Sunday, July 18, 2010

Running with the Devil

It started out responsible enough. I waited for the end of the tornado watch to head out for a 12 mile run knowing that I'd get pretty wet, but welcoming it given the heat of the day. I love running in the rain after being in the sweltering heat of a summer day.

A nice quick trot down the steep Isabel St and up the long shallow gradient of Wabasha Bridge with downtown St. Paul as a backdrop. So far so great, in part due to Fleet Foxes playing over my Ipod! Hit Kellogg, take a right and get my first and last significant downhill for the next 4 miles. I pass the wonderful Lowertown area of St. Paul and start the long rise of Kellogg Bridge as I put downtown running behind me.

And it begins...

Midway on the exposed, long, high Kellogg bridge Fleet Foxes add the rising and alarming sound of sirens to their otherwise extraodinarily mellowing style. Hmmmm. I look to the west and see the tell-tail ominously dark and otherwordly colors of a tornado-potential skyscape. So much for waiting for the tornado watch to pass before running. The rest of the run includes forecasting ahead, every few moments, to the nearest culvert, bridge, cave, or underpass...just in case I decide to integrate some sprints into the run. Thoughts of Dorothy and flying, stiff, mooing cows come to mind.

I turn off the end of Kellogg and catch the continuing rise up along the cliffline to the top of Indian Mounds. What a glorious place to be buried! The Sioux of the area chose this spot to bury their kin given its tremendous position in the landscape. As I run past these mounds I am again amazed at just how wonderful and fortunate St. Paul really is. And just how fortunate I am.

I reach a high point and meander down the path to the Highway 61 crossing and catch Upper Afton as it negins to sprinkle. Another long, steady rise to the top of another high point along the Mississippi River I'm feeling surprisingly well on this run! I crest the last hill just as all Hell begins to break loose. The rain intensifies, the wind swirls the vegetation into chaos and lightning is going off all over the damned place...exactly half way through the run. Perfect! No easy way out. I remove the headphones to enjoy the concert of sound.

I drop down onto the path leading through Battle Creek Park that follows the creek on a steady, dark descent into the gorge where two Indian Nations faught a historical, epic battle seemingly forever ago. The rain now ramps up to an intensity that forces me to buckle under the stinging of its drops threatening to peel my skin off at times. I can barely keep my eyes open to watch my foot placements and give up on looking straight ahead. Branches have fallen off trees onto the path in places demanding instant hurdling and side-stepping skills to develop spontaneously. I mentally locate the up-coming cave and estimate my foot speed downhill, over the creek and dive-time into the caave should a tornado suddenly jump over the top of the gorge ridge high above me.

I escape the volitile, impossing gorge and cross under Highway 61 to catch the footpath back home along the Mississippi River. I run through streamlets sometimes deep enough to overtop my shoes, dodge fallen limbs and two boulevard trees that were uprooted and bear down through the pulses of intensity in the storm. As I reach the barge docks just east of downtown, tug boat captains amplified voices cut through the storm in unclear, deformed tones and their spotlights move around through the darkness and hit the shoreline where I run. I make my turn back up the second to last hill, a good one, back to Kellogg and up to the Wabasha Bridge.

Still going strong! This is wonderful! The rain slows to a nice rate as I run down the beautiful bridge and catch, interestingly enough, Water Street. I head away from home, so I can get that extra mile in, to catch the mother of all hills in St. Paul: Ohio. Fortunately, I only need to do a portion of it, to Isabel, the first street off it from the bottom, but definately feel every stride. The rain picks back up in intensity one last time as if to say "you're not home yet...I still have you for another 3/4 mile!" As if to punctuate the point, a piece of hail finds its mark in the exact center of the top of my head. The wind ramps back up to gail force and the rain goes back to droplets too big to be real. I follow cliffline overlooking downtown back to my home and decide that the 2 block cool down walk will have to be run at what feels like breakneck speed.

I open the door and walk into the house with the biggest smile I've had on my face in quite some time and my wife doesn't need to ask why. She just lights up and smiles knowingly and with joy.

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