Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What a Difference an Hour can Make

It is 8:00 at night and I am about to go to crawl into bed after having a stack of pancakes for dinner. I love breakfast for dinner. No one will blame me if I do. 3 hours sleep the night before, my mind is fried, and my emotions are all over the place. Plus, it is about 43 degrees and windy outside. Yep. I lace 'em up and head out the door. I have an 8-mile loop from the house that is a good cruise. I figure I will just lope along. Maybe even walk a bit if I feel like it. I walk outside and the wind and cool night air embrace me. An immediate smile glides across my face. Probably the first time I smiled today besides the really pretty girl I saw at Starbucks early this morning.

With my first step I have wings on my feet! I let my strides lengthen out smooth and easy, paying careful attention to stay relaxed, but keep really good form. I feel like a machine that is hitting on all cylinders. My engine is purring in the cool night air. Being a little on the chilly side, I am wearing a long sleeve shirt tonight. Immediately, I know I am going to be running hard and this shirt has to go. I slither it over my head and toss it into the bushes. I may or may not retrieve it. All I know is that I want nothing to hold me back tonight.

After about half a mile there is a pretty good downhill section. I mash the accelrator and let gravity do her thing. My stride feels so smooth and efficient like my legs are not even a part of my body. They are pistons on a machine designed for a single purpose. I am going to let it all hang out tonight. If I would have been out on a trail, there is a pretty good chance I would have ended-up butt-ass naked with nothing on but my shoes and a smile. (I have done that before, but that is for another time!)

This loop from my house has a nice gentle roll to it the first couple of miles followed by 2 long, gradual, uphill sections. I feel amazing running tonight. This is going to be epic at a time when I really need it and I am not going to let it slip through my fingers. I am amazed at how running always knows what I need to cure what is ailing me!

I tackle the first long rise like it is not even there. A light downhill gives me time to pick up the pace a little, recover, and focus on my form for a minute or two. Then I turn to the south heading for home. One long gradual uphill about a mile long. Wham! I turn right into a 20 mph headwind. No wonder I felt like I had a hand on my back when I was running north.

It is only a mile to finish the rise, get to a windbreak, and have a 3/4 mile downhill to stride it out and pick it up again. I work harder during that mile than any section of this run. Not only does my pace not fall off, I think it gets a little faster. In no time I am cruising the downhill in a smooth, relaxed fashion. I carry that relaxed state into the next 1.5 miles along the golf course, to a quick steep uphill, followed by a 1/2 mile flat to make it home. I do some micro calculations on the way to keep myself on target to finish this loop in under 1 hour. Along the golf course I grab 2 quick glass of water from a cooler. I walk maybe 5-6 strides to accomplish this and get right back up to speed.

I hammer up the steep, short hill like it is not even there and began to push my tempo up towards maximum. I dodge a few cars crossing a six-lane thoroughfare using some creative angles and turn on the home stretch. It is about 1/4-mile of straight pavement. I let my full kick loose and within 2-3 strides, I am sprinting all out. I know it is going to be close, but I also know if I waste energy or good form to look at the watch it will only slow me down. "Just run. Don't look dammit" I say outloud to no one in particular. A guy walking a dog gives me a funny look as he thought I am talkng to him. I am sure I am a sight for him to see. He is bundled up in a parka and here I am in just running shorts in a full sprint barking "Don't look!"

As I hit the imaginary tape at the stop sign where I started I push the button on my running watch. I can feel every cubic inch of my lungs swelling. My calves are hard as rocks. They feel like I have been running one, hour-long sprint. Hands on my knees, bent over, sucking the marrow out of life. I stand up right and let loose a FFFrrrreeeedddddooommm!!!!! cry from the bottom of my soul. I really let it rip. I did not care who is looking or what they mght think. I am alive and I was free!

P.S.- When I look at the watch it reads 60 minutes 3 seconds. I guess I should not have gotten that water!