Friday is cold. Like, really cold.
The first thing I do when I wake up is to roll over and look at my iPhone’s weather app. The little digital numbers read 27 degrees. I wrap myself back up tightly under the covers in my dark room, looking at the window where the blinds are drawn closed and only a little dull, gray light trickles in. I have no desire to move, nor any real need to.
Eventually though my bladder prompts me out of my caccoon. My feet hit the cold hardwood floors. I stand, stretch, and stumble half blind through the piles of clothes I accumulated over the week on my bedroom floor. Friday’s are my work week Sundays – the day I clean up my house and take my long training run. The order of those two things vary depending on my mood and motivation.
I sort of expected to wake up in a better mood. On Thursday evening I went on a date that played out rather well. It was with a woman I met on Tinder. We grabbed burgers and a drink at this place called The Rookwood, a nice restaurant built inside an old ceramics factory that sits on a high hill overlooking the city. I can’t tell you exactly how long we were there, but it was at least a couple of hours. We ended up at this neighborhood bar called the Lackman for a nightcap before saying awkward first date goodbyes. When I got in my truck to go home, I noted it was almost 11 o’clock.
I went to sleep that night watching a single episode of Game of Thrones on HBO Go. Then I get up, feeling, I don’t know, off.
After the restroom, I go through the dining room into my small, Zesta boxed shaped living room that is darker, and colder, than the bedroom. The outdoor light hardly pierces through the pull down, rice paper material blinds that cover four windows. I bump up the programmable thermostat on the wall above the shabby metal and particle board desk I bought from Wal-Mart. The temperature is set for 61 degrees. I reset it to 69.
I still have not turned a light on in the house. I stumble back through the dining room, flip on the UV light that sits on top of the 95-gallon salt water tank with its four fish and unruly green algae choking the life out of the corral and creeping its way up the glass sides. The fish seem unaffected by their surroundings. They follow me the length of the tank in a small school, waiting for me to feed them.
The kitchen is the brightest part of my home. The walls are painted “Apple Crisp,” the color a woman I once dated picked when I first bought the place. The hue is more of a horrendous burnt orange. I keep meaning to repaint, but have not found the time, energy, or shade I like. I haven’t had a girlfriend in a while either.
My dog sits crated at the end of the narrow kitchen, near the back door, whimpering when she sees me, waiting for me to let her out. I open her cage, then the backdoor that leads to the basement and a secondary door outside. The orange cat I inherited from my sister bolts up the stairs into the main part of the house. Gracie, my dog, takes to the fence line to see if there is anything to bark at before relieving herself. I head back upstairs and prepare her bowl of dried dog food and water.
I start a cup of coffee, then let the dog back in to eat. She’s excited and playful. She’s six and has never grown up. I pat her on the head, she persists in her attempt to jump on me. I sternly tell her to stop. She eats. I finish prepping my coffee, boil water for some instant oatmeal, then let Gracie back outside for her second restroom break. This is our routine.
I wander into the living room with my coffee and oatmeal. I sit on the couch. I cuss myself, place the coffee and oatmeal on the coffee table, and get back up because I left my phone in the bedroom. This is a routine too. I retrieve the phone lost under a pile of blankets and come back to passively look through Facebook, Twitter, and national news apps. Some people shared pictures from going out the night before. Others post morning “inspirations.” I retweet some of the more interesting news headlines.
Other people’s lives always look more interesting online. I check the temperature again.
It’s now 25 degrees. I thought it might warm up at some point during the day and I would run then. Instead the forecast shows the virtual mercury will plummet. And it will snow, more.
Gracie finally finds something to bark madly at in the backyard. I go from front of house to back, down the wood stairs and open the door. I rattle the handle three times. Gracie comes running in. I end up wasting about three hours watching more Game of Thrones on TV.
By one the guilt over putting off running is mounting. I crack the blinds in the living room to see it’s snowing, just a bit. And it looks colder. My phone says temps are hovering around 20. Gracie’s snoring slightly on her red chair. The chair is full of tan dog hair. A dirty dish I used to eat scrambled eggs and toast earlier sits on the IKEA white coffee table. I take it to the kitchen sink, piled with dirty dishes. I make my way to the bedroom, where I gather all of my winter running clothes onto a clearing on the bed. I strip in the dark.
I put on compression shorts, compression running tights, and a pair of loose-fitting running pants before covering my feet in smart wool socks. I cover my torso with a compression tech shirt, a loose long sleeve shirt I got from a Thanksgiving Day race, and my black Nike runner’s coat. Gracie’s up, I let her outside. The running group long run map dropped in my email last night. The message is meant for the large group run on Saturday morning. I try to stay as true to the route as possible, running Friday by myself because I work so early in the a.m. on Saturday.
Some of the streets worry me on the route. They are sketchy. I consider modifying the 8 miles, then think myself a coward. It’s cold, snow-covered, and the middle of the day. I should be fine, I tell myself. Plus, if I change the route, I’m shaving off some hill training I will need to run the Flying Pig course.
I let the dog in, grab my hat and gloves, put on my shoes, and make the drive to the start of the route downtown.
It’s 20 degrees when I begin. I’m shaking slightly. I’m complaining about the course in my head before I really begin. Still, I choose to go sans ear buds for music. I want to be aware of my run. I park on the fifth floor of the downtown casino’s parking lot. I then make the steady run up Gilbert Avenue into Eden Park, past Krohns Conservatory, and through Victory Parkway.
Before I know it the little bit of snow stops. No one is really out. I’m nearing halfway done with my route according to the GPS. The snow is mostly powder on the sidewalks, and though I run a little more cautiously the conditions do not impede my pace too bad.
The snow, patches of ice, and clearings make a sort of strange Morse Code. Dot. Public places/churches clear. Dash. Residential areas powdered, mostly untouched snow. Dot. Dot. Poor, rundown areas, snow trampled into ice by so many feet walking to bus stops, or other areas of town. You could map the economy of neighborhoods by snow and sidewalks, I think.
Eventually, I make it to this small park. I have about three miles before I make it back to the start. The last part of the run is the most questionable. As I breathe heavily, even though it is now 18 degrees outside, I know I overdressed. The snow is untouched. The world stills. This is the moment I so often run for. Everything is covered in a white blanket of silence.
My mind is clear. I am right here, right now. There is only now. No distractions, no worry, no doubt, self-absorption, or future. Something in my perception shifts. I take a picture of the scene with my phone, put it in its armband holder, and go. The moment probably only lasts for five minutes.
I run another incline, end up on that sketchy stretch of road. When I arrive, mothers are walking their children home from school along icy sidewalks.
The last mile of my run is the best. I make it back to my truck, where I sit another few minutes thinking. I’m centered. I always put off doing what’s best for me, I tell myself. I decide to go the store to buy ingredients for a white chicken chili I will eat off of for the work week.
My Friday ends with dinner with my parents, clean dishes, and the lingering smell of cayenne chili pepper powder and onions in my house. I fight to make it through another episode of Game of Thrones before dosing off around 9 p.m. on my couch for a solid night of sleep.