It's cold. Pretty damn cold, actually. It says 23 degrees on my clock inside the house. It exaggerates sometimes. I look outside my window. There's a thick coat of frost on the ground. I don't think it's exaggerating this time.
I buckle in Andie and give her and Allie a kiss and tell Jayden good-bye. Bye, they say. A&A wave, a new trick they've just learned, and say "biiiiii."
I walk upstairs and dig out the tights. The running tights make me look great and kinda fruity at the exact same time. It's the only thing I own that does it. Usually I just look boring. I pull them on. They feel like a second skin. Cool. I pull on my long-sleeved shirt. I put on the body glide. I lace up my shoes. I turn on the GPS to measure my pace. Today I'll have to go at 90 percent for my tempo run. I put on some thin gloves and a hat. It's really winter already? I shake my head.
I yawn. The sun is not up yet.
I walk outside, instinctively shivering, and my breath hangs like a low cloud. I shrug off the bite and start to run easy. No, not too fast. You need to warm up first, especially in this. I want to go faster. I'll be warmer. I resist. I look down at the GPS. 8:30 pace. Oops. Nope. Not yet.
I start up the first small hill that leads to the long road down to the trail and the steep hill that awaits. My iPod plays the new AnteUp! poker podcast. It relaxes me. My right arm tenses up. I release it, limping the hands below my waist.
I hit the road, and a few cars pass me. Irritated drivers. Why isn't he on the sidewalk? 'Cause it's concrete, I whisper. I run on too much, and I won't run when I'm 50.
I kick it up a gear. I start to breathe. Faster. My breath still a cloud. The first test, a steep hill. I punch through it, breathing even harder. Now I'm laboring. The hill starts to slope down. Ahhh.
I look down. Pace is 7:40. Oops. Not this time. I slow down and keep it at 8:15. That's better.
Man, it's still cold.
Halfway. I charge down a steep hill and head for the trail through the trees. I look down. 7:30 pace. Oops.
A straight path. Good. My shins hurt. I'll need new shoes soon. I find the small grass trail that leads to the steep hill and the neighborhood road home. This road is steep. I'm warm now. Sort of. I breathe my way up. Stick with it. I used to have to walk this. Not anymore. I smile at that memory. Not anymore at all.
Look left, look right, dart across, on the straight road home. I get a small cramp. WTF? My right arm is tense. Dammit. I shake it out. The cramp stays near my side. A stich. Sigh. Something to add to the doubts. Did last week's flu kick my ass that much?
My body's tired. I'm nearing four miles. That's OK. I ran 12 Sunday. I will rest after Wednesday.
I head for the final downhill and back home. I cross the fire hydrant. The finish line. I'm done.
The sun is peeking through the morning clouds and just over the horizon. It's morning. My breath hangs in the air again. I take my hat off. Steam rushes out. My skin tingles with the cold.
I feel good.
The Denver Half Marathon is this Sunday. I smile. Screw the doubts. I'm ready.