Saturday, February 24, 2007

Midnight run

It's 12:20 a.m., Saturday morning. It's 36 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm running past large vacant lots, thinking, "I've seen coyotes out here before. What the H-E-double-toothpicks am I doing?" The answer: I'm squeezing in a run where I can. I grab a stick off the ground and keep running.

Work has been killing my running recently. This sets off a chain reaction: running suffers, fitness suffers, happiness suffers, family suffers. When work eliminates my greatest relief from work-related stress, the vicious cycle makes things bad.

Thursday morning I woke up at 2:30 a.m. Not from an alarm, but from sheer panic over getting a long-term project finished. I worked until about 7:30, took the kids to school at 8:00, then started a run at 8:30.

Five miles easy. It was supposed to be seven miles, but I had a meeting at 10 a.m. I would make it up Friday.

Weather was great, overcast and about 60 degrees. For the first time since the marathon, I didn't have trouble breathing. I was a little late for my meeting, but the stress relief was worth it.

Seven miles Friday was going to be a challenge. I had a long day ahead of me. My goal: get to work early and run at lunch. I wouldn't be able to run after work because I planned to work from 8 a.m. until at least 10 p.m.

My plan failed. My son made me 45 minutes late for work. The chain reaction begins anew: late for work, no run at lunch, no stress relief. Crap.

I finished work early (9:30), got home, and put my kids to bed at 10. Then came the realization that at midnight I had to go to my kids' school for registration. Registration started at 4 a.m., but my wife and I are the kind of psychos who want specific teachers for our kids. Over the past few years, successful registration has required progressively earlier wake-up times. 6 a.m., then 5 a.m., then midnight.

I wasn't going to sleep, so I came up with Plan B. I would get to the school at 12, run for an hour, then wait in line. I checked the temperature, 39 degrees. This would take some planning.

I got my running clothes, double-layered, and grabbed a headband and reflective vest. I packed jeans, warmup pants, a boatload of warm clothes and my inhaler. I made a thermos full of coffee, snagged a bottle of Gatorade and a Kirkland Weight-loss Shake (my favorite recovery drink at $1 for a perfect 4:1 carbs:protein ratio). No need for a cooler. It was cold.

I got to the school a couple minutes past midnight. There was already a small crowd. I got my number: 31. I talked to a few people and found out that some poor soul (psycho) had been there since 7 p.m. Next year is going to suck.

I stuck my number and car key in my pocket and started my run. Within a mile I couldn't breathe. This was going to be a long morning. I wheezed my way through 7 miles at 9:38 per. Yuck. 8x 100 yard sprints and I was finished. But I avoided any coyotes.

I changed into my street clothes outside my car. I spent the rest of my morning talking to other parents, drinking coffee, stretching, freezing my ass off, and hacking up a lung. My left piriformis was sore and both my puny triceps hurt from carrying a 3 foot stick for 5 miles. And I felt great.

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