It's week 6 of my marathon training plan and it calls for a 3-mile run. I wake up to my alarm for a change, roll out of bed and immediately start drinking water. I don't like to carry anything on these shorter runs, so I must hydrate well. It's 74° out there, and the humidity is a fog-like 97%. I pull on some shorts and a predominantly white tech shirt, and grab my shoes and socks.
I sit at my desk and glance at email, Facebook and dailymile. I comment on a couple of things, but my attention quickly turns to my schedule. My coach, Hal Higdon, says I "might want to do this 3-miler at a pace slightly faster usual." It's like he's reading my mind. I started reading Once A Runner last night, and the urge to run the first few chapters gave me are still gnawing away. I slide my Road ID onto my right wrist and strap the Garmin on the left. I shut off my monitor, grab my house key and a towel and open the garage door. It's 5:15 and still dark.
I walk to the bottom of the hill that is my driveway and stopped to stretch. Just short, light tugs to wake up my legs. Longer, more thorough stretching will wait until bedtime. I start my watch and start jogging around the corner. I first encounter the cats. There are a few of them that congregate outside the house on the left, and they pay me no mind. Most cats would scatter, but these hold their ground. Some even appear to strut.
I leave my subdivision and head north on McQueen-Smith. It's a busy thoroughfare, but at this time of day the traffic is light. It was recently resurfaced, so it's as smooth as glass. There are no sidewalks, so I run right up the middle in the turn lane. I listen carefully for cars coming up behind me. When they do I veer to the left side of the lane, ahttp://www.dailymile.com/routes/300640-running-routend when there's oncoming traffic I move to the right side. Even though I'm wearing white I'm not taking any chances.
The first mile is sluggish. Yesterday's intervals are still with me, but I can feel my legs loosening up. As usual, I'm breathing too hard. It takes a while for my lungs to expand and get used to the demands I'm making. I can hear my breathing pattern, and it's the same as it was back in high school. It settles after a bit.
I turn into the Brookstone subdivision and cross paths with my first runner. She's just a silhouette, but I recognize her from the way she runs. We say good morning and I run down East Poplar, picking up the pace on the decline. By now things are falling into place. I don't know how fast I'm running, because I can't read my Garmin. I can't make out anything on the screen unless it's daylight. I smell laundry detergent.
As I start to settle into a groove I concentrate on my form. I make sure I'm centered, my feet are landing under me and my shoulders are relaxed. The road is flat and the pace becomes almost effortless. I pass a few more people out walking their dogs. Some wave back, some don't. I can actually hear the sound of wind as I open it up a little.
It's the 2-mile mark and I'm at the Graystone Gully - a short, but steep hill. As I get to the bottom I've already decided I'm going to attack the other side. As I begin I see a man jogging slowly up at the top of the hill. He doesn't know it, but he's my rabbit. I push hard up the hill and blow by him about 50m after I've crested the top. He's wearing white basketball shorts and a long-sleeve white shirt. At least he's visible, I thought.
I recover from the hill about the time I turn left onto East Main Street. There is no oncoming traffic this time of day. Everyone's heading out of town to work in the other direction at this hour. I pick up the pace again as I round back onto McQueen-Smith. It's a short stretch and then I'm back in my neighborhood, where I encounter the couple I see every morning out for their walk. They look to be about my age, and we exchange greetings. I glance at my watch and can see I've covered just over 3.5 miles. No need to round up today.
As I climb my driveway I peel off my shirt and then hang it on the drying rack in my garage. I pick up my water bottle and collapse on my front stoop. I sit there for 5-10 minutes trying to cool down, but it's no use. I'll be sweating for at least another 20-30 minutes. I listen to the crickets rubbing their legs together and can see it starting to get light out. It's time to head in and get ready for work. I close the garage door behind me.