Tempered will and iron grit

October 11th, 2012

Every Sunday morning at 8:30, my friends and I pile into a Carroll van and travel to one of Cleveland’s many beautiful Metroparks for our “long run.”

For me, I like to think of my long runs like I think of my laundry cycles – there’s the Light 12, Medium 14 or the Heavy Duty 18-plus. Depending on various factors, we decide which setting to put our legs on, and then we roll out.

This kind of training is a truly formative experience for a college kid. First off, Sunday mornings just feel cruel sometimes. Think about it – what comes directly before Sunday morning? Yep, Saturday night. And a silly 15-mile run the next day isn’t usually enough to prevent us from enjoying the weekend the night before.

As one of my buddies pointed out, by this point our bodies are probably conditioned to think that there is a long run the next day as soon as a drop of the good stuff hits our lips.

“Oh, he’s drinking again?” observes the body. “He must be preparing for another long run tomorrow. I’ll be feeling this one in a few hours. Well, bottoms up!” Kind of counter-intuitive, isn’t it? (But I will say the best cure for a hangover is a good healthy run – sweat it out, baby.)

But the reason I bring up the long run is because of a particular experience I had this weekend that made for one of the most hardcore and adventurous runs I have ever done.

We all got into the vans like usual this Sunday. We played some quiet Rihanna and Bieber on the way there (that’s what happens when I’m the van driver, by the way), and my loyal cardio-compatriot Nick Wojtasik assumed his place sitting shotgun, as my navigator.

For those of you who weren’t awake at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, it was 47 degrees and raining – not the best running weather.

We journeyed the short 20-minute drive to the North Chagrin Reservation of the ‘Tros (that’s how cool people refer to the Metroparks). Although it was gross weather, we still stripped down to our skivvies for the run, because once the heater is fired up, it burns nice and hot.

For most of us, that meant shorts and a T-shirt; for me, I prefer my navy blue half-tights and a T-shirt, mainly because they contour my lower curves quite nicely; and for Woj, of course, that meant shorts and no shirt. His mentality – if the shirt gets wet, then I’ll be cold and not have anything warm to get into when we get back.

And it was that Survivorman mentality that became the theme of the adventure-est run I’ve ever been on.

It started out like most runs do, cruising on some trails, enjoying the scenery, etc. For the first few minutes, we traveled as a pack (a wolf pack, if you will). But gradually, we all broke off into separate groups until it was just Woj and me. By nature, we are both adventure seekers, so this was a fantastic opportunity for us to do some quality exploring.

Besides, we had an hour and 45 minutes of time to kill, so we might as well have some fun, right? We messed around on the trails for a bit, and happened to meet up with our freshman crew (including Andrew Snyder and Matt “9:31” Chojnacki) – the more the merrier. Somehow, though, our trail landed us straight in the middle of a neighborhood. When there’s a choice between trails and suburbia, always choose trails.

Well, Woj and I have a strict no turning around policy. Turning around means admitting defeat. We would not be defeated! So naturally, we decided the best alternative was to cut through someone’s backyard and find the trail from there.

What we didn’t know was that the neighborhood rested on a cliff above the Chagrin River Valley. Fortunately, the people whose yard we cut through had a rope tied to a tree that descended the slippery 80 degree slope; So the five of us scaled the side of this Cleveland precipice, only to end up smack in the middle of icy cold, shin-deep, rushing water. Nice.

At this point, we figured we might as well keep going since we were already down and wet. But after about a half-mile of trudging through the creek and not finding the trail, we decided to scramble back up the sheer mud face, on our hands and knees, and figure it out from the higher ground.

When we finally got to the top, we had somehow landed ourselves smack in the middle of a stable. I can only imagine what those two horses were thinking when a group of five skinny mudmen showed up in their home.

The rest of the run was a sprint to the vans to warm up our chilled bones.

In the end, we all made it back, and I’m pretty sure everyone went to church that night to say a little thank you too.

And that’s the edurance-inspired story of tempered will and iron grit.