Instead of walking out the front door to the cold, still morning, I stepped out to the sound of the ocean. And for once, I didn't have to close my eyes and pretend that the constant hum, the unending cacophony of motors racing up and down West Ox road, was the ocean, because this time it was. I stood at the top of the stairs, took a deep inhale of the heavy, salt air and felt my legs return to life as Mattie and I aimed for the beach.
What I'm calling a recovery run wasn't really a run at all, but in fact a solitary walk down the strip of sand facing the Atlantic along the Outer Banks. Upon occasion, a core of my friends and I have traveled the five hours from Virginia to North Carolina for a long weekend at the beach; however, our focus is not on sprawling out in the sand, sunning ourselves, or going out to dive bars. Rather, our trips are about rejuvenation. Long days doing, well, whatever we want. And that mostly involves several bottles of wine and constant grazing of not just food, but damn good food. The off-season at the OBX is a far cry from the traffic-choked roads of the summer, the screaming kids, and the crowded beaches. There are times, in fact, that it feels as if we have the entire town of Corolla to ourselves.
In particular, at 7:45 a.m. on a misty Sunday.
Untethered from iPhone, iPod, GPS watch, and even Mattie's leash (no deer to worry about here), we soaked in what the morning offered us...and that was solitude.
|Where the sidewalk ends...|
The day before, I'd completed a grueling 16-miler that was more a test of mental will than physical; however, when my watch beeped 16, I took the last few ginger steps to the boardwalk. One of my favorite things about the beach are those waning seconds where you can hear the waves, but can't actually see the beach. Where the boardwalk finishes, it's almost as if the end of the world could be on the other side.
I untied my laces, slung my shoes over my shoulder, and took my first barefoot steps in the sand, relishing the way my feet instantly spread out and unwound. Then there was the dip in the ocean, or ice bath, or ocean bath. Each step took my breath away, not because of the scenery, because it was damn cold. And I shivered for a long five minutes as the waves rolled up my shivering thighs.
On this Sunday morning, though, Mattie and I raced the storm that we could see moving toward us down the beach. Steel-colored clouds reached across the sky, and the horizon seemed to move toward us in a blurry mass. We didn't care.
Mattie picked away at the empty crab shells and sprinted along the rim of the waves crawling up the beach that seemed to reach farther and farther up shore. She chased the shells that the receding tide turned over and tried to bury her nose in the burbling crab holes that sputtered.
Sufficiently "recovered," we turned around and headed back for the stairs. I couldn't tell you how long we were gone for. Near the end, an otherwise gray sky broke to let a small patch of light escape. The rain came harder, or maybe it was the salt spray from the waves. Either way, we trotted back to the house, recovered body and soul.