Monday, March 14, 2011


It could have been the new shorts.  It could have been the new found confidence.  Hell, it could have just been that I'd traded my headlamp for sunglasses on an after work run.  Whatever the case, tonight was just one of those runs.  I clicked off the miles this evening.  I could have run forever.

Two weeks ago, I could only wish to feel this good.  

It was sometime in the middle of the week.  I lay in bed exhausted but unable to fall asleep.  What's the Nirvana line?  "I'm so tired, but I can't sleep...."  The fan whirred, the white noise that I rode to dreamland every night.  I bargained with myself not to look at the clock, knowing that I'd be slashing precious hours of sleep, that somehow I wouldn't lose if I couldn't see the numbers.  My stomach was in knots.  Not the throw up, nauseous kind.  The nervous anxiety, speaking-in-front-of-a-crowd-tomorrow kind.

I'd survived the past weekend's 14-miler with no pain in my knee.  But it didn't stay away for long.  I was ready to declare the rebuild over until the next day, I felt the twinge going up the stairs.  So I rested.  It didn't get better.

With so much else going on in the world, it seemed so trivial.  But I began worry.  A sub-three hour Boston didn't seem to matter so much anymore.  Instead, I simply wanted to make it to the starting line.  I just wanted to the Boston Experience again, to cross the finish line, and slip that new jacket on. So I kept it to myself, preferring the silent torture.  I didn't tell my wife.  I didn't tell my coaches (my dad and uncle).  Not my running buddy or my co-workers.  Instead, I lay awake.  

Thinking about how I would have to bail on Boston.  

I rationalized that it was better to get healthy and run for years rather than risk it all on one race.  But it was Boston.  And I'd done the work.  I did the rehab to get better, and here it was about to be stolen from me.

It was a dark time. 

I lay there thinking about my run for the next day.  I began calling the Cross County Trail the "Rehab Trail."  It was flat and forgiving.  But I started to write the post in my head: "There's a bench along the path that I use to mark the half mile mark.  It's a bench I only notice on the back portion of this out and back.  But today, it would be the bench that I sat on to decide whether or not I would run Boston.  There may be tears but I'll only let myself see them, and when I stand up to walk the long half mile to the car, the brooding will have to end...."

At some point I fell asleep.  I ran the next day and never got to write that post.  In fact, I threw a smug smile at the bench as I zoomed by it.  Then I ran 16 miles that weekend.  A 21 mile week off of two runs.  

Feeling confident, I ran three times last week and clipped off 18 miles on the weekend with no issue.  I didn't think about my knee once.  The end of each run served to bolster that confidence, and I reasoned in my head that each successful run was not only building my stamina, but making that leg stronger.

And so today, I pulled on my new pair of Brooks split shorts and trotted up the slight incline that I've started so many runs on.  The sun was still high but the air brisk.  A reminder that it wasn't quite spring yet.  I thought perhaps I should have brought a hat with me.  I climbed out of my neighborhood and on to the main road.  The turnover was there.  

I tried not to get too was only one mile after all.

My iPod seemed to sense the moment and kept selecting the up tempo songs I sometimes wish for during those times when you're fighting it and need a pick me up.  Today, it just put fuel on the fire.  I burned through the two mile mark and caught a glimpse of my watch.  Seeing the pace dip below 6:30, I surged on.  I conquered hills that once gave me pause weeks ago and then defiantly flew down their backside.

Six miles later, I clicked my watch and took my obligatory cool down walk around the mailboxes and back to the steps of our house.  I sat near the top of our stairs, untied my shoes, and took one last pull to empty my water bottle.  There would be no brooding tonight.

Instead, I think I'll be sleeping soundly, clicking off those miles in my head.

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