I woke up late this morning and decided to cut the 5-miler I’ve been doing lately to a 4-miler. I give myself roughly 10 minutes per mile, for morning rush sake, making sure to be home [or close to it] by 6:15AM to cool down and come back in the house by 6:30 and start my day [read” “feed my fake fish and play Mafia Wars”].
As I approached the mile and a half mark, a voice whispered to me underneath the nice cap my friend La Tortuga had knitted.
'Look at your watch”
12:30-ish and that included a brief stop for a “Hail Mary” at the statue of the Blessed Mother in front of our church right at one mile.
“Hey” the voice said almost seductively “You’re running late anyway. Why don’t you make a right here at the railroad crossing, cut it short another mile, to just three and … um … while you’re at it … put the hammer down? Let’s see what we can do”
I careful trotted up and over RR crossing and leaned right. I apologized to my friends – the ducks, geese and chickens at the farm down by the lake that I usually pass in the mornings – that I wouldn’t be seeing them today.
I cruised in and out of pockets of orange where the sparse streetlights lit the road, onto brighter surroundings as I approached “The “Main Drag,” such as it is [clockwise from my left: a candy store, a sports/fishing gear shop, a tattoo shop, Atco Ave, a crafts/sewing shop, mini-Library, Firehouse, a dance school, a carpet store, and a liquor store; on the other side of the railroad tracks: an auto supply shop and a body shop across the street from that]
At 2 miles, I was at about 16 minutes. Another 8½ [my usual pace] would bring me in around 24:30; not bad at all, going under 25 would sure be nice. I put “Downtown” behind me and threw a little more coal on the fire. I wasn’t straining, not breathing hard in the cold, frosty stillness; the wheels were turning over just fine [maybe a little confused, is all]
I was in a groove, for sure.
As I made the turn to head back home I made an important observation and a possible strategic error: I had a stoplight between me and the finish. If I got caught on the wrong side of a red light and [now on the other side of 6AM where the traffic starts to pick up] my “time trial” could be screwed.
‘Oh well, ‘ I thought, ‘best not think about that, just yet.’
One thing about running in the dark; it’s hard to pace yourself. I generally keep pace by the Team Tania blinky on my back: if it’s not moving = too slow; bouncing all over = too fast. I put it in a firm but even rhythm as I rushed to the Pike.
Green turned to amber, which turned to red shortly thereafter. Then, back to green.
Twenty yards or so from Dominos, it went amber. I slowed as it went red. Fortunately, there were only five cars waiting [two westbound and three eastbound], and none coming that I couldn’t beat across the street.
I nodded for them to go, crossed and began my final approach; a gentle decline, past some townhouses, a vacant field and a junkyard.
The Public School kids were already waiting for their bus as I returned to our development.
‘Okay, make it look good’ I advised myself. With a surprise, I reached for another gear and I found a … um, what’s it called … when you run REAL fast at the end … Oh yeah!!! A “Kick!!!” That's it!!! I had a Kick!!!
I barreled over the rise at the top of my street and back down to the end of my driveway.
I stopped my watch.
Now, I WAS breathing hard. Puffy clouds of exertion floated around my head; a sweaty mist rose from my fleece sweatshirt. I unzipped my collars [yeah, BOTH of them], rolled up my sleeves and took off my hat. I scratched my head partially from amazement but most mostly because, as soft as the wool was, it was still kind of itchy. The sweaty shag on my noggin froze instantly into icy punk-rock spikes.
“Dude” I said to myself, “You haven’t changed a bit. You’ve still got it”
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