Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Night Lights

It wasn't your typical Friday night.  No out to dinner.  No movie.  Instead, my date tonight was with the track.  Normally the track means lactic-acid storms and lung-searing intervals.  Tonight was just getting through three miles pain free.  

All week I'd been aiming for this workout.  After my knee flared up again last week, I decided to take a few days, focus on some active rehab, and *gasp* not run.  Hell, it worked.  Suddenly I could go up and down stairs with no pain and wake up in the morning and not have to hobble to the bathroom, waiting for my knee to warm up.

Still, despite feeling better, I was nervous.  My Uncle and I spoke this week and he said, "You need to get to the point where you don't even think about it anymore.  That's when you know it's healed."  Something so simple, yet so right.  I find myself focusing on it, "Was that my knee clicking or my hip? Or ankle?  Does it hurt now? Should I stop? Did I just tweak it?"  And on and on.

Rather than retreat to the treadmill, I remembered that there are other flat, forgiving surfaces out there.  So tonight, I had a date with the track.  I had grand visions of running under the lights, turning quarter after quarter in front of a raucous crowd like I was at Hayward Field.

It was anything but.

First, I never realized that there were no lights around this football field.  Instead, it just became another winter run in the dark.  Or so I thought.

The track bumps up against the outer perimeter of the school's campus.  One side faces a hill that leads up to the lacrosse field.  The other faces woods.  Dusk settled.  The previous few days have been veiled in that flat February light.  Gone are the days when the cold and snow remind us of the holidays, ginger bread lattes, and egg nog.  Instead, we're mired in the gray winter hours that drag on, begging the question of when spring will come.  God, I need a run.  

Today was different.  The sun shone.  The thermometer broke 40.  Not a cloud around.  I laid on the track to stretch out, tilted my head back, and that receding blue sky seemed to reflect the bare black trees as if it were a lake.  

I shed my extra layers and started a slow trot around the track.  The pain I braced for never came.  Coming around the first turn, the ground looked like it started to move.  My heart jumped and I looked over at the pack of deer, more startled than I, leaping back into the woods.

Stars peeked out and though I didn't have the stadium lights, the sliver of half moon lit the path.  

After the first mile, my visitors came back.  Deer made their way across the track to the infield.  When they saw me coming around the turn, a surge of agitation shot the through the group.  Heads lifted, white tails sprung into action.  Some froze.  Others darted for the woods, while more still zig-zagged across the in field.  I thought there were eight to ten, but then realized that the herd was much larger.    Their brown hides were simply camouflaged by the dry, brittle ground.

Daylight disappeared with each lap and as I came to the end of three (relatively) pain free miles, I shut things down, took in the night, and listened to the steady traffic hum far off from the track.  

It had been about 22 minutes of running.  I probably took more time to warmup and cool down then actually workout.  But tonight, this was better than any movie or dinner out.

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