I think I may have discovered the worst thing about winter marathon training.
It's not the dark mornings or freezing temps. It's not the amount of time it requires. It's not the headlamps or balaclavas or other special gear I need. It's not chaffing or stomach issues or muscle aches and pains. It's not even the miles.
It's the shower. To be more precise, it's the work shower. (Cue Psycho music.)
Balancing the training schedule with everything else going on in my life - a full-time (and then some) job, the holidays, the need to maintain somewhat of a normal life with friends and family - has been a challenge. I knew it would be.
Finding time to fit in runs during the shortest of days has been even more challenging. I was on a roll of pre-work runs for a while (and, really, I actually liked them). But I'll admit I was getting just plain sick and tired of running in the dark. Plus, it's the coldest time of the day.
I decided - after a few mornings of just not being able to muster up enough get-up-and-go to, well, get up and go - that I needed a new strategy. I mentally could not take any more miles in the dark.
Taking advantage of some flexibility in my work schedule, I decided to hit the office early and sneak out mid-day for a few miles. To date, I've been able to get away with this a few times. Hopefully, since it will be only temporary, no one will tell me to stop. As soon as it's slightly lighter in the pre-work hours, I'll get back to a morning schedule. Promise.
The runs are fabulous - there's daylight and sunshine and, gasp, other forms of life.
What happens after the runs, however, is as far from fabulous as possible.
While getting ready twice in one day isn't ideal - really, who want to put on make up and dry their hair more than once a day? - the slight inconvenience of a second coiffing session pales in comparison to the dreaded shower.
Yes, I realize I'm lucky to have showers at my work. It gives me the opportunity to sneak away for mid-day runs and enjoy a bit of winter daylight.
But as I turn the faucet and watch the water trickle onto the dirty floor in a rarely used bath/locker room, I question whether hitting some a few more morning dark runs is more appealing.
Let me set the scene for you a bit. I work at a newspaper. For those of you who haven't been at a newspaper printing facility, it can be pretty dirty - all sorts of ink and paper dust flying around and landing on everything.
The shower room, it just so happens, is directly off the press room. Actually, it's inside the press room. Yes, inside the press room - which means that aside of the less-than-clean conditions I'm dealing with, I also have to shower just a few feet from a group of press guys wandering around.
Oh yeah, did I mention there's not a lock on the door?
My shower-at-work routine is well planned. I need to be quick and I need to be discreet. I can't have those guys knowing that I'm showering on the other side of the door. If they knew, I imagine that there would be a special press warning bell sounding - woman in the shower, woman in the shower, woman in the shower. (Yes, this is how is works in my mind.)
That's not to imply that they'd come in or climb through the air ducts to sneak a peek, but just the thought of them knowing I'm in there creeps me out a bit. At the very least, I could probably expect a few loud knocks on the door just to freak me out - followed by plenty of laughter and high-fives on the other side.
So, I've got to be quick. (I like to think my speed training will help with this.) Luckily, my office door is a straight shot to the press room and, even luckier, the woman's locker room is on the side of the press that doesn't house the main controls. Most times, I can sneak right in without being noticed.
The music is usually blaring and the guys are singing along unabashedly. It's loud enough in there on a quiet day that I don't have to worry about them hearing me.
But, through the vents and the not-so-heavy door, I can hear them (and the music), which makes the whole experience even more unnerving.
I always, always let the water run for a few minutes before stepping in - the first of several rules.
I learned this lesson last year when, because the shower hadn't been used in so long, that jet-black water streamed from the shower head. Totally gross. Eventually, it cleared, but I haven't been able to put the image of me standing under the stream of black water out of my head.
The condition of the showers, shall I say, isn't great. I don't blame the company. Although the men's locker room is used daily, several times a day, I think I might be the only one in years to use the ladies' showers.
Needless to say, it's a bit dirty. As I mentioned, the newspaper is a dirty business - and it's dirtiest in the press room, so you can just imagine how the showers look. A layer of paper dust on everything. The picture above doesn't do it justice - or injustice, depending on how you look at it.
There are two showers. I prefer the one the right (farthest from the door), but it has a burned-out light, so the lighting isn't great. So yesterday, I decided to try the one on the left. I turned on the water and, well, barely a trickle came out. Seriously, I could have washed better with a bottle of water.
I had a slight moment of panic. I'd already run. I wasn't in any condition to put my work clothes back on and get back to looking "professional" at my desk.
So I tried the darkened shower on the right. When I had just the cold water on, it streamed out with force, just the way I like it. Unfortunately, I also like hot showers - and the more hot water I put on, the less water came out.
I'd rather shower in a hot trickle of water than a decent cold shower, so I stepped in. (Another rule: always, always wear flip-flops.)
The water was coming out in such a ridiculously small amounts that I debated whether it would make more sense for me to just try some touch-ups with a cloth, dry my sweaty hair and just try to make it through the rest of the day without seeing anyone.
Instead, I opted for some shampoo. Big mistake. It lathered fine, surprisingly, but was taking forever to rise out. This was interfering with my next rule: make showers as fast as possible.
I heard the music coming from the press room and heard the guys singing along with the "Cult of Personality" - very loudly. Then, the press warning bell. Woman in the shower, woman in the shower, woman in the shower?
I tried not to think about it. I rushed through the rest of the the routine, just doing enough to get through the rest of the day without disgusting my co-workers.
The only saving grace of this shower experience was that the soap packed in my travel bag was a bar from a nice inn in Vermont that TC and I stayed at last year. Great trip, great memories and, yes, great soap.
For an instant, I almost forgot I was uncomfortably showering in a dirty, dim shower just feet from my co-workers. Not really - the soap is good, but not that good.
**REMEMBER, I'm running the Boston Marathon to help save lives!**
Please visit my fundraising page to support a good cause and learn more about a very special little boy. http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston11/trobinsy2v. Thank you for your support!