I’ve chosen some unusual venues in which to break a sweat in the past. I have less-than-fond memories of pounding out laps circling the perimeter of a cracked pavement parking lot in Tulsa strewn with cigarette butts. Baking at 100 degrees. Private law practice, with its six-minute increments and time-compressed trips to gather deposition testimony, made for some unpleasant training sessions. Cranking out laps in 20-yard hotel pools, scraping my fingernails in the shallow end. Narrowly missing closed head injury during sketchy flip turns in 12 inches of over-chlorinated pool water.
I left all that behind, though, when I gave up law practice many moons ago. Yep, nothing but moonlit single track interval training. The pungent smell of non-native eucalyptus heavy in the air. Lazy lattes after heart-pounding hills on the bike in Marin. Sweat wicked away effortlessly by only the absolute latest in performance fabric technology. The trendiest pastel stripe blazed across my jersey’s front. The edgiest last name of European descent logo’d on my left butt cheek. My pockets stuffed full of foil-encased energy gels bearing flavors like “Raspberry Monkey Java,” and “Fuel of the Gods.” Leaping over unidentifiable roadkill. Weaving around tightly-tied, black trash bags on the roadside bursting at the seams. Preparing to dive into burnt roadside undergrowth with every oncoming car and its obligatory bass thumping with distaste for dudes wearing sparkly compression socks and Carolina blue running sneakers.
Yeah, it’s like that.
I’d prefer eucalyptus and Fuel of the Gods. But Hefty bags and frisbee-thin possums (or skunks or squirrels or cats, or actual frisbees) are mostly what I get.
My 13 year-old’s baseball team’s tournament in Modesto collided headlong with my growing fear of a “DNF” in a race one month hence, due to 46 year-old hamstrings without enough recent mileage in them. Only way to avoid that kind of ego-crushing outcome is to slog through the preparatory miles on the appointed days beforehand, without fail.
So I find myself pounding colorful, “zero drop” shoes on boiling pavement. Whipping my head back and forth and back again whilst gingerly prancing over the impossibly active train tracks. Hoping my being so hopelessly out of place will not inspire some road range incident. I rehearse in my mind twisting my body Matrix-like to avoid a crushed Monster Energy can hurtling in my direction at 70 MPH. In the midst of one such rehearsal, I crunch underfoot the backbone of something long dead. I imagine it was a cute little sparrow rather than a housecat or feral skunk. Truth be told, I’d prefer the lingering emotional sting from the cat rather than the skunk oil. We have 2 long hours of driving ahead of us and the Prius’ AC would give that skunk stink some awful currency.
The aforementioned Hefty bags are everywhere. Most bulge with what could be elbows and shoulders. It’s all I can do to resist looking hard at the mute bags, for fear of seeing something — or someone — poking out that would require spelling my name for a police report and testifying against a fellow with tatooed knuckles back in this county a year from now. I ignore this civic duty of mine even while acknowledging that there exists a 23% chance I will end up in a roadside Hefty bag given my poor training venue choice this particular afternoon. I can live with 23%.
Mercifully, the humid and ill-conceived run ends uneventfully, as it turns out. Other than the fragile bone fragments I pluck from my sneaker’s treads, nothing I encountered along the way will disrupt my sleep tonight. And lo and behold, I’ve managed to sock away another hour to bring me that much closer to crossing in one piece my first finish line in 13 years.
Nothing but glamorous, postcard-perfect sessions for me, from here on out. Well, at least until next weekend.
Thanks for reading.