Thursday, December 16, 2010

Making Tracks

It never gets dark when you're running in the snow.  Home early from work today -- because two inches of snow will do that for you in the D.C. area -- I puttzed around the house and shoveled off the stairs awaiting dusk.  Now that I'm accustomed to running in the dark, I found myself staring up and out the back window at the golf course, wondering when the daylight would finally dim.  The thing was, it kept getting later and later, but never got any darker.

The morning's snowstorm began to taper off.  Mattie's tail batted expectantly at my leg.  She looked up at me, then back outside.  "We doing this?" she seemed to say.

At 5:15, normally near total darkness, I decided to lace up (and bundle up) and head outside.  Co-workers today asked, "You're not going to run in this are you?"  I smiled and quoted Bill Bowerman back to them: "There's no such thing as bad weather, only soft people."

And so, Mattie darted off through the two inches of snow and out onto the golf course, back legs splaying, and clumps of snow spraying.  I trotted behind, found the golf cart path, and away we went.  

The pace came a little a slower, the movements a little more cautious, but I nonetheless found a fluid stride.  Soon, I fell into a steady rhythm.  Mattie and I played cat and mouse.  She'd fall behind, stuffing her nose into the snow for anything good to smell, then go sprawling ahead of me.  We wound through the bare trees now coated with snow.  Mattie stopped occasionally to nibble the clumps of snow that formed between her paws, then we'd continue making tracks along the fresh snow.

There was no running by feel tonight.  No waiting for your eyes to adjust.  The snow lit the trail ahead and though night had fallen, the path forward, the entire golf course, glowed white.  

As a lover of running in the snow, particularly the year's first, the last thing I should have been thinking about was a spring race.  The last time I can remember longing for those warmer months was when I was held captive in my own house during snow-pocalypse earlier this year and ended up signing up for my first trail half marathon to make myself feel better.  The thought of heat and humidity in the early Virginia June summer seemed a keen thought.

This week has been different, though.  Sure, it's been in the 20s.  Sure, we're on the front end of winter with warm weather a far off fantasy.  Still, this week I "captured" my white whale.  In terms of D.C. races, I've done Marine Corps; ran the Army Ten Miler; done Jingle All the Way; hit up the Shamrock 8K; the National Half three times.  But the lone race, the one that everyone talks about here: the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  

The wait is over.  I found out that I (along with six of my friends) got accepted into the 2011 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  The final major race in the D.C. area that has eluded me.  Granted this was the first time I applied for entry.  In the past, it's always been something: a vacation (cruel, I know), another race scheduled on or near race day, the Boston Marathon, etc.  

In 2011, however, Cherry Blossom runs two weeks before Boston, i.e., I'll be in full taper mode.  So long as I run smart, run for the experience, or run marathon pace and not shoot for a sub-60, I can enjoy that singular moment that defines spring's arrival in the D.C. area.  

The blooming of the cherry blossoms is essentially the antithesis of what I ran in this evening.

In keeping with the tradition of looking ahead to the coming year, I've suddenly realized that my April race calendar is nearly full.  I run my tuneup half marathon on March 26, followed up by Cherry Blossom on April 3.  Boston comes around on April 18, then two weeks later, I'll pile back into a van with 11 other friends to take on the American Odyssey Relay.  

And then I will sleep for an entire weekend.

With about two miles to go tonight, the moon burned through the thin, lingering clouds.  A lone deer spotted us from across the fairway.  Then, as quick as I saw it, it's silhouette bounded into the trees.  Mattie, oblivious, licked at the snow between her paws.

We arrived back at the fifth hole.  I turned back to call for her and noticed the line of footprints, the only ones on the trail left behind.  The cherry blossom trees lining the fence trembled in the cold wind.  Not a trace of a bud, and not one coming for some time.  

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