Monday, September 20, 2010

Under the Milky Way Tonight

I have only done one night race in my running 'career.' However, I run in the dark almost every day during major portions of the year. This morning, for instance, as my clock ticked over to read 4 a.m., I knew I wasn't going to be able to fall back into slumber. I don't know why, but I have a very hard time sleeping in. If it is 5:30, I will get out of bed. If it is 4-ish, I'll try to stay in bed until 5 or 5:30. So, I pulled out a book I had begun yesterday and managed to finish it before crawling out of bed, making coffee and feeding Lucas, my mentally-troubled kitty (who'd been bellowing at me through the door as he heard pages turning for the previous hour).

When it finally came time to run around 6 a.m., it was still very dark outside. I grabbed a headlamp. But instead of turning it on for the whole run, I left it off for parts of the run where I know there aren't potholes in the roads, and the sidewalks are relatively even. As I hit the turnaround point at two miles, The Church's 'Under the Milky Way' pulsed gently through my earphones. I looked up and could see not only the Milky Way, but some planets and the ever-present belt of Orion. It was absolutely perfect. I waved to several of the other early morning runners I passed in the dark (always women for some reason). It really was one of those experiences that you would love to share with someone when it is happening, but instead, remains an internal and fleeting joy, that only the person experiencing it will ever know.

The run this morning was undertaken as a bit of a recovery run. Yesterday, after weeks of doing my long runs on trails, I kicked out a big run on my old solitary (paved) roads and SLT trails. I was expecting heat, but when I awoke, my area of the city was shrouded in fog. I waited for an hour for the sun to come out, but it never did. So at 8:30 a.m. I set off into the mist. And what a lovely run it turned out to be. I hadn't done it in some time, so it seemed fresh again. The fog made the run a bit surreal as well.

I have this odd thing where I'll think about what can happen to runners out alone in the country. I'm never worried about heart attacks or getting hit by a vehicle. But I do worry about stray rounds from hunters and being run down by the oft-doubted mountain lion. And yesterday, running in the fog, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure that no larger version of Lucas was skulking along in my wake. I do know of an instance in our county where a woman triathlete was doing a training run and saw a mountain lion that seemed to be following her. But in my case, yesterday, it was just my mind going places in the fog where I didn't want it to go.

I passed a few other runners and cyclists. They would emerge out of the whiteness and sort of float on by. The moisture in the air was so thick that the hair on my arms and legs developed droplets that gave off a silvery sheen. I hadn't taken any water, but at mile 4 did a shot from a packet of Accelerade gel. It always takes those shots about 15-20 minutes before I notice a modicum of increased energy. At the 10K mark I checked my watch and realized that I was going too fast. I ran through it at 48 minutes flat. It was somewhat hard to keep a correct pace of 8:30 - 9:00/mi (which is what I usually shoot for on training runs) because I couldn't gauge distances.

I finished the run feeling relaxed and refreshed. For the first time in weeks I didn't have to shower using poison ivy soaps. My blisters weren't screaming. My hip (which continues to have problems when I play tennis) was also without pain.

So, my plan for this week is to only do 25-30 miles and simply enjoy some solitary runs. After next weekend, I have two weeks of races coming up - one road and one trail. Then it is back to simply cruising the various roads and trails in my neck of the woods until another race grabs my fancy.

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