Thursday, January 15, 2009
3:30am: Part IV
Tick tock, tick tock....it's 3:30am. Time to get up. A slow, feet-draggin' trip to the thermometer reveals a meager 5 degrees above freezing. Dragging a few feet further reveals a windchill of 12 below zero. Old Glory is slowly swaying in the wind although not as smooth as before...more like a piece of red, white, and blue cardboard suspended by a piece of frigid aluminum. Nylon + moisture + single digits = FROZEN. HOWEVER, oh yes...it is Mr. Moon! It has seemed like an eternity since he last filled the clear sky and illuminated my running path. No doubt, he will do it again today. After brewing my traditional 6 ounces of piping hot stove-top espresso with a touch of Splenda and checking up on morning e-mails and Facebook updates (an ugly addiction of mine), I suit up to join Mr. Moon. Sporthill gear made for temperatures to -20 degrees is today's choice (single layer) and a vest for good measure in order to break any wind from hitting my chest. Smartwool liners inside of another pair of Smartwool gloves, my Sugoi balaclava, and my Smartwool hat...all gear to cover the skin and keep me toasty. The final piece was my Merrell trail shoes. They're as light as road shoes with some serious lugs on the bottom to give me some traction on the snow and ice. As I reach for the handle of the door dividing the inside of my garage from the outside, I notice that the frost has actually traveled through the metallic components of the lock and come inside the garage. I've only seen this a few times...the few times it has been bitterly cold. As I open the door amidst a few crackles as the rubber seal gives way, the driveway is illuminated as if a spotlight was shining from the sky. Gorgeous, indeed. Crunch, crunch go my feet across the fine crystals of snow in the driveway and I'm off. "Good morning, Mr. Moon! I'm so glad you decided to show up again!" Just last week, the moon was reportedly as close to the earth as it would be in all of 2009. Unfortunately, the NE Ohio weather kept us from seeing it up close and personal and today was the first day. Today's run was meant to be short due to my tapering to the Buckeye Trail 50K this Sunday and only 3 miles were scheduled. However, given the unexpected visitor this morning, I decided to squeak out a few extra. As I head out on "our" route and the artificial man-made light of my neighborhood fades and Mr. Moon takes the helm (in the lighting department, that is), my attention is drawn to the rolling hills of snow and tree-tops illuminated. I think it's so cool to think that 1000 years ago, those same trees stood and were illuminated by this same light...just as I see it. Some things are truly timeless and this causes me to realize how very small and insignificant I am in the this world. I wonder what ran through those fields, who ran among those trees, and what life experiences happened out there. Forgotten. My attention shifts back to the road as a stinky, tune-up-needin' Ford truck slides by me leaving a plume of smoke and snow powder. "Doesn't he know I'm supposed to be the only one out here?"
I don't know how the Moon does it but he forces me to run through everything in life as fast as I can before the run with him ends. I think to family: I think of my girls and how fast they're growing up and the many issues we'll face together some day...some day soon, I'm sure. I think of my wife who fills the part of life I don't ever want emptied. I want the best for her and for happiness to prevail in every facet of her life. I think about my mom and dad and how my dad is facing cancer straight on. I pray that the cancer is taken away and success is found as he travels to an expert in Atlanta. I think of my brothers, their wives, and their kids. I'm thankful we all have a great family to come home to every night and kids to welcome us. I hope we all grow old together and watch each others' kids grow, succeed, and take life by the horns. I think about the many friends I've made through the local running scene and how many more I'll meet in the future and the many hours we'll spend together on the trails. I embrace the passion we share while pushing ourselves to previously unforeseen limits. I think of the public citizens who visit my office everyday...disabled, sick, dying, with nothing. I again am reminded of the simple ability to run and be healthy. I am thankful for the warm bed to sleep in, the food on my plate, and the freedom to do what I want, when I want, and where I want. That brings to mind Justin M. who is serving over in Iraq. Although I've never met him in person, we've "talked" many times online and through the ultra-running listserv community. We will both toe the line at Kettle Moraine this June as we both go for our first 100 mile finish. I hope his tour finishes without incident and he gets home to the good 'ol USA soon. Thank you for serving, Justin! I'll see you in Wisconsin, soon!
Running back, I trace my fresh tracks just left and that remain undisturbed. My shadow keeps running to keep up and I continue to drift away. Running now is effortless and a pure joy. I'm not even paying attention to each foot strike but instead peering upward into the sky to the many starts that surround the moon. Puffy smoke rising from nearby chimneys, a horse wandering out of a nearby barn, kitchen lights turning on as residents wake up for their own new day, and me...the crazy one, running in sub-zero temperatures. Sight is actually becoming a challenge now as the icicles are forming on my eyelashes. A quick swipe fixes the vision problem and again, I'm as comfortable as ever and much warmer than anyone would ever imagine. As I approach the entrance back into "civilization" of my neighborhood, sadness falls down. Deep down, I do not want to stop. I just want to run...and keep running. I'm immediately reminded of so many who are hopping on their treadmills for their morning run and what they're missing out here. If I had one myself, I'd never have these priceless runs with Mr. Moon. Heck, we would have never met! For that I am thankful.
As his light takes a backseat to the street and house lights, home can be seen just around the corner. I take one last look upward and give him one last nod just to say thanks for another great run and for lighting the way. A guiding light....His guiding light....to illuminate and guide me as I run the race set before me.
Happy Trails, friends.