It’s Saturday morning, and the rain is coming down in buckets. As the alarm bleeps at 6, I know someone in Malibu is losing his cliff side house to a mud slide, and I can hear the lawn sing for joy as it gets a long, tasty drink of water. And I’m in bed with Anne, my girlfriend, and we’re both wondering if the brick workout is going to happen today.
“We should get up and eat,” I say.
“Yes, we should,” Anne agrees.
We both promptly fail to do anything but burrow deeper under the covers. This is one of those mornings where you are required by law to stay in bed and snuggle until you’re finally hungry and have to scamper to the kitchen for coffee and eggs. Our reverie is broken by Anne’s ringing phone. It’s Susie and Rachel, who sound way, way too perky for this hour. They and Anne are training for the Wildflower Long Course, and they’re supposed to start their workout earlier than me, weather permitting. Anne looks out the window, and the weather isn’t permitting much other than flooding. Ian, one of our Team In Training coaches, had emailed the Long Course people and said that if it’s raining, we ain’t riding.
“We’ll meet you for coffee,” Anne croaks, and then hangs up and continues with the burrowing. It’s very nice.
But we are both badass triathletes, and we need to fuel up. Even if we’re not riding today, we’re probably going to be running. Putting the two together is called a brick workout, the idea being that these are the bricks on which we build a foundation for being true badass triathletes, instead of people who run one day and bike another and swim on yet another. You’ve got to start putting all the steps together, and I missed the last brick because of a snowboarding adventure with Ken. Rain or no, we’re getting out there today.
We eat and dress in bike gear, load up our rigs in Anne’s car, and off we go. We meet the girls at Dietrich’s and then head out to Ocean and San Vicente, two streets that make up the main fitness drag for Santa Monica. San Vicente stretches from Palisades Park to Brentwood and has a rather nice center island that’s covered in grass and trees; Ocean runs the length of Palisades Park to the Pier and has good running trails. Both are usually filled walkers, strollers, panhandlers and everyone in between; today, only the hardcore are out. The rain hasn’t let up since midnight.
Jaimie and Ian, our coaches, are standing on the corner underneath an umbrella. “Leave your bikes in the car and get ready to run,” Jaimie says. Good God, what have I gotten myself into? I think as we hunt for parking.
It is a much smaller group this morning, only 15 out of the usual three dozen. We half-mock our teammates who didn’t show up, but we all wish we could still be in bed. I know I do, especially after Carlyn and Susie and everyone else rip into me and Anne for dressing alike (both of us in Tri Club shorts and nuclear-green jackets; can we help it if we’re on the same team and that cycling rain jackets only come in that color? I sure don’t think so. Jebus, and I thought the mocking would’ve stopped in junior high…). Jaimie leads us in stretching, and then, after waiting for a few others, we’re off. Up Ocean, down into the canyons, and then up and up and up.
And it is pouring. It is dumping. The water is running downhill, overflowing the gutters and filling every pothole and cranny in the road. After a few hundred feet of trying to stay out of the water, I give up and splash through everything that gets in my path. Anne and the other Long Course people are long gone; Ian is leading me and the Olympic gang, all of us trudging away, staying in our heart rate zones and trying not to think about how our shoes keep getting heavier and heavier. And I’m trying not to think about how cold my legs are, or about how crazy this is, or…
…or how can I not think about how beautiful this all is? As we cross Sunset and head up towards Will Rogers Park, all I can hear are our footsteps and the rain falling. There are no cars. The white noise of Los Angeles traffic is gone. There is only us breathing and water running. We duck through backyards and private streets, past yapping pugs and babbling brooks. We cross footbridges and go through neighborhoods I never knew existed.
And, God help me, I feel great. I feel like I could go all day. I could go until the whole canyon is washed away into the Pacific. I could go until the clouds are out of water. I’ve never felt this good in my life.
We get to the end of the run, schlepping up the Santa Monica Stairs, working harder just walking up the damn things than we did running up and down all those hills. The steps are steep and wooden and probably would be a really great place to go on a date, but now I just want to get to the top. I want to see my girl and find out how her run was, and then get the hell home to have second breakfast and dry off. Ian leads us back to the start, all of us taking turns leading running cadences. I break out into my song about Granny (“When my Granny was 91, she did triathlons just fo’ fun.” It continues on until Granny dies, goes to heaven, and tell St. Peter that’s got no time to rest: “I’m gonna go fo’ a personal best.”), and we get to the end of the run, five miles, all of us soaked and exhausted. Anne and the Long Coursers arrive about fifteen minutes later, and, yes, I know she’s just as drenched and wiped out as me and not feeling beautiful, she is. She looks gorgeous, and I crack up as we try to dry off in the rain before getting in the car.
“What’s so funny?” she asks as she manages to peel off her sodden socks and leap in.
“I just ran five miles, up and down hills, in the rain, and I had a blast!” I laugh.
And there is nothing but the splashing of water on the pavement, of tires gushing through gutters, of both of us shivering and laughing about what we did that morning. There is nothing but exhaustion and joy, and the promise of a hot shower and some more snuggling.
And tomorrow, I knew, the rain will stop, the roads will be clear, and the sky will be brilliant blue. And Anne and I will meet up with more maniacs, this time on our bikes, and we will ride to the ends of the earth. And then the only thing we will hear is our pedals spinning, and the wind in our ears, and the road falling away beneath us as we fly down the road. And I will think about how insane this is, and how fun it is, and how glad I am that she’s somewhere on the road with me.