Monday, December 21, 2009

Running (in, under, through) the Blizzard of '09

Let's be clear, the Washington, D.C. Metro Area doesn't get dumped on often, at least not in the snow sense.  In fact, I believe I was in high school the last time we had a snow storm of this magnitude.  It is indeed a magical thing, the kind of storms that make the frontpage of the Washington Post, under headlines such as "D.C.'s Big Dig" and send kids (and adults) clamoring to news sites and channels for the latest closings. 

Now that the snow has stopped, the cars have been dug out, the plows are put away are still churning away, it's time for some reflection on the "Blizzard of '09," the "Storm of the Century," or whatever the news stations are calling it at this moment.

My most excellent boss let me work an impromptu half-day on Friday, which led to an impromptu 12-miler Friday afternoon under one of those ominous gray skies, where it looks like it could open up and snow at any minute.  It's not often the weather man predicts 10-24 inches for this area, and often times, it comes in rain rather than snow.  At 9:00 p.m. the snow came.  I groggily ambled upstairs after pouring over my new Boston program to a veil of white on the deck out back. 

At around 12:30 a.m., the veil had become a blanket and the golf course illuminated in white.  Mattie disappeared off the deck for her "one last pee" of the night, and if not for her black spot, she would have been in complete disguise.  We took a moment to stare out the back and take in the quiet stillness of the snowfall before heading up to bed.  When we did turn the light out, it could have been 7:00 in the morning the way our room lit up from the curtain of snow falling outside.  We fell asleep to possibilities.

The next morning had the feeling of Christmas.  I opened my eyes remembering something potentially important waited for us.  With each lucid moment coming on, I remembered the snow.  I flew out of bed and charged downstairs, taking stairs at a time, to get to the back window and see just how much snow had fallen.  I felt like a little kid again.  Peeling back the curtain, snow had already piled up near a foot on the sliding glass door in the back, and showed no signs of stopping.  The cherry blossom trees lining the golf course bent with the weight of the snow on their branches.  And poor Mattie was nearly up to her shoulders in snow when she hopped out on to the deck to do her business...which is exactly where she did it.

We had a leisurely breakfast, but I was still bound and determined to get a "recovery" run in.  My wife and mother-in-law suited up to play out on the golf course (picture the brother in "A Christmas Story").  I laced up for my run in some old running shoes and two layers of socks.  I stomped across the deck and up the hill to the 5th hole green when I sunk in to my knees.  "Hmm," I thought, blinking back the flakes.  "This may not be as easy as last time."

Nevertheless, I tromped on with visions of Rocky bounding through Siberia in one of those excellent training montage videos we all know and love.  Well, I wasn't even to the 7th hole (recall we live on hole 5) yet and I was miserable.  You know how you have grand visions of running on the beach and how majestic and carefree that seems...until you actually do it?  The sand is soft and you're exerting crazy amounts of effort but not getting anywhere, yet your heart feels like it's about to burst through your chest?  That's what running through 14 inches of snow is like. 

Still, I channeled the article from that morning's Post about a local D.C.-man who had just completed a marathon in took him over eight hours.  I trudged on.

Sure, I could have gone back, but I didn't want to be accountable for that.  Yes, it hurt.  Yes, my quads screamed.  Yes, icicles had begun to form on my eye lashes (see photo below).  Yes, the snow came down so hard I couldn't see far in front of me.  But, NO.  I would not quit.  And I'm glad I didn't.  I simply changed my perspective. 

I certainly didn't run the whole way, I may have had a heart attack if I had.  When I got tired, I walked.  When, it was hilly, I took a breather.  Each time I took a moment "for reflection," I looked around and listened.  Visibility was low.  I could barely see from one end of a hole to the other.  I turned my head skyward to watch the confetti of flakes pouring down on me.  I happened upon a herd of deer that looked at me as if they couldn't figure out why I was out there either.  We stood and admired one another for a minute or so before I carried on and they leapt into the great white yonder.  Geese trumpeted while slipping along the frozen water hazards.  And the snow-storm quiet disappeared from time to time with the tinkling of sleet grazing bare branches...and my face.

I returned to the house soggy and exhausted, but with enough energy left to bound through the snow drifts with my wife, mother-in-law, and dog.  I earned the chocolate chip cookies we'd make later and even the beer we walked a mile out and back to get from the grocery store in the early evening.  Truth be told, we went for sugar and flour to make the cookies, but I figured we should have beer as long as we traipsed out that far.

Sapped of all our energy, we sank into the couch in PJs once it got dark outside.  It was Christmas card perfect: the tree lit next to us, the snow still falling outside the window, the hot chocolate steaming. *sigh*

We went to bed to the same scene we had 24-hours ago: snow lightly falling, although instead of beginning, it was tapering.

Today, I'm home from work and still a little sore.  The roads still aren't totally clear (we live in Northern Virginia afterall).  But instead of fretting about not getting out to run, I'm still enjoying the view from our kitchen window out back at the golf course and reaping the benefits from the monster core workout shoveling snow can deliver.  Sometimes it's nice just to take a step back and enjoy a run for the scenery rather than for the time on your watch.

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