of that fucking bridge either. try the beach. lots of bitches out there running as a bonus.