Monday, May 30, 2011
The Sophenator et al
The Sophenator is an all-star, and she assembled a large group to go run around Sugar Hollow, near Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. I loved the people who showed up: Sophie, my bros (Marlin and Q), big-time smilers (Gary and Jenny), the VHTRGs (Gentry and Griffin), WUS’s Corris duo, and others. Harry Landers was the namesake of the run, which was dubbed the Harry Landers Special Memorial Run in honor of his intrepid feat of manliness last year—when he broke his collarbone but continued to run.
To arrive on time, I woke up at 3 a.m., which is about as yesterday as today can be without having to reference today as tomorrow. It felt early. The weird thing about this was that a bunch of people were still out and about, continuing their yesterdays, and I was starting my today. It was as though we were living in different time zones while occupying the same sphere. This only magnified the surreality of the occasion.
I picked up Austin from D.C., and we drove south. Austin has joined other runs before—crewing/pacing me through Old Dominion last year and driving down for one of these group runs last summer. We’ve been friends for half of my life, the better half. Not because of his presence in it but because nothing important happens in the first twelve years of life. You just learn how to walk and talk and practice using silverware correctly so that you will not embarrass your parents when you eat in public. The greatest preoccupation of my younger life—ages 0 to 12—was whether or not my teeth could get sunburned if I smiled outdoors. I was certain they would. Then I’d have a mouthful of tan teeth, and that’s a horror. I told my second grade class this, and everyone stopped smiling during recess. Our teacher had to intervene and tell us that we do not, in fact, have melanin in our teeth. Then I turned thirteen and was instantly mature and understood teeth and silverware. That’s when I met Austin in gym class.
We arrived and talked. Sophie gave us maps, but if I could read a map or do other practical things, I wouldn’t be working on a degree in Philosophy. My family reminds me of this every time I use the words "Chicago" and "Boston" as synonyms. Then she warned us about bears. She said it was a high bear-density area and used some synonym for “vicious” to describe them. To my left, Jenny was talking about a snake of anaconda proportions that had approached her in a swimming hole in the forest. I wasn’t nervous or anything, though.
The run was ugly and lame because of the sunshine and excessive floral and faunal comeliness. Sickening. Every time we saw a scenic vista, I gagged and squinted so I wouldn’t have to look at any of it. I held my breath when I smelled flowers. There were just way too many flowers. I was so over it.
Inov-8 F-lite 230s. They dried almost instantly, performed well on the rocky trails, and were light and comfortable. I ran up front in a pack with Austin, Steve, Christian, Joey, and Mike. It was actually comical how academically-motivated that little crew was. Law, Immunology, Medicine, Public Policy, and Neuroscience. As we each embodied our respective disciplines, we engaged in intellectual synthesis all morning on those trails. It felt like the Enlightenment. But in the quieter moments, I reflected on how I would fight off a bear.
We got to the swimming hole and tarried until more of the group caught up. The boys and Sophie were fearless and jumped right in. Jenny and I did a countdown and submerged ourselves together. It was freezing but functionally alleviative. Our joints benefited from the ice water. Off we ran, passing hikers and wanderers. It was a beautiful day.
I am in the midst of a Runaissance, a rebirth of running in my life. Virginia is my favorite place in the world. I am loving this sport all over again, as though I am only just beginning this journey. Well, I am, kind of. I'm not an old lady. For now, I am focusing my attention on timed races, specifically 24-hour runs, but it is in my 2-year plan to run a couple more 48-hours because I'd like to see how far I can push myself there. I've moved a lot of my training over to pavement to equip my legs, and I'm doing more pace work and strength training. Running in the mountains felt excellent, however. I miss that.
When I finished the run, my shirt had blood all over it from a fall. The boys said it was awesome and wanted to see the gash. I couldn’t show them because the source of blood was from rocks that got into my sports bra. Igneous rocks. Note to all girls: It’s your prerogative if you want to stuff your bra, but if you do, don’t use gravel.
Austin and I drove off, back up to DC. Then I went to my friend’s wedding and danced with the mechanized exuberance of a Type A kindergartener. If you dance with a huge smile, nobody will question the quality of your moves.
Pixy Stix. You’re satisfied for a few minutes, but in their wake, your hunger is even greater. I think in the future, I’m going to have to live in the mountains.