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Sunday, December 19, 2010

12 Miles in the Rain

Turned off the alarm clock and listened to what sounded like marbles pummeling the kitchen skylight.
Rolled out of bed to pull on running shorts and long sleeve jersey. I turned on the coffee and peeked out the window hoping to see some break in the clouds. ...Remembered it was too dark to see anything through the deluge and wandered back toward the coffee.
Shoes on, Camelback filled. 1/2 banana, 4 Tums, 1 Ibuprofen, and 2 cups of coffee down the hatch.
Still pouring.
Consider my options:
1. Run in the rain and get wet.
2. Put on a rain jacket and proceed to accomplish #1 anyway.
3. Crawl back in bed with my wife.
Still listening to the rain.
5:40 - 5:45
Conversation with self about priorities, dedication, and sanity.
Kiss my wife good-by and plunge out the door.

I was hoping for a long run this morning and a 5:30am start time was optimal. With a marathon on my tentative schedule for next year, I've decided to begin training early so as to cut my losses when I'm on crutches for a few weeks following a scheduled knee surgery. (More on that another time.)

Busy as an adjective referring to our family would be a laughable understatement, so I make time for workouts wherever I can. With church at 10:00am, Sunday mornings become a block of "free" time to get in a run. A meeting this morning at 9:00 pushed everything back.

Today's route would take me down to the marina, through the Shell refinery, and then across the Benicia Bridge and back. My guess was that it would be a 12 mile run and it ended up being 12.3.

It was very dark, and my dying LED's on the front of my running cap added little to the street lights. I hopped and hurdled rivulets and puddles for the first few miles, but eventually left the fancy footwork for the largest ones. Jersey, shorts, backpack, and skin were all completely soaked long before I crossed the railroad tracks into the marina.

The sea has an alluring call to me, and a run to the marina seems pointless if I don't fill my lungs with the breeze fresh off the water and smell the seaweed and salt marshes. The rain came down straight as an arrow this morning. No breeze except that created by my plodding 7mph. The water, black as ink, gently nudged the piers beneath a smothering canopy - vapor and liquid tenuously coupled by a streaming torrent.
A foot path parallels the road out of the marina and I followed it under the outstretched fingers of trees lobbing dollops of water onto my shoulders and head. Preoccupied, I failed to notice a lake across the path and would love a video of my attempt to keep water from pouring over the gunnels of my Reeboks. I learned I cannot dance, and even so, it was a waste of energy and motion with my socks already soaked - it made no difference.

Half way between the marina and the bridge the road divides into single lanes of 2 way traffic through the refinery. Footwork was the key, as often I had to cross the divider to avoid large lakes, oncoming 18 wheelers, and streams from sources obscured by the darkness and driving rain. One exceptionally large puddle obstructed my progress, even over the curb, so I waited for a pair of oncoming headlights to pass. Only as the headlights illuminated the full extent of the puddle and began to create a moving wall of water did I realize my peril. I turned and fled - no doubt, to the driver's delight in the surfing sedan.

Benicia Bridge - as viewed from Martinez

The arc of lights representing the 2 mile span of the Benicia Bridge was soon visible just beneath a charcoal sky so low that patches of clouds hung illuminated by the refineries, loading docks, and the Benicia Marina on the far side of the drink.

The climb up the south side of the bridge was slow and even a little eerie. Alone, with the exception of a few dozen cars only 10 feet and a guard rail away, I felt rather exposed and vulnerable a mere 140' above the water. By mid span a marked change had occurred with the sky fading slowly into a deep midnight blue. On the far side, I stopped long enough to retrieve the Power Bar from my backpack and stretch my calves. 1 minute later I was jogging down the hill toward Benicia, attempting to chew, swallow, and breath in the right order, and contemplating why I hadn't turned back across the bridge yet. Unwilling to descend too far into town, I turned back when the Power Bar was reduced to foil, and recognized just how steep the hill was that I had just run down. Stink.

Back across the bridge. Climbing south bound, my calf muscles initiated collective bargaining with my brain, and my wet feet also decided to take part in the labor dispute. This did make me wonder just how resilient the skin between my toes might be when completely soaked for well over an hour. No matter, I was still 2 1/2 miles from home, and walk or run, I only had 2 feet and 2 legs to get there. Back to work boys.

The final miles are always difficult. I'm convinced that my brain sabotages my effort on the home stretch by cutting back on the adrenaline, and other "happy chemicals" as it sees the end on the horizon. 2 miles or 12 miles it doesn't matter, the final stretch always hurts worse than the sum of the balance of the effort.

Home in 1 hour 45 minutes.

There is somewhat less pleasure derived from a hot shower when you've already been soaked for an hour and forty five minutes.

The whole run averaged 7 mph which is approx. an 8.5 minute mile. A marathon is 26.2 Miles. That means many more long runs ahead; a good thing. I enjoyed today's run more than any other solo run I can remember. The rain added a romantic melodramatic touch that merely adds to the allurement of my endurance sports.