Back On the Rock

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Miami Miles: Week 5

Wednesday: I haven’t run in 5 days and I’m determined to break the streak. I’ve registered for the race. I’ve bought the plane ticket. Bailing is not an option. Plus even with stomach flu I’ve managed to strap on another 5 lbs. Or at least that’s what I estimate this big belly weighs. So at 3:30 sharp I’m at Mona Dam, trying to fit in a run before a hair appointment and a get together. The first lap is awful. Everything south of my hips hurts. My ankles have been replaced by two nubs of pain. Odd, since I haven’t been running. But I have a vague memory of walking up and down flights of stairs in four inch heels. Ah, Blue Mountain Inn. Utopia. Six hours of dancing and hiking up steep steps to the bathroom – no wonder my hamstrings and calves are shot. (And yes, stomach flu has stopped my running but not my partying; though I am mad at myself for paying $4500 and only eating pita bread).

Luckily, the 14:40 isn’t as bad as I feared. But lap 2 gets worse. Both IT bands pipe up and a side stitch kicks in. My watch glares back at me with a dismal 16:38 (in my defense that time included a very long stop to retie both shoe laces.) By the third lap I’m starting to feel there’s nothing wrong with being a 10 minute miler. But the sight of a slow-moving red shirt on the other side of the Dam rekindles my pride, and suddenly I’m chasing around the eastern curve channeling DQ in Montreal. I catch Red Shirt halfway down the straight on the north side and hold on to the pace for the rest of the lap. The 15:02 brings me to 4.8 miles in 46:20. The last ditch effort doesn’t help my time much, but it gets approval from an old man and a Dread who ride up the hill on the western end astride a rickety bike.

“Backside,” the old man drawls slowly as they pull up behind me.

The Dread replies: “And thunder.”

Saturday. It’s New Year’s Eve. In a last ditch effort to salvage the week, I’m at the Dam at 5 am. I’m with the Running Mate. It meant giving up a night out, but as we set off in the darkness I decide it’s worth it. With him, the darkness of the Dam is peaceful, not scary. The first lap is a slow and conversational 19 minutes, but I don’t care. I’m tired and sluggish from a week of too much work, too much wine, too little food and too little sleep. Besides, there’s a comfort in letting him pace me. I’m surprised that I don’t feel my usual competitive urge to test him or to prove myself. Instead, I tuck myself into a little pocket behind his left elbow and follow his lead. Slower than my usual pace on the straights, faster than usual up the little hill on the south side. We’re running with each other, not against each other. And it surprises me that staying in sync is so effortless. The sun rises. Birds dive for breakfast. Our times improve gradually: 16, 15, 14. Not the best times I’ve run all year, but a great way to close a year of running.


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