Wednesday was National Running Day. Our running group had plans to meet up with DFW Runs to run on the Katy Trail and celebrate afterwards with dinner at Chuys Mexican restaurant.
There was only one problem. The weather.
We live in Texas. It doesn’t rain much, but when it does, it’s either feast or famine. Nine times out ten it will get dark, sputter out a few raindrops, and move on.
We also live in a huge city. Time after time we have what I call “the parting of the ways.” A huge storm heads our way, the storm hits the Alps of the Downtown Skyscrapers, and the rain parts around the city, only to regroup on the other side of town and into the suburbs. Oil and water. A bubble enclosed city.
The forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms, but I didn’t believe it.
Until 4:45 when huge claps of thunder struck. Then hail. Then a deluge of water.
I had been looking forward to the run all day. I was meeting Heather and Hari, the two friends I would be training with for our first ultra, and Bill and Liz.
There was no way I wasn’t going to run.
The rain and lightning didn’t let up, even when we left the house and headed to Chuy’s in our running gear. We figured, at the least, we could still meet and have dinner. Bill even called the National Weather Service and talked to a woman who assured him the rain would mostly miss Dallas, and that it would be dry at 6:00 PM.
Mother Nature scoffed.
I enjoy running in the rain, especially in the summer, but lighting is no joke. I thought about a book I read years ago, A Match to the Heart, about a writer, Gretel Ehrlich, and her experience being struck by lightning on her ranch in Wyoming.
It took Heather two full hours to drive from Keller to Dallas in the torrential rain and rush hour traffic. The things we do to run with our friends.
And run we did. We ran 6 miles in a soaking rain on the Katy Trail. We ran until we no longer dodged the puddles. We ran until every inch of us was dripping wet.
There was lightning. It was foolhardy to be running in lightning, but it was just one of those evenings when it was worth it.
We knew better, but we did it anyway.
It stormed all night.
The next morning I met Bill at 6:00 AM for a run at the lake on the hilly path. It was still raining but the lightning had dissipated. I knew we wouldn’t see many more mornings like this, and I wanted to enjoy it while it lasted.
The rain was light and refreshing, almost magical, and we had the lake to ourselves. The few runners, walkers, and cyclists we did see all had the same look of contentment and kinship as we smiled at each other.
This was something special.
Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures. I live in Texas and it’s almost summer. Time to take action.
I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be. After twenty years of teaching and falling asleep exhausted on the couch each night by 8pm and getting to work before 7am each day, I love nothing more than staying up late and sleeping in. Anything that endangers that one small indulgence on my part is a really big deal.
But Texas summers are extreme. Now that the days are getting longer and the AC runs nonstop, running in the evening is just too much torture. I’ve run out of excuses. It’s time to put part one of my Summer Survival Action Plan into effect.
Last summer I failed miserably. I was the bitchiest, snarkiest, most irritatingly unhappy runner in Dallas. I complained louder, longer, and stronger than anyone in the entire state. If you had given me a megaphone I would’ve gladly yelled out my misery to the entire world.
But not this year. Oh, I know all my friends are reading this and rolling their eyes in disbelief, but you’ll see. I have a plan.
Last summer I was Debbie Downer. This summer I’m Pamela Positive.
My Summer Survival Action Plan began in earnest this morning. Determined to turn every negative thought about level orange ozone alert days and impending triple digit heat into a positive, I armed myself with my greatest asset: my running buddies.
Part One of the Summer Survival Action Plan is this: Run early in the morning.
Being neither a morning person nor employed make this sadly difficult (I know, I know, I have zero sympathy from 99% of the working stiffs reading this post). In order to succeed at part one I need a reason to get up out of bed and out the door. I need someone to be waiting on me, someone I know who will keep me accountable and keep me going.
Bill accepted the challenge. We made a plan to meet the next morning at 6am near the SMU track to run on the Katy Trail. I went to bed a little excited and eager to implement the first part of the Summer Survival Action Plan.
The Katy Trail is a3.5 mile long abandoned rail line that has been converted into a paved path that runs from American Airlines Center on the edge of downtown to just shy of Southern Methodist University. SMU is also known as The Hilltop, and downtown is built along the banks of the Trinity River, so that tells you something about the elevation.
The morning was a blissfully cool 69 degrees. A fair number of runners had the same idea of congregating in the parking lot of Luke’s Locker, though most ran over to the SMU track field to do speedwork. I was so glad we were not doing speedwork.
We headed over to the Katy Trail, always on the lookout for the Highland Park police who like to hassle and ticket runners for running in the street. The trail was sparsely populated with other early bird runners and walkers, and it was a beautiful morning. We saw Lauren and Kristi, two friends of ours from our running group. I still have yet to see Troy Aikman, who supposedly lives nearby and runs frequently on the trail. I’ve heard he’s on the 9:30am schedule.
Dallas is no Denver, but the first 2.5 miles are ever so slightly downhill. Bill was unrelenting and really pushed the pace. We kept a 9:05 average, with an 8:50 second mile, and I was proud we were able to hold the pace all the way back up the hill and to the parking lot.
Part one of the Summer Survival Action Plan was a resounding success. Not only did I have a great run, I got home just after 7am and did 40 minutes of yoga. I have to admit that I love the way I feel when I run first thing in the morning, and that I get so much more accomplished during the day.
It will be tougher to motivate myself to get up and run when the low temperature for the day is 92 degrees at 6am, but it’s still better than the alternatives: running in the evening when it’s 105 degrees, running in the dark when it’s 100 degrees, or not running at all.
But I’m not complaining. Pamela Positive, remember?
Last Friday my running group had the opportunity to do a fun run with the Ultramarathon Man himself, Dean Karnazes, who was in town representing a sponsor for a local 5K race. I’m not a celebrity hound or star-struck kind of person, but it was such an honor meeting one of my first running heroes.
As I stated in my last post, Dean’s book Ultramarathon Man was one of the first running books I read when I began running six years ago. Dean is an undeniably talented runner, running distances I will never attempt. To meet him in person, and discover what a down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy he is, was a real treat.
My running group, the White Rock Running Co-op (WRRC) is a group of friends I’ve run with for the past five years. A core group of us met while training, pacing, and coaching with a local running group, and eventually branched off and created our own group. There’s no charge, no politics, no games–just a group of people who love to run. We run together each Wednesday evening and Saturday mornings (long runs), and we generally follow a marathon or half-marathon training plan.
This weekend about 30 of us are flying to Eugene, OR to run the marathon and half-marathon there.
The group met Dean at the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, on a cool, overcast morning. Some people managed to sneak away from work, others made a day of it.
After an introduction and a few photos, we ran the length of the Katy Trail, which is roughly seven miles total. The first half is gradually uphill, and I had a tough time keeping up with the group. After about two and a half miles, when I looked down at my Garmin and saw the pace was 8:05, I decided to walk until the group turned back around.
Having already done a race pace run on Wednesday night (which was nowhere close to an 8:05 pace!), and knowing I was doing a 12 miler the next day, it wasn’t a tough decision to make.
The group quickly came back down the trail and I jumped in behind everyone else. It started to rain lightly, and thankfully the back of the pack had slowed down to a more reasonable 8:45 pace.
As we made the turn back to the AAC, Dean graciously stood off to the the side in order to be the last one to finish. He said we could brag to everyone that we had run with Dean Karnazes and “beat” him.
Yeah, right, Dean.
A few observations about Dean:
- He has ZERO body fat. Zilch. His legs are incredible, with clearly defined quads and calves. Everyone was amazed at those legs. The men were envious and the women just wanted to touch them.
- Everyone was impressed at how nice he really is. He thanked us several times for coming out to run with him, and talked about his love of running. He was very down-to-earth and humble. He acknowledged how lucky he is that he gets to run for a living.
- He says he never sits down all day. He even has a special desk he uses at home that’s at waist height where he does all his writing. He says it’s one of the ways he stays in shape, and it helps train his body to stay on his feet for long periods of time. (I think it’s just natural for him.)
- He does a lot of cross training.
- He will run the Badwater Ultra again this summer. I asked how many pairs of shoes he usually goes through in Badwater, and he surprisingly said he hopes to use only one pair, which would be a full size larger than he usually wears. And he will run on the white line so the soles don’t melt.
- One of his favorite things to eat on his very long runs is a sandwich of bread, almond butter, banana slices, honey, and a packet of soy sauce drizzled on top of the bread. Genevieve made one the next day and said it was yummy!
Those of us who didn’t have to be back at work had lunch and post-run beers, and talked about running with Dean Karnazes. It was a good day of friendship, laughter, and doing what we love most: running.