Friday, July 24, 2015

We Begin Again

I returned to my front steps this morning, shirtless, wrung out, dripping – the hallmarks of a mid-summer Virginia run. The dark and cold mornings that defined this past January seemed a distant memory. But I still remember them.

I remember the tail end of what I would consider the first real training week. That Saturday morning called for 18 miles, a.k.a. serious mileage. I had plans to meet up with Rohan to do “a new route I’ve wanted to try.” “I just want to get some hills in,” I said, thinking ahead to the rolling elevation profile of my impending March half marathon.

I had no idea.

I awoke to a room dark as pitch. Rain tapped the windows, eventually changing over to the unmistakable hiss of ice crackling – popping and snapping like fire – against the glass. What the forecasters call a wintry mix, and DC-ites call a bread, toilet paper, and water emergency. I let out a heavy sigh and pulled the blankets up.

When Rohan and I eventually let out, the sleet had tapered to a fine mist. Steel-colored clouds stretched across the sky and the air carried the unmistakable scent of snow.

The now infamous-run, which we refer to only as “Bluemont” for the town this ribbon of torturous inclines and declines carves through, led us each to new places, both literal and figurative. The elevation profile looks like an EKG of someone who suffered a massive heart attack or, as I prefer to call it, “shark’s teeth.”

It was the kind of run that – having come through clean on the other side – has changed you. You are a different person when you return to the car from the one who set out – hardened somehow.

It has been six months since that run. Over the past half year, Rohan and I have texted each other that one word – “Bluemont” – and it was enough to bring pause to whatever the recipient was doing. Those breath-stealing climbs and quad-pounding descents still linger in our lungs and legs. The word was not (and is not) one taken lightly.

I bring it up here because this week the schedule calls for 18 miles. In other words, serious mileage. I stand at the beginning of yet another training program – as I have for the past 10 years – seeking to once again redefine what I once thought of as “the limit.” That training plateau where you believe, “I have reached the edge and can go no farther.” Where you live at the margins for weeks on end, hanging on. I thought I had reached it last November and then again this past March, as I had back in 2009 and 2004. But each time I have begun, I have ended in new territory – changed, hardened, stronger.

One text went out on Monday: “Bluemont.”

And so, we begin again.

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