February 8, 2014 by scratchtype1
Earlier this week, I got taken back some into the past, but then today ended up going far deeper and all that helped combine to bring me to where I somewhat sheepishly to myself, raised both arms in the sign of triumph and victory. Then as I walked the last little bit home to cool off, I picked up a stray branch alongside the road, as it would be useful kindling for the woodstove. This winter the woodstove has had done plenty of work and earlier this week, it was the only source of heat for home.
Tuesday evening, I did another one of those somewhat desperate runs: run before the weather goes bad again and get the miles, because it would be uncertain how soon again I might be able to run. It was also a run against darkness, the sun still sets on the early side of things and as a result on the 4.4 miles done that night, I ran the last mile of it in 8:15. That’s a fast one for me, and it came after 3.4 miles and a long climb up a hill. But I didn’t imagine during that run that I would wake up a little after 4 in the morning Wednesday, see the alarm clock flashing 12:54 because power had been lost at some point and then had come back on. I woke up and decided to get up and begin preparing and seeing what was going on. The outside light revealed that no snow had fallen, instead it had been freezing rain ever since it began. Tree branches hung heavily with ice and snow from the wet snow that had fallen Monday and of which, very little had fallen away or melted. Shit.
As I prepared the coffee maker, it then happened. The power flicked off and stayed off.
Thus it became that the only way to heat home was the woodstove and the radiant heat it could generate. Unfortunately without electricity, I would get no help from the fan system that the stove has. But by use of flashlight, I resuscitated the dying ghost of the fire from the night before and then made coffee a more old fashioned way by heating water and pouring the water over the coffee in a small filter and basket. Later in the morning, I called work to say I might not be able to get in til 10 or so. As it turned out, a little after 9 AM I received a call that my office location had lost power. So no worry about going to work then. Just as well. It was a mess of ice out there. At one point early in the morning I went outside and listened. From the trees and woods nearby, I often heard cracks and booms of tree limbs falling. One after another. I actually got to witness the top portion of a large hemlock tree break away and crash to the earth.
The battery powered AM radio let me listen to a station that told about the spreading power outages. The numbers would end up huge. Last I heard they said my utility company saw about 715,000 outages, nearly as many as Hurricane Sandy back in 2012. Bad part about this is that it had come in the depths of winter, a winter that has already been long and difficult. But I was then living in a world without power and reliant again on AM radio for news. I felt transported some back in time.
On Thursday, power had been restored at work and I went in that day. When I got home, the temp in the house near the woodstove was 54.1 degrees and eventually dipped as low as 53.5 degrees before the fire I built had enough heat to begin pushing the heat up. I settled in, heated some leftovers that had been moved to storage on the porch, then spent time reading from books by the light of a propane lantern, La Hobito, the Esperanto translation of The Hobbit, a French translation of The Dead Zone, and Born to Run. Later I tuned the radio to a broadcast of the Flyers hockey game and sat by the stove to read and stay warm.
Of the three books, I spent the most time with Born to Run. I read more again about the development of the persistence hunting hypothesis of human development, and I felt my legs itching to run. I had nearly wanted to run when I got home Thursday evening, but judged it more important to get heat out of the woodstove again.
Fortune did smile upon me when around 8:30 unexpectedly the power came back on. And stayed on. Life resumed a more normal pace again.
The next day, Friday, with the computer working again, I learned that a book I had ordered had not been delivered as expected Thursday because of the weather. I thought wryly how it would have been good to read by propane lantern and woodstove. The book is Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich and the following is a video of him from Youtube:
I watched that video Tuesday night and ordered his book. I’ve read about 60% of the book so far since it’s arrival yesterday and it’s fascinating, it’s sort of a preview almost of what would congeal into the idea of persistence hunting in human beings and society.
That’s how I came to this morning and eventually after some other duties and errands, I put on the running tights, 2 tee shirts, a long sleeve tech shirt, a knit cap, 2 pairs of thin gloves and the huaraches and toe socks. And out to run. I wasn’t sure what would happen. I knew I wanted to keep it slow and go at least somewhat long. At least 5. Hopefully at least 6. Maybe up around 8. I thought about how in that deeper past, when food was not guaranteed, how human beings would hunt when the opportunity arose. And so I settled into an easy pace. And followed my instincts, followed what my body felt and mind sensed. Early on I took a short walking break because of ice that had stretched across the roadway. Then I ran for a while more until it just seemed right to take another walking break. Then I ran some while more until again another short walking break felt right. During that time, I was a little less primitive and watching the Garmin tick off the miles. Something astonishing was happening and so I kept running, I did a few back and forth loops and then finally said to myself time to finish chasing down the prey and head home to eat.
I did a long uphill. The legs felt tired some, but I looked to the distant top of it and just kept going. No walking now. Just run. There’s a prey and prize up ahead. Then I went down the other side of that hill, turned left and watched as the Garmin showed me crossing the 13 mile mark. I then ran until a mailbox and stopped the watch. 13.2 miles. 2:13:29. I smiled. I raised my arms in victory. I had not run hard. I had not raced. Yet I had just run those 13.2 miles faster than my half-marathon PR of 2:16:25. Later, feeding the Garmin into the computer, it showed an average heart rate of 133 bpm. Astonishingly easy paced, and yet faster than the best I’ve ever raced a half-marathon. To be fair some, I could have beaten that record with some better fortune back in 2008 and 2009, but still, until today, it was the fastest I had ever run a distance of 13.1 miles or more.
Damn. Still absorbing it some, the unexpectedness of it during this long winter. I feel like a runner more than ever, having now hunted down an unexpected chance at some prey, and feel even more deeply how human it is for us to run, to run for long periods of time, to feel myself pulled along by the sense of reward, to feel myself pushed along by the rightness of it when the rhythm is quick and steady. Maybe it lacked the high spirits of an actual race, but that didn’t matter at all when I raised my arms in victory. I had won. 6 months of running again had yielded a prize, 6 months of barefoot or minimalist footwear running. My feet are so much stronger now, so much springier. The totality of feeling while I run is so much stronger, so much deeper now. So much more human. I run, therefore I am.