After last week's "20" miler, I declared the rebuild over. Though I was three short of 20, the only lingering pain I felt were some sore quads and tight hamstrings, i.e. the usual stiffness that follows a long run. So, I decided with one training cycle left before my Boston taper, the time had come to ratchet up the mileage. I wanted to be efficient about it, though, and to do that, I needed to throw in some two-a-days. Rather than beat my legs up on the 8.5 miles of sidewalk and asphalt to work, though, I decided instead to take to my rehab trail: the Cross County. I woke up at 5:58, two minutes before the alarm, no doubt from eager anticipation. I pulled on my running clothes and accessories in the dark and drove out to the trail.
That's how I found myself feeling my way through the darkness at 6:25 a.m. today.
The pace felt easy, my breath barely rising above a huff, even when taking the hills. I became acutely aware of the sounds around me, and tuned my ears in for footsteps from behind and the rumble of thunder above the trees. I heard neither.
The weather called for rain all morning and severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. The wetness I could handle, the thunder terrified me. With every step, the sky began to lighten, and just as the deer come out when the daylight fades and turns to dusk, so too do they emerge from the night as the sun comes on. I shuffled over the path and sent herds of startled deer crashing into the woods, their white tails bobbing through the broken branches.
The world was coming alive, not just in the woods, but in the homes that backed up to the trail. Kitchen lights burned through the trees and I imagined the morning routines of brewing coffee, making breakfast, and watching the news going on inside there. All things I'd sacrificed this morning.
My only hiccup came when I lost my balance crossing over the stream and ended up ankle deep in the icy water. But just under an hour later, I emerged from the woods and into the misty morning of commuters and finally to my office. Once there, I stretched, showered, and started the day...always knowing that I needed to recover to get back home.
As those 8.5 hours counted down, I checked and rechecked the hourly forecast on weather.com. The storm that was supposed to ravage the area in the early afternoon actually held off until now as I type this.
So when I set off to cover the 7mi back to my car, I did so without the trepidation I carried with me in the morning. In fact, the sun came out and broke apart the clouds for nearly half the run. I tucked my hat into my vest pocket and wiped sweat from my eyes as I retraced my steps from the morning.
Where I expected fatigue in my legs, I found them fresh and the turnover coming easily. I managed to avoid stepping in the stream this time, but the Mexican lunch I decided was a good idea kept threatening to show itself again. Several deep breaths kept everything down where it's supposed to be.
And what I hadn't noticed in the morning because of the darkness were the signs of spring poking through the brown molt of leaves. Patches of grass sprouted up along the trail as well as crops of what looked like cabbage ready to unfold.
I arrived back at the car strangely loose and satisfied. For some reason, I almost expected it not to be there. It'd been so long since I left. I stretched for a moment, dug my key out, and started the car up. It concluded the end of one long commute.