It was only supposed to be 10 miles, and easy at that. The wind roared. I could feel our house brace against it, hear the trees bend to it. I pulled the blanket up tighter around my head and let the chill pass through me, rattling my shoulders, before sleep took me again. But not for long.
The power had gone out sometime in the middle of the night. Erratic, window-rattling gusts outside had replaced the soothing white noise of our fan inside. I slept light and woke often.
When at last it was time to get up, I tottered downstairs – sluggish and heavy from the weeks’ accumulated mileage. Only 10 miles, I thought, pulling on shoes and slipping into a windbreaker.
“Bring your phone!” Rachel called from upstairs.
“Ok,” I said with reluctance, while rooting through our basket of gear to find the appropriate armband.
I took a deep breath and pulled open the front door. I stepped outside and stiffened, but only a strong breeze brushed across my face. Not so bad, I thought, and started off at a trot, dodging the branches, papers, and containers that littered the circle by our house. Something had happened here.
Traces of my tempo run from Tuesday still lingered in the tops of my quads as I made the climb to the road.
The main drag was eerily still, with the exception of the steady whooshing in the treetops. People had heeded the call to stay inside, and a touch of regret dropped into my stomach. A forecast of sustained 40 mph winds with gusts up to 70mph will do that. Treadmill? I thought. Ten miles on the treadmill? Worth the risk. I pressed on.
The air around me suddenly went still, but off in the distance, I could hear the wind gathering. It rushed through the trees behind me first and then was on me all at once – a tidal wave lifting and pushing me forward. I turned my legs over quicker, trying to keep up with the pace, until the wave finally receded.
A few miles later, I descended onto the gravel path that wound along the stream. The woods moaned. Bare trees swayed and rocked violently against one another. Sharp breaks cracked the air as boughs strained and then snapped, sending branches crashing onto the trail. My pace quickened.
I surveyed the carnage that the storm had delivered in the middle of the night, cognizant that the damage was not done yet. Despite my best efforts to blow through the woods quickly, fallen limbs blocked my path.
I emerged from the woods and let my breathing (and my heartbeat) return to normal. When the wind abated, it was just another tired, Friday run and I fell into an easy cadence. I recalled the previous month, the illness, the injury, the lingering illness. And how for the past two weeks, I had finally been able to string together good, consistent training. I kept thinking, If I can just get to March healthy…. And here I was, the wind washing clean the stains of the month prior.
I retraced my steps down the backstretch of where I had tempoed on Tuesday – albeit at a much slower clip now – buoyed by the optimism of how good my legs and lungs felt finally working together.
I made the turn for home. The world was black and white. Steely clouds raced across the sky. Debris tornadoes spun up suddenly – leaves, wrappers, and paper caught in the vortex – and just as quickly fell apart. Errant snowflakes whipped by. Chaos reigned. A bad trip.
The wave of wind that rushed behind me on the way out was now a wall I had smashed full on into. I strained against the blow. My hat flirted with abandoning me, but I pulled it down hard again. I relaxed against the invisible force pushing me back, feeling myself lifted with every footfall. When it would suddenly relent, I surged forward, gaining as much ground as possible.
I returned to the circle and began the slow walk back to the house, relieved and invigorated. As I unlaced my shoes, I kept reciting Hemingway in my head, “None of it was important now. The wind blew it out of his head.”