Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Seventeen Saturdays: Episode XVII

Saturday, October 3

This was it: Saturday number 17. The last one before the race a week from tomorrow.

It was sunny and right around 50 degrees when I set out around 8 a.m. with eight miles on the calendar. First nice morning this week, so I wore my shorts and a long-sleeved T-shirt from one of the the Hall of Fame races.

I wanted to get a feel for running with headphones, so I loaded up my mp3 player with a podcast for time-passing and a handful of songs to keep my adrenaline going over the last few miles.

Less than half a mile in, the podcast wasn’t coming through. I just bunched the earphones up in my right hand and kept going. I wasn’t surprised, really: The past 24 hours had been all about Stuff Not Working.

Friday morning, Jenn and I had noticed a huge drop in our water pressure. Some fluctuation isn’t uncommon from time to time – our house is 30-some years old, and we get our water from a well – but this was new. Yay. By lunchtime, we realized we were only drawing the water that was in our pipes, and we ran out just after noon.

Called a repair place. They managed to have someone out to our house by late afternoon, yanked our bad well pump, and showed us a massive repair estimate. What can you do? We needed water. They didn’t have everything necessary to get it done that night, so we arranged to spend tonight at mom’s.

I know you’re supposed to save money for rainy days like this, but damn, what do you do when it just never seems to stop raining?

And look, I know we’re blessed and fortunate in a ridiculous number of ways: We’re lucky to have a home about which I can complain when the well pump goes to hell. We’re lucky to have supportive and generous family and neighbors. None of us is facing a seriously life-threatening illness.

So, yeah, part of me feels really petty about whining over a massive water repair bill. Still, perspective alone doesn’t make a problem disappear.

Jenn got up and went to work this morning at 5:30, but I never went back to sleep. I just stayed there in bed thinking all this stuff and wondering how we were going to deal with it, and suddenly running in a marathon seemed awfully unimportant.

But I am out here this morning and it is clear and fall, and the leaves on the trees are fully into their changing, and it’s the time of year when the little white church about a mile from our house sits against the backdrop of the season shifting, gleaming in the rising sun, and just like every year, I realize it’s one of the many small slices of beauty I am fortunate enough to see in my life.

Just past the halfway point in my run, I started messing with the headphones again, to see if I could get the music files to work and help me maintain a good pace over the last few miles. The files played, but there’s a short in one of the earphone cords or something that either cuts out one of the sound channels completely or makes it sound like it’s coming from behind a tin wall.

The guitars and rhythms mostly came through, though, so I still felt like I could draw on the music’s energy, and in mile six, I hit “play.”

Music is a funny motivator. Some songs give me those great throat-clutch moments of wanting to scream even though in my heart, I know they’re bad songs that just happen to hit the right chords. One such song on the player was reserved for the final mile today. I have sung it in my head many times this summer, but never actually tried to run to it.

Before then, though, there was “Desire,” by U2. And then “Ocean Avenue” by Yellowcard.

Then I had to fight the urge to alternately wield an invisible lightsaber and a conductor’s baton: John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates,” from The Phantom Menace. (That chorus, with the vocals? Chills. Every. Time.)

Second-to-last on today’s set list, “Don’t Stop Believing.” I fall for it, as I always do. And I’m heading north now, and the sun is bright across the hills to the east, and there’s a deep thrum in my chest, and I can’t help smiling. I am seven-plus miles in and I am running and grinning. Journey fades.

I am looking at a climb.

And now the cheese, melted in blistering guitar rhythms, pours into my ears: I can’t help it. It’s the fastest song I’ve ever loved, and it’s ridiculous and irresistible to me at the same time. “Through the Fire and Flames,” by Dragonforce. It is almost eight minutes’ worth of utterly goofy lyrics and rapid-fire drums and guitars, but thanks to family video game time and Guitar Hero III, it has become my go-to tune for venting and adrenaline. (Hey, in fairness, at least it does include the line, “Running back through the midmorning light, there’s a burning in my heart…” – that’s appropriate, right?)

>Sigh.< Somewhere along the way this summer, “There is no try” and “It is not this day!” (Inspirational line from The Return of the King) have been joined by “Through the fire and the flames, we carry onnnnnnn!”

Of course, the beauty of it is that I find it impossible to do anything slowly or calmly when this song is playing.

Over my last few runs, I’ve tried a new visualization game: Having seen runners cross the finish line in Akron and getting goosebumps for them, seeing their tears and hearing their barbaric yawps, I’ve tried to imagine an actual finish line stretched over the street in front of my driveway. I live almost exactly two-tenths of a mile up our street, so it’s easy to make that turn and picture a Mile 26 marker standing at the corner, and I can look toward at my mailbox and think, “When I see that last mile marker on race day, that’s where the finish line will be – will I have the strength to fly there?

And on this morning, timing is on my side, and I am turning onto our street just as Dragonforce’s climactic guitar solos finish and the throw-the-rock-horns-and-scream last verse and chorus are unleashed.

In my imagination, my knees are coming chest-high and I’m pulling 40-foot strides and barely touching the pavement and the bead of sweat on my right temple can’t reach my jawline because it’s driven backward by my speed. In real life, Dragonforce is making my ears ring and I just may be lip-synching and trying not to laugh or slow down because I am just loving the moment.

When I reach the mailbox, I actually keep going full force for an extra half-dozen steps, because while my lungs are searing and my heart is racing, I kind of don’t want the run to end. I don’t want to have to look at my lawn that needs mowed but has a busted well pump and 75 feet of pipe snaked across it; I don’t want to have to take a shower at my brother’s house and haul laundry down to mom’s; I don’t want to have to think about all the things that need fixing.

I look at my stopwatch: 1:05:31. A seven-minute, 51-second pace for eight-and-a-third miles. My best time for this loop and the longest sub-eight-minute run I’ve ever done.

The morning stays sunny a little while longer.

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October 5, 2009 - Posted by | Current Affairs, Ohio, running, Sports | , , ,

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