Another brisk morning, although it’s been getting slightly warmer. Since I moved to the tent, I’ve been on the asleep at 10:30, up at six schedule that everyone inside more or less shares. That plus the cold I’m shaking off has kept me off the piste in the mornings. Instead I get up, wash up, dress, clean off the bike’s brake pads (I used to check the tire inflation too, but with the short valve stem of the current rear tube, it’s a little more difficult to use the gauge), and ride the 400 meters distance to breakfast, then over here to the internet cafe to catch up on whatever emails I’ve received during the night.
I hit this exact same feeling every morning I go running, about five minutes along, as I pass the laundry on the right on my way west. I feel achy and tired and slow, and I feel overdressed in jacket and two shirts, plus sweatpants. I don’t feel cold, but instead I feel bulky. I consider seriously just turning around when I get to 12th Street, instead of turning left and climbing the hill on the road toward the dump, a mile out and a mile back to the same junction spot.
Turning around at 12th Street would result in a 3.6 mile run, which isn’t bad at all, except that I would have to do the same run just about every remaining day of the month to get to my goal of 100 miles. It would mean 13 events in 15 days, which is tough. At a rate of 5.6 miles per event, I only need nine more events to get to 100, which is a little more reasonable. Back in July and August and September, I used to do the shorter route regularly, but I had lower expectations then and wasn’t trying to get to 100 miles a month.
And the difference between turning left and going up the hill to the second revetment and turning right past the car wash and going back to the lodging isn’t really that much. I’m already out there pounding the pavement, all dressed up and moving forward.
So I kind of put the thought to the side and think about a movie I’ve seen or something, then by the time I’m at 12th Street I just turn left as if I hadn’t really considered not turning left. When I finish up I’ve taken a little more than an hour, which is hardly a record-breaking time. What’s funny is that the steady accumulation of training time does have an effect: yesterday I ran in the afternoon, leaving the bike parked (I think the chain may actually be too tight and serious riding might damage the freewheel bearings). On that run, in daylight and after having been awake for more than 10 minutes, I did the same 5.6-mile route. It took me less than 51 minutes, or my fastest time ever on that route. So all my frustrations–at bulking up like the Michelin man, at having the alarm send me out to the piste 90 minutes before the sun thinks of rising, at carrying around the dinky flashlight I use to illuminate my path–are somehow shifted beside the point, as if I had been fully and completely supportive of my own efforts instead of partially engaged in pondering how I could shortchange myself.
No matter what it takes to get to a goal or achievement, once you’re there, the doubts and fears and inhibitions you felt become unimportant, like the howling wind of a storm that has since passed through your area.
I complain a lot about the wind here on this blog, but today was the north wind’s roughest attempt yet to keep me off the road. Today was a bright, sunny cloudless day. I got out on the bike a little early this afternoon and I could notice the gusts even down here in the canyon. When I got up to the plateau there was one smooth bit where I had the wind at my back, and everything was beautiful and quiet, and I could listen to the wheels rushing against the pavement and the chain spinning around the sprockets.
Then 10 minutes later, after passing the dump, I came around and headed directly into the Boreal fury. I’ve noticed about the flat desert around the airfield that there’s no letup. Nothing stands in the way, apparently, between me and Greenland, or Kamchatka, or whatever they call the House of the North Wind these days. It’s relentless, completely different from the gusty winds that blow, careless about their direction and force, back home.
I’m reminded of one evening back in 1988 when I was walking along 14th Street in the middle of the night (on the way to Nell’s, if I recall correctly) and ol’ Boreas was blowing right off the Hudson and wrapping around my bones, poking and twisting with his cold fingers between my muscles and ligaments, like my grandmother taking apart a chicken.
Pictures are stealth-camera shots, taken with my cell phone, on the same 14th Street.
Every once in a while I surprise myself. Somehow I managed to bring myself from sleeping in bed all the way out to the second revetment and home again, 5.6 miles, in the predawn chill.
It helped that I had turned the heat off last night, so the imminent threat of freezing to death actually woke me up about ten past four, about five minutes before the alarm went off. I rearranged the blankets on top of the bed, instead of underneath it, and then the alarm went. I remember exactly the moment I realized I was going running: when I put on sweatpants instead of shorts to run to the ab unit. From there, I just tossed on the jacket (I’d filled the pockets with all the paraphernalia last night) and I was out the door on my way to run.
As a bonus, I even managed to psyche myself into not turning around at 12th street, like I did the day before yesterday. It’s cold out, sure, and dark because the waxing moon has set long before I start out, and the other day I told myself that it was okay to turn around, that the marginal value of running an extra 20 minutes was overcome by the marginal value of not freezing to death (I think there was a stiffer wind Saturday, too). But today I felt OK and I realized that once I was out there, dressed and warmed up, with warm, heavy gloves on, I might as well just push the extra two miles. So I ran up the hill in the pleasant darkness all the way to the second revetment and back comme d’habitude.
Coming back home along the main boulevard, I pass the car wash and ice plant, where it’s always a little busy, and then there’s one block, between the firehouse and the stadium, where every morning it always seems like toytown down here in the secret city: it’s just so quiet and peaceful. It reminds me of a Richard Scarry town before all the madness begins, or maybe that’s just my impression of my little secret city here: by day, it’s a little busytown, with the distinctive rumble of the Mitsubishi standard-transmission 23-pax buses and the water splashing out of the tops of the water trucks as they apparently drive in endless loops around town. And every once in a while a house or a bathroom will drive by (on the back of a flatbed, usually).
The cold snap seems to have broken for the afternoon, although I can affirm that it remains frosty under the bed, where the heat from the wall unit never seems to reach. I have returned from one of those 28-mile bike rides I wrote about earlier, my first one of Year 9.
As I made my way west to the road that leads up the side of the canyon and around the back of the airfield, I noticed more than the usual number of joggers out. I think we are all desperate to enjoy whatever little touches of better weather come our way.
The ride wasn’t bad for the wind conditions; when the wind comes from the southeast like today it feels as if no particular direction has the wind at my back. When it’s cold (it was still cold, just not frosty cold), it’s harder to ride faster, a fact-slash-excuse that I am trying my best to learn by heart.
Brrr! The thermometer has dropped below freezing down here in the secret city two nights in a row now. I know this because on my run this morning there was ice on the ground over by the car wash. A pipe or something had also burst around the corner from the lodging, forcing freezing water all the way down the gutter of the big boulevard. I ended up getting my sneakers wet in it 200 meters before the end of the run and thinking that my feet might freeze from the wet socks if I had to go much further. Didn’t happen, I’m glad to say.
Plus there are signs in the bathroom trailer saying to leave the faucet running all night to keep the pipes, which are routed along the outside of the trailer, from freezing. I think the late-night gym users must have ignored this and that’s why there was no cold water this morning. The thought of such a pending calamity was one of the reasons why I did only a short run (3.6 miles) this morning. I was considering the consequences of the hot water running out before the cold water thawed, such as an angry cohort of my neighbors standing in the shower stalls covered in soap with no way to rinse. So I cut my run short and came back quickly to shave; the dental hygiene wasn’t as much of an issue because I use bottled water for that.