The Holly Hustle

Winter running is a challenge in Grand Forks. Snow covered sidewalks create uneven surfaces which can lead to twisted ankles. Icy surfaces cause slips and falls, especially when they’re hidden underneath the snow. Sub zero temperatures and wind chills make it almost impossible to stay warm, especially if you become sweaty. Running inside on a treadmill or track gets boring fast. These are all possibilities runners consider when planning a workout, weighing them carefully before proceeding with what seems like the best choice for the current conditions.

A couple of years ago, one of my running friends desperately wanted to do her long runs outside, but strong winds and sub zero temperatures made it impossible. Holly could dress warm enough to stay warm while running with a tailwind, but nothing could prevent her from freezing while running into a brisk headwind for several straight miles. What was a girl to do?

Holly, being the resourceful person she is, devised a plan. She asked a friend to drive her out of town in the direction of the wind, which allowed her to complete her entire run while returning home without ever needing to run into a headwind. Holly liked it, so she did it again, and again, and again…

Holly began to be teased for her frequent “with-the-wind” runs back into Grand Forks. Dan, a mutual friend, coined the phrase “Holly Hustle” for this type of workout, and it kind of stuck. I believe the popularity of the phrase can be attributed to the double meaning of the word “hustle:” 1) To proceed at a faster pace, 2) To deceive through trickery. Always running with the wind seems to fit both of these definitions to some extent!

Yesterday, I woke up for another long Saturday run only to be greeted by yet another day of sub zero wind chills. I’ve been running indoors, on a track, for virtually every run so far this year but as my distance has increased with each passing week, so has my desperation to get back outside. I had 13 miles to cover for the day but saw that the single digit temperatures were bad, and that they were made worse by a strong NNE wind bringing the wind chill below -20. What was a guy to do?

Holly @ Boston 2013

I started thinking… You know, Holly is a great runner: She’s currently training for her second Boston Marathon in two years. Why not try doing a “hustle” of my own? I asked Sue if she would be willing to drive me out of town and leave me, and she said yes without a second of hesitation. I got the feeling that this was not a new consideration for my wife; but that’s a topic for another day…

We drove north and east along deserted gravel roads until we arrived at county road #33, just east of Manvel. I’ve frequently completed much longer runs than this, but driving 13 miles immediately prior to running the distance was new, and kind of psyched me out. I believe that by driving me to the start, perhaps Sue got a more realistic feel for what her husband does each Saturday!

I came to understand the “Hustle” a little better during my return run, and could better appreciate the different kinds of effort that are required in a feat such as this: It’s not as easy as it seems for a variety of reasons: 1) It’s mentally challenging because you don’t get the continuous block by block progress feedback. 2) When you do head into a cross wind, which I did for about three miles total, there is NOTHING to slow it down, making it harder than anything a runner faces in town. 3) You have to continually focus on the gravel surface to avoid stepping on rocks. 4) I experienced a surge of adrenaline when two large dogs came running out onto the road to bark while running behind me for an eighth of a mile. 5) There are no toilets; elaboration unnecessary!

I returned to my house in a little under two hours feeling physically and mentally drained. It was 13.15 miles, but it somehow seemed a lot further. Thank you Holly for luring me out of my comfort zone and giving me reason to try something new; my “hustle” was a great experience!

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