Monday, July 2, 2012

New Territory

My first 26.2 came and went. 

My beat-up Brooks Ghosts floated me through mile 20 at a 12 minute pace.  I was still feeling good, and wondering when I would see "the wall".  I've hit it before, and I know what it feels like to slam against it.  It was nowhere in sight.  My body wasn't registering any pain. 

Right about then I began seriously considering going for a 50K. 

At mile 21, I knew I had another ten miles in me.  I thought of my treadmill at home, and how much more difficult those workouts felt.  My trail was so much more beautiful.  I thought of how running was just like gardening, with my sweat dripping into the same earth by my same feet. 

I thought of the people I love.  I must have left all my worries at the car, or maybe they just couldn't keep up.

At my marathon finish, I stretched my hips and calves, and rested with my running partner.  We ate salty baked potato chunks, pretzels, and drank some water.  After drilling me on my new route and pointing me in the right direction, my partner let me go and I and headed out for a solo 50K.  The last leg was an "out and back" to I-35 then to my car.  By then it was sunny and freaking hot, and I had no sunscreen.  The heat was not my friend.

I'll never forget reaching the interstate bridge and placing my hot, sweaty hand against the big, fat concrete column that supports the massive structure.  Every day, I drive across this bridge and wish I was on the trail, paddleboarding or kayaking in the river below.  There I stood, merging my two worlds above and below, my partner (who came to meet me at the turnaround point) behind me, my life in front of me.  Support all around.  I stood for a meditative moment to feel this amazing intersection.  The dry concrete pulled the moisture off my hand, and as I released my arm, I saw a quickly fading handprint.  It was time to go.  I turned about face and RAN.

I had a task to complete.  My partner was waiting for me.  I'd been waiting for this moment too.

On the last and hottest segment of my journey, the dragonflies meant the most to me.  The humid air was thick and the shade hovered too close to the tree trunks.  I zigged and zagged like those dragonflies flew so I could stay as cool as possible, pouring the hot water from my bottles on my chest and neck as much as I drank from them.  Every step was like a sauna, my muscles singing happily to run but so overheated inside my body.

Finally the face I'd been waiting for loomed ahead, my partner at the finish point.  Was it like the rock I saw a couple miles back that I thought was a curled up lost dog?  "Hello, doggie!" I had said to it, and it didn't move; for a second I was afraid it was a dead dog by the side of the trail.  As I passed closer, I realized it looked nothing like a dog, and was a mirage entirely.  This time it was no illusion.  My run was over, and the smiling happy face shining at me ahead was real.

Real.

Runner.