Dearest Rachel –
The others tell me that this is perfect weather for this kind of running. And while it’s quite true that whatever form of precipitation the heavens might see fit to drop upon us has finally ceased, I continue to question their definition. I do understand the desire for cooler temperatures when exerting oneself to such an extent; what I do not grasp is that near-freezing temperatures would be considered more or less ‘ideal.’
It’s just one more proof to me that the runner’s world is not mine. Theirs has an outlook that only makes the barest amount of sense, and only if I were to share their aims and goals – which, I hardly need to tell you, I don’t. Their logic simply seems topsy-turvy to me.
But I have committed myself to assist them in this current endeavor, and quite frankly, I’m in no position to back out now, at any rate.
We’re well outside of Illinois, now; the winding park district river trails have given way to the straight lines of county roads marked by single or double letters (I’m not clear on the significance of the nomenclature, and whether there’s a difference between a route with a single letter versus a two-letter designation). We’re also back on schedule; it turns out that several of the teams from the first van are ex-Marines, with the speed and discipline to shave time off the relay to the point where the actual cumulative time matches the time Jim projected on his map exactly.
One of our van’s number needs a bathroom stop, and refuses to use a tree in front of the well-lit school parking lot that serves as the current checkpoint we’re waiting for the swap between teams in Jim’s van. We determine that there’s a gas station by the highway at a remove of some four miles, and decide to make a break for it, assuming we’ll make it back in ample time to follow Jim and his van after the handover. It turns out that the station is right across from our usual lunch stop at the Caledonia A&W. Not that it’s an option for us, in these wee hours; the place is shuttered and pitch dark, save for the light display below their logo sign (which has also been turned off for the night), announcing the outlet’s specials.
This has got to be the most difficult leg of the trip, I would imagine. While the teams aren’t contending with traffic at this hour, they are having to deal with fatigue on multiple levels. Not only have they already run a leg of between five and seven miles in the afternoon, so that their body is tired from that previous exertion, they’ve got to be mentally exhausted by the lack of sleep. While we were parked outside an observatory back in the outskirts of Racine for something on the order of two hours, that’s not exactly enough sleep to be at all rejuvenating. And yet, this is the condition they are to be running, on less than adequate rest.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, between the weather and the cockeyed hours, Erin made the right call in bowing out. Of course, I’m not a runner, and I’ve already made it clear that I don’t understand them, so what do I know?
Of course, Erin was just telling Daniel and I that she’s not a runner, either. Truth be told, when it comes to traversing distances under her own power, she’d much rather be bicycling. But it turns out that she’s actually pretty good at it, and intends to continue with it whenever and wherever it will do some good. An Eric Liddell for our time, she is.
But here and now is not that time.
Another hand-off, another drive to the next checkpoint. I follow Juan (Jim is running with Ingrid for this leg) as he tries to stop at a gas station for the benefit of one of their number, only to discover that the 24-hour gas station they thought they were going to now has closing hours (or, maybe it’s just like that Steven Wright joke about the establishment that assures him that yes, they are open 24 hours, just not in a row). She’ll just have to hold it for a while yet, more’s the pity.
Just one more thing to make the midnight leg of this relay the most difficult of the lot.
And all I can ask is that you continue to wish us luck, honey. We still need it, as we’re still barely halfway in.