Pre-Run

It's too early to wake up. I scheduled the run for 8 and at 5:47 AM I'm tossing and turning, half dreaming about the route, the twists and turns, the streams and climbs, the linking of some familiar trails, some unfamiliar trails, measuring the risk of trespassing, crossing some barb wire, hoping that it will be too early for the downhill mountain bikers, wondering who will show and who will flake, and hoping that everyone will love the trail. At 6:30 AM I can't take it anymore, and as my wife sleeps peacefully beside me, I creak and stretch out of bed. It's a cold morning, and the heater won't trigger until 7. I stumble through the bedroom, first looking at the clouds outside my window, dark rain clouds in the distance, but only a slight mist on the ground. I rummage through my running clothes, finding some clean shorts, some arm-warmers, a beanie and my new wool socks. With some wishful thinking, I decide to leave the rain jacket hanging in the dark, back corner of my closet.

I try to be quiet in the kitchen, focusing on each movement to try to dampen the sounds of a cupboard closing and glass on the granite counter. I pour the coffee grinds into the aluminum stove-top coffee maker with the happy Italian pointing one finger in the air. The gas hisses and the starter clicks as the small explosion wraps around the base and warms the back of my hand. I breathe the sigh of a failed mission as I hear small feet on carpet in the bedroom above. I listen to him as he dresses in the clothes that he laid out for himself the night before, like a police chalk drawing on his bedroom floor, complete with a hat and sunglasses. He walks down the stairs and smiles as he peeks around the corner and his eyes have that ever-present glint of a mischievous 6-year-old. He knows that it's too early for him, but wanting a soft, half-sleeping hug, I open my arms and swallow him up in them as I kiss his sleep-warmed cheeks. He is wearing an old Catalina Marathon t-shirt that is a few sizes too big and covered in small islands of purple, red, green, and orange acrylic paint. I guess that is the type that doesn't wash out.

The dog runs to him, jumps and licks the boy's face. The dog promptly falls to the ground, claiming her space at his feet, exposing her soft belly, and asks, no demands the morning pet/scratch/rub. She signifies her approval with front paws hooked over his forearm with just enough pressure to make him stay there until the job is done.

The heat clicks on at 7, blasting warm air through sleeping bedrooms and over cold kitchen tiles.

The dog now sits patiently by the back door, waiting to go out for the morning. As I step into the backyard, the sound, like a rattler at my feet, makes me jump, heart racing and instincts, though a little slow at this time of the morning, kick in, as I shield my lower legs by jumping sideways and avoiding the razor sharp fangs filled with paralyzing poison that I am sure are lunging toward my shins. As I look down I see the sprinkler head that popped up, the stream of water a hiss at my feet. Walking back inside, I feel a few drops of rain...it might come after all, but I'm still not going back upstairs for the rain jacket.

I drink my coffee and eat my oatmeal mixed with Nutella and peanut butter, I am anxious for the long trail run with friends, but reluctant to leave the warm, mostly sleeping house. Before my son fell asleep the night before, I had promised to take him up to his favorite trail. A spot where some kids had worked for hours digging out a berm and a couple of jumps on a small, circular dirt path, past an abandoned yellow car covered in rust and suburban graffiti and a couple of power line towers that always make me think of A Wrinkle in Time. Talking about the afternoon ride leads to talking about camping and biking trips in the mountains when he gets older, and waking up early so he can wear his headlamp and run with me in the mornings. And I tell him nothing would make me happier.


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