3:30am, Monday morning, February 9, 2009. "Time to make the donuts," I think to myself. I stand up quick as if snapping to attention but quickly sit back down. No need to kick in my vasovagal syncope and pass out. A slow beating heart (less than 40bpm) from sleeping makes me very vulnerable to hittin' the floor with a flat-lining heart. Been there, done that, no need to revisit that again. Out the side of my eye, I catch a glimpse of the window in the bedroom. A soft, white light is pushing around the edges. At 3:30am, that can only mean one thing: Mr. Moon!!. A smile so wide that every tiny tooth in my mouth can be seen and a quick disabling of the security system and I am out in the kitchen, pumped full of energy and dying to get outside. THIS is the day I've been waiting for. The last time a full moon graced northeast Ohio, the clouds kept it from shining through. Not so today...there isn't a cloud around and the reflection on the remaining snow makes it especially fascinating when I look outside at Old Glory to see what kind of wind is out there. Good news...no wind. It's calm, peaceful, and as far as I can tell, absolutely perfect. A quick glance at the thermometer reveals a crisp 18F which is also just right. I brew my ritualistic espresso, have a Clementine, a tall glass of water and sit down to check on e-mail, etc....you know, the normal rounds we make every day when we log onto our machines. It looks like from the look of Facebook Status Updates that many stayed up to watch the Grammy's. I didn't recognize half of the nominated artists and sleep is far more valuable to me so I passed on the Grammy's and hit the sack.
Geared up and ready to go, I grab the house keys, lace up my Brooks Defyance shoes, and step outside. I passed once again on those junk wear-testers from Brooks. Thankfully, that wear-test ends tomorrow and I can send those dreadful shoes back where they came from. Hardly 150 miles on them and the cushion is all gone. I'd love to help out the company by wear-testing but not at the expense of my knees. Anyway, Mr. Moon is shining bright outside and I snap this photo outside my garage. Cameras really don't like dark shots when you turn the flash off...they blink all kinds of red warning lights trying to get you to "comply" with its desires and turn on the flash. I step on out into the road, dodge around some icy spots from frozen snow-melt in the road and off to "our" route. Today, however, will be different. I have some extra time because I don't have to be at work until 8am so this early 4:30am departure time allows for a bit of an extension. I decide to take "Karen's Loop"...named after Karen S. who I paced at the Akron Marathon last September. She's the only one who has run today's route with me. It's the same route in the beginning but instead of an out-n-back like past "Mr. Moon Runs", it's an 8.2 mile loop full of roller-coaster hills. Because I like even numbers, today will be a Karen+ Loop with an even 10 miles. "Legs!: If you could, please, provide me a comfortable, worry-free ride today and take it easy. Mind!: Float away and enjoy the quiet, peace, and clarity the next 10 miles will provide."
Slipping away from the artificial lights of my neighborhood, the area and road in front of me appears brighter. The soft, warm glow from the sky makes it incredibly easy to see. Ahead, the heavy fog sits awaiting the sun to rise and burn it away. With lots of snow evaporating during daylight hours, the air is heavy with moisture. As I dig into the roller-coaster hills, the valleys are fully taken over by the mist and it's drops can be felt all over. 2 miles in and I'm all warm and toasty. My thoughts turn to taking off the gloves but I quickly remind myself that it's 18F, not 38F and leave them on. Thoughts also start to turn upward...upward in prayer, if I may be so bold. There are times, times often too reliable, where decisions must be made. Decisions that at first glance seem all too difficult to challenge and conquer. Decisions that one day, will be looked back on and evaluated. For me, prayer is not something that I will ever blog and share in words on a screen for it is too personal. However, I will admit that on a morning like today when time matters not, distractions cease to exist, and all I hear is each footstrike and breath, no better time exists to pray. I can say with 100% certainty that my life has been guided by this communal relationship I have through prayer. Steps are guided, assurance is given, and peace is found. Decisions, though tough and robust at first glance, can most often be reduced to rubble when tackled through prayer. It is no different regardless of the challenge. As I pass through miles 3....4.....5, I converse, discuss, and seek guidance. I don't expect a huge "a-HA!" moment, but instead know that it's a process to be lived each moment of each day.
By the time I realize it, mile 6 has arrived and Mr. Moon shines from behind me...exactly 180 degrees behind me. I know this because I'm running exactly in alignment with my 8 or so foot shadow in front of me. It's not often that anyone gets this type of opportunity to evaluate one's running form. I can see everything from head to foot. Are my hips wobbling too much side to side?! Am I bow-legged?! No on both counts. I start to turn on my analyzer-self that I used to use at Vertical Runner when fitting someone for shoes. I'm trying to see how efficient I look. Arms are moving but not out of control...that would waste energy. Footstrike appears to be pretty straight on but turns out a little at toe-off. That's normal. From up here at my vantage point, all looks pretty good. "That's ironic," I think. "I was standing in the shower just last week and looked down at my legs and they looked all bowed, twisted, and contorted! Here, I look as efficient as can be!" I remember thinking how in the world I can run given my physical makeup. I have longer-than-normal legs, a shorter upper body, longer arms than that upper body should have, and from what I hear, I run nearly straight up...with nearly no lean forward at all...as if I am a running statue. I'm the last person that will ever criticize someone's running form. Some look perfect, graceful, and have the "born-to-be-a-runner" form and physique. Not me. I didn't do sports, I was in the band, and ran only when I my dad was chasing me...usually trying to deliver punishment (much deserved, I'm sure!). However God did it, I sure am thankful. Without that shadow in front of me, I wouldn't be out here. I'd probably be asleep and soon be at the McDonald's drive-thru picking up a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit. (one of my pre-running-days favorites) Proof from my 8 foot shadow: it all depends on your perspective. In one way, I'm a twisted mess. In another, I'm a smooth, efficient running machine. I'll take the high road...the positive road...and be thankful for it.
Soon, the shadow shifts again with a turn in the road. Home is not too far off now. Mr. Moon, in fact, is noticably lower in the sky than when I began today's trek. I decide to make today as good as it can be and pick up the pace by a minute a mile and run faster to various landmarks. The first is a huge farm ahead, the 2nd a huge oak tree one mile from home. It feels SO good to get the heart really pumping on a day like today. For the last mile, I slow way down...really to prolong the run and avoid Mr. Moon's light from being sapped by the neighborhood lights. It may be awhile to next time. Once back in my driveway and a quick glance at the Garmin, I give a little nod to Mr. Moon and give my thanks for once again, a phenomenal run. The legs didn't obey as much as they should as the overall pace was just over 8min/mile. While not fast by many folks' standards, it was very comfortable. This is a good sign...especially in the dead of winter...and especially when my training is shifting to the long, slow stuff as Kettle Moraine looms in the not-so-distant future. I grab the newspaper, head inside, and take on life and the "routines" once again. "Till next time, Mr. Moon...."