Monday, July 19, 2010

The Storm That Left No Trace

There's a storm coming.  The air is humid and limp and hangs off you.  When I left work, I thought I had the storms beat.  One last check of revealed a pretty uneventful afternoon.  I changed into interval attire, leashed up the dog, and out we went for our afternoon loop.  We pushed through the dense air, barely going 100m before Mattie's tongue flopped from the side of her mouth.  "It's going to be brutal," I thought to myself, considering the looming workout (8x800m, 4x200m).  But a menacing breeze stirred and carried with it a surge of electricity. 

To the east, a clear cloudless sky. To the west, something far darker and sinister.  Now there's a quickness in our steps.  Mattie feels it too.  We exchange looks.  She remembers last night's storm, when I called her downstairs to let her out one last time and the lightning flashed around us.  She looked at me as if to say, "Seriously?"

The treetops blow wildly now as a gray armada gathers.  The thunder's low grumbling, buried somewhere deep in the clouds, bellows like the guns of encroaching war ships.  I return Mattie to the house and watch her take her place under the coffee table.  

I begin my warmup, snatching glimpses of the sky out the window and turning up the music in my headphones to drown out the thunder.  I take one last pause to listen and step outside again.

This time the breeze has decidedly turned into a strong wind and it carries the smell of summer rain.  A neighbor scurries by with his dog and tosses me the "are you crazy look" as I break into a trot to complete my dynamic warmup.  "Lookin' pretty bad," he finally says.  "Brutal," I say, and carry on past him.  

I'm in the circle now, going through my A skips and B skips.  I can see the gray fleet pulling over the sky like an iron curtain.  Hands on hips, I snicker to myself.  I could start the workout and stop it when the storm starts.  At worst I'd be only 800m from the house.  Of course, I could get struck by lightning.  As though someone was listening, a dramatic crackle echoes through the clouds and I have my answer.  I jog back to the house.

The charged air induces panic, like I should be running, really running for my life, to gather anything I can from the outside to bring in, slam the shutters closed, and throw the door shut just before the storm breaks through.  

Once inside, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I considered the storm potentially passing until the light pecking of raindrops turned into a full deluge of water.  Satisfied, I went to the basement, put on my McMillan Core Routine DVD, and proceeded to get an ab workout in while the world came to an end outside.

Twenty minutes later, the sun shone outside the window.  I came back upstairs, gave the dog a quick pat, and started my workout.  A light rain still fell.  The sky looked apocalyptic.  A yellow haze where the sun blazed through a thin veil of clouds, purple clouds blooming to the east, and patches of pure blue.  I set out for my first 800 and felt the humidity returning even stronger now.  Without a warmup, I felt slow and when I clicked my watch, I looked down and snorted in disgust.  It felt slow because it was.  But the sun seemed to draw the runners out because as I gasped for air after that first 800, my body still in shock from the effort, a lithe, taut, runner zipped by me.  

I've taken to running my 800s in the neighborhood, getting the benefit of combining intervals and hill workouts.  So as I returned, the same runner passed by me in the opposite direction.  We gave each other the quick wave and continued on.

Somewhere around the 5th 800, we came upon one another again and this time he slowed to a jog and then a stop.  "Rohan," he said, extending his hand.  "Brad," I replied, still taxed from the middle interval.  We proceeded to chat about racing, training, and that God forsaken Virginia humidity.  Sweat dripped off both of us as we talked the talk of runners: splits, training schedules, race times.  Turns out, we've entered similar  races and recorded nearly identical times.  

This of course led to an invitation, and now my new friend and I have tentatively planned to tackle some weekend 12-milers together.  This works out on a couple levels.  One, I've been toying with the idea of joining a training group.  Last week I went on a group run and in the middle of the route found myself strung out from everyone and where I always end up: running alone.  Second, it's nice to have someone to hold you accountable for those early morning runs when the heat is tolerable rather than insufferable.  Had I tried to squeeze the workout in before the storm, we may have never run into one another (so to speak).  

So now I have someone with a similar pace and parallel running goals.  We exchanged e-mails then went off on our way: me to finish up three more 800s and tackle those 200s, and he to finish his 5 mile hill run.

I gutted out the last of those 800s, wringing in sweat when I returned to the house.  The sky had cleared and patches of dry asphalt became more prevalent.  The sun still blazed.  Ten minutes later, you couldn't tell that it had even rained.  Not a trace.

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