Thursday, August 30, 2012

Hurricane Running

With Isaac making his way ashore, I can't help but reminisce about a run I did about this time 7 years ago.

(Note/Caveat:  I'm in no way making light or lessening the hardships that people on the coast may go through due to flooding/wind damage; I've got a sister down there and am keeping a close eye on the situation, myself)

A sophomore in college, I was thrilled that classes had been cancelled as Lady Katrina decided to come inland, and, like most of my fellow collegians in Starkville, I intended to make the most of the situation.

Most students went out and played football, sloshed through the mud, and enjoyed general shenanigans while the winds built.  By around the 40-45mph mark, most had had their fill of the sustained wind and returned indoors to hunker down and ride out the storm.

I had just woken up from a nap.

Around, 45mph, I laced up my shoes and headed out.  If you've never experienced rain at 50-60+ mph, it's an entirely different phenomenon, more akin to flying needles than drops of water.

Cruising down Engineering Row, the slight downhill grade combined with a significant tailwind to create a bit of a conundrum for me as I approached a 4-way intersection, but nothing that a well-timed, quick grab/clotheslining move on the already-flailing stop sign couldn't solve.

A short while later, passing in front of Hilbun Hall, the headwind, rain-needles and all, was stiff enough to stop me in my tracks.  That was the only time I've ever leaned forward and driven my knees/steps as hard as I could without moving an inch forward.  Tactical lateral movements combined with further leaning and infinitesimally slight and momentary reductions of wind eventually let me progress.

By the time I got to the spot my friends and I had chosen as our respite from both the storm and the dorm, wind speeds had topped 70mph, and since I had relied on momentary lucky breaks in the wind to get that far, I decided to end my run there.  All my friends had been there some time and were surprised I was still out at that point.

Katrina was still a category 1 hurricane when it went over Starkville, roughly 200 miles north of the coast, as the crow flies.  I've never experienced anything quite like it before or since.  We all know what it did in terms of destruction, but my short little run gave a somewhat unique glimpse into another aspect of such a phenomenon.

Whereas I would never wish something like a hurricane or other such destructive force of nature on anyone, I hope that everyone has experienced some form of unique standpoints with regard to otherwise monstrous, highly-visible, and awe-inspiring events.  Maybe even while running.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Late Summer

Much to my surprise, late summer is already upon us.  This might not seem like a noteworthy observation, but late summer is a magical time for running.

Last night was warm and muggy (not hot and muggy, thanks to a summer storm passing just north of us), which is rather typical, and the equally as typical effects were in full force.

Running came with ease, albeit not quite as quickly as it might feel; the obscenely high humidity and dew point ensured that.  Breathing equal parts water and air comes with a price, I suppose.

The late summer tends to bring out the best in other runners, too.  The company of those who have weathered the 100+ degree days for months on end is easy to enjoy, especially when everyone is of the same opinion that truly fast running might be better suited for *another* day.  This enjoyment is enhanced with the seemingly contradictory inevitable burst of speed.

...maybe the word "speed" is a bit generous...

The route itself, by now a fixture of the collective weekly routine, passes underfoot with ease, each root and trench known all too well.

Also known all too well are the endless swarms of gnats, which as the evening progresses will undoubtedly magically transform into a ubiquitous mass of mosquitoes.  We all make the obligatory jokes about caloric and protein intake due to swallowing these gnats, and I was even lucky enough to collect one in the eye that was still there this morning.  (the strange things you notice whilst brushing teeth...)

The wildlife were aware of the perfect conditions as well.  My six or seven rabbit sightings were eclipsed by others' raccoon, turtle, and coyote sightings from the morning.

The late summer is certainly a time to be cherished as a runner.  All too soon, the days will shorten, temperatures will drop, and we'll all be discussing the challenges of winter training.

...which will bring its own set of fascinating observations, no doubt...