The last time my love of both running and NASCAR collided it was not such a good day for NASCAR (the August race was rain-postponed and we didn't even go) but a very good day for running. Yesterday afternoon my worlds collided again.
Sunday morning I awoke to pouring rain. This did not bode well for my scheduled 6-mile run. I decided to put it off until the afternoon, or, failing that, Monday. Instead, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast of whole-wheat pancakes, bacon, and coffee, followed by one of my biweekly megashopping trips to the grocery store. I do not have to step foot in the grocery store for two weeks at least. We got sandwiches from Mike's Deli, put some beer in the kitchen fridge for easy access, and settled in to watch the 50th Daytona 500. For the not-NASCAR-savvy, that's the first race of the NASCAR season, and unlike every other sport imaginable, it's this race-- the first event of the season and not the last-- that is the biggest and most prestigious, the one every driver yearns to win. It's been a long three months since the 2007 season ended (and Jimmie Johnson won his second consecutive Nextel (now Sprint) Cup Championship!) and both John and I were ready for our normal Sunday afternoons of NASCAR and beer to resume.
Around 4:00 I noticed that the intermittent sprinkling had stopped and the clouds were breaking up. Soon, actual sunlight was glaring off of the TV screen. I finally said, "I think I'm going for a run."
John said: "In the middle of NASCAR? Are you crazy?"
"The weather is the nicest it's been in weeks and the sun is shining and I'm sitting here doing nothing! I have to get out there and take advantage of it."
So I did. I donned my running clothes, strapped on my Garmin, tucked my iPod into my back pocket, and hit the road. It was a near-balmy 40 degrees and the sun (the sun!) was shining. I decided to do this loop for a change in scenery as I have been confined to the residential areas of Chelsea for weeks. Cavanaugh Lake Rd was very pleasant. Conway Rd, not so much. Several storms' worth of snow had accumulated and been packed down into ice which covered the entire road surface. After slipping along the margin of the road for a while I decided I had had quite enough and I found a tiny mostly ice-free zone in the middle of the road and that's where I ran. Right down the middle of the road. I checked over my shoulder every so often to make sure a car wasn't coming up behind me. Fortunately, no cars passed me for the entire mile I was on that road. Once I hit Bush Rd, which is paved, I was very glad. Now I had something else to worry about: more rain. An ominous cloud had drifted over the sun and as I worked my way east on Bush Rd the first raindrops started to fall. Unsure of how serious this rainfall was going to be, I quickened my pace, hoping that if I couldn't outrun the slow-moving cloud, I could at least get home faster and spend less time being rained on. By the time I hit Sibley Rd, the final push back into town, I was flying. I was also getting very wet. I had pulled my sleeve over my Garmin to protect it but the rest of me was rapidly getting soaked. When I reached Main St and was forced back onto the semi-cleared sidewalks, the cloud had mostly moved on and the rain had tapered off. I backed off on my pace and concentrated on mincing my way around ice patches and puddles. (Not well enough, though; I stepped squarely into a large, deep puddle and promptly got two soaking-wet, icy cold feet as mt reward.) I was in the homestretch now anyway; I could use the remaining distance as a cooldown. This plan worked until I was around 5.5 miles and I felt that uncomfortable yet familiar rumble in my gut. There went my nice, easy cooldown. However, I was determined not to cut my run short; I was going to make the 6 miles, runner's trots or not. I made it to 6 miles and even more (though I was scurrying quite fast for the final quarter-mile!). Final stats: 6.3 miles, 58:36, 9:18/mile average pace.
My Garmin reported that after three leisurely miles at 9:30, 9:41, and 10:19 (that was icy Conway Rd), I ran mile 4 in 8:49 and mile 5 in 8:19. 8:19! I knew I had been moving fast but that was a surprise. I definitely had not felt as if I was running a sub-8:30 pace. I had felt superb, actually. Breathing under control, stride steady, arms loose, everything working as it should. It was a nice feeling.
I had been gone for just under an hour, and the race was still on when I got home. I changed into clean clothes and watched the final 50 laps of the race, which Ryan Newman won by slipping past Tony Stewart on the last lap. I kind of wish Tony had won because then he would have cut his heinously long hair. He's rocking a mullet that rivals Billy Ray Cyrus's in his heyday.
Of course more snow is forecast for this week, which means I will most likely be driven indoors again. I can't take much more of this winter shit. For one glorious slightly damp hour yesterday I experienced running as it should be: outdoors, on the open road, with the sun on my face. The promise of more days like that will have to propel me through the last grim weeks of winter.