Thursday, April 14, 2011

Slushy, Sodden Slog

In retrospect, I maybe should have cashed in one of the two passes I have to Flatiron Athletic Club this morning. On the docket were seven miles. It was supposed to be so neat and tidy: 1 mile easy warm-up, five miles at tempo pace (8:24) and then one more slow and easy cool-down mile. Would have been a snap on one of FAC's fine treadmills.

But no. Partly it's that I'm sick of treadmills, and truly trying to stick to my resolution of running outside more. Partly I'm lazy, and I'd already laid out outside clothes and didn't want to dig out shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. But mostly it was this:

Sometimes you want to be that crazy runner lady.

So when I looked outside and saw the snow drifting down--big fat flakes loaded with water, the kind that skiers hate because they are the opposite of "powder," the kind that coat sidewalks and streets and even grass like sand--I said, "I can do it. I'm tough" and forth I sallied before the sun rose.

The weather wasn't a surprise. Last night, Dan and I had a rare date night, and when we came home around nine p.m. it was raining. I checked the weather before going to bed and saw that it would turn to snow overnight. But it wasn't supposed to be cold (32 the low). Out came the tights, the jacket, the fleece hat. I like running in rain and even snow if it doesn't stick.

As always with these kinds of runs, at first it was fun, and anyway I was going slowly to warm up for the tempo section. The big wet flakes felt good on my face, and the concrete under the mushy stuff wasn't slick. I ran roughly the same seven-mile route that I had a week and a half ago on a recovery run.

It's the kind of route my spin teacher would call "rolling hills"--you go up some, then enjoy some down, then turn up again, for the whole trip, but none of the ups or downs are huge. The hills felt easier than they had the last time I did them. It felt good to be totally recovered from the race two weeks ago.

The light grew, gray and white through the falling snow. Cars and trucks whooshed by me. I forgot how loud they sound in weather like this. I'm used to running in town on Saturdays, when fewer people are heading to work. Now I found myself on the snowy side of the early stages of morning rush hour. And neither cars nor snow were slowing down.

I was, though. The fat flakes didn't feel so good by the halfway point. I kept wiping them out of my eyelashes. I was thoroughly wet everywhere else too. Snow hides puddles well. A few of them had found me. And not all the sidewalks were as slip-free as the first ones had been. My pace was tortoise-like. Only one of the miles--a downhill one through the university, whose sidewalks had been plowed--got below the required 8:24.

I saw no other runners and only one cyclist (it's a toss-up in Boulder as to who is crazier, the runners or the cyclists). A small crowd at a bus stop on Broadway gaped at me. I can only imagine how I looked at that point. My skin turns a lovely shade of salmon when it's cold, and with the snow flakes seeming to come from all directions I probably had snot and/or drool on my face that I couldn't even feel. I was definitely the crazy runner for the day (at least for that hour).

Truthfully, though, I love runs like these. I did see other footprints on the sidewalks. I wondered who had broken track for me, and whether they were running or walking. I startled a rabbit at one point, and crossed his distinctive little paw marks a few seconds after he bounded away. Above me, obscured by the cloud, the Flatirons loomed unseen. I thought of how I will soon be running their paths again, and of how muddy they would be when this snow melts. When I finally got home, the shower felt much better than it does after a treadmill session. My iPod stayed in my pocket, forgotten, for the entire effort.

On Saturday, I have the Mesa Trail on tap. Today I got some practice for its rigors.

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