It was still pretty chilly at the house so I wasted no time. I swapped out the old batteries in my headlamp with a fresh set of AA's. It was five o'clock and the last remnants of sunlight would be completely gone in less than half an hour. Taking the shortest path to the nearest hill, I started climbing up Chena Ridge Road. My body had been feeling exceptionally vital lately, no thanks to environmental conditions, and with the nearly three pounds of fat I had lost over the last month, running up this hill was a tad easier than it had been the last time. For just a few moments, I enjoyed running directly on the surface of the road. Every neighborhood road in the city was covered exclusively in hard packed snow. Runnable? Yes. Preferable? Not exactly. It became quickly apparent that the main road, with its strips of uncovered asphalt and huge piles of spoil on either side, making the roadway more narrow, was far from ideal. I had to turn my face as passing vehicles were so close, they would kick up gravel, threatening my eyes. Neighborhood roads it is.
After just 200 feet of elevation gain, I was starting to shed layers. Like turning the dial on a thermostat, the rise and fall of the roads made substantial differences in the amount of effort I had to put into staying warm.
Darkness fell across the valley. Running along a high road, I looked out over the city and could make out everything with ease; the flashing airport lights, the university satellite arrays, the steam clouds hovering over a dozen different industrial buildings. Next to the sliver of the new moon, Venus was burning bright, offering more light than the sun now. The distant planet may as well be Earth.
About half way through tonight's session, turning back toward the direction of my house, whips of foggy breath reflected my headlamp illumination back into my eyes. I couldn't make out much of the detail in the road and was simply trusting it was uniform enough to confidently take the next step. My lips were cracked and peeling, hour old balm lending no help now. Crimson teardrops stained the white streets behind me. I'd always had issues with nosebleeds and the deep winter air only exacerbated things. I was on the low road now, temperatures closer to zero. The blood froze to my face and temporarily stopped the flow. Surging up the last rise, I increased my heart rate just as much to stay warm as stick to the workout. The last stride of my run brought me through my home's threshold, the balmy room temperature of 61 degrees bringing me back to life.
I started my weekend with fresh, blended coffee, coconut oil, dark chocolate and raw egg yolks. The fast was over but I'm only getting started with this year's journey. I know my Creator has a plan in store and I've been fortunate enough to receive a small glimpse into what's ahead. Near the end of my 21 days, USMES made the announcement that I'd have the privilege of joining the ranks of a few hand-selected athletes on the US Military Endurance Sports elite team. The announcement threw some much needed coal on the fire that's brought me through this endless winter so far. Training camp in Tucson can't come soon enough, but today has its own worries; back to the Grind.