I've run 8 miles before. I have not run 8 miles in say, the last decade. Coming to terms with the fact that my body is not as bulletproof as it was when I was 21-years-old, I start my "long run" with a very conservative-slow pace. I don't have any fancy running gadgets. All I have is a cheap Timex iControl watch so I'm guessing my pace is around 10 minutes to start out.
It's Sunday morning, 5:45 a.m. It's dark. Things immediately get strange not even a 1/2 mile into the run. I cross over U.S. 1 and pass the Audio Vision building when I notice an object buzz past the back of my head. Just a few feet over my head between the building and an ancient oak tree are about 100 small birds flying in a circle. They seem to jaunt back in forth and are flying so erratically that it's amazing they don't have multiple mid-air collisions. Deja vu hits me. I've seen this before. Where? India... Nicaragua... I can't remember. One of the small birds breaks away from the chaos and flies higher and I see it clearly with the early morning sky in the background. IT'S A FREAKING BAT!
I stop running and just kind of gaze at them. Hundreds of bats flying around just feet above my head. They are completely silent, unlike in the movies. I've seen bats in Florida before, but usually only one or two flying around. NOT HUNDREDS! I continue one with my long run.
WILDLIFE #1 = Hundreds of BATS!
Mile 1 comes amidst a peaceful section of Riverside Drive. It's quiet and still dark. I'm feeling really good so I pick up the pace to probably around 9:30 pace. I conquer the North Bridge and with that comes mile 3. I'm still feeling great, but I begin to notice something. I have to pee. This is strange because I used the bathroom before I left and I'm almost always fine for my runs without having to have a bathroom stop. Soon I realize what I did differently. Before leaving I ate a Shot Blok that had caffeine in it. Normally, I eat the regular ones with no caffeine, but since I was up a little late the night before with friends drinking beer of all things I needed an extra boost this morning. It's gotta be the caffeine! TallGuySurfing rarely drinks anything with caffeine in it as I can hardly sit still as it is normally!
CAFFEINE & SYLVAN = bathroom stop.
Soon I'm at the beach ramp so I jog over to the beach patrol station where I know there are bathrooms and showers. The sunrise is just beginning. There are about two dozen people standing on the beach staring at it. It reminds me of a scene in the movie, City of Angels, where all the angels gather each morning for the sunrise. I notice some of these people are still dressed in the close they wore out last night to the party scene on Flagler Avenue. Classic! I'm glad I'm not one of them. The bathrooms are still locked. Damn it. I'm here before the beach patrol take duty for the day! Argggggg.
As I head down the beach the sunrise is absolutely beautiful. The last time I watched a sunrise on my own beach here in town I had been up drinking and partying all night long. Today is a much better way to watch the sunrise. I notice some odd tracks going up the beach. They look like 4-wheeler tracks, but a little different. They are turtle tracks. Probably a loggerhead. There's a mound of dirt where she has laid dozens of eggs several feet below the sand only hours ago under the cover of darkness. The turtle patrol people have not arrived yet and I feel like I'm the first human to see them. A short distance further I see where she returned to the ocean to leave her eggs and eventual hatch lings to discover the cruelty of the ocean.
WILDLIFE #2 = Endangered Species Turtle tracks
Another mile down the beach and I find a port-o-potty to put to use. It smells like a landfill. Then it's heading back west toward the South Bridge. This is the biggest incline for miles around. It's a high rise bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway. I'm not sure what the pitch and rise of the slope is, but the height at the top is about 80 feet and it's about a quarter mile run to the top. As I'm running up the bridge the sun breaks the horizon almost on cue and starts beating down upon me. The temperature seems to rise 10 degrees and I start to feel nauseous. What's worse is my planned water stop is in Riverside Park on the other side of the bridge. I can see the bathrooms and even the little water fountain below in the park not even a 1/2 mile below. It's like the water fountain is yelling at me, "come on dude, you can make it. I'm waiting for ya!" Reaching the top of the bridge I stop and walk. I have to. It's not a choice. Perhaps if I had a running buddy with me I would have humped it out, but by myself it seems involuntary. Must walk now! Down below I notice movement in the water. Many years of surfing and fishing has taught me to notice these things. A mullet jumps wildly out of the water again and again. A large boil follows the mullet. I know this to mean impending doom for that poor mullet. Then a large tarpon, probably five feet long, swallows the mullet whole in a violent attack sending water spraying across the surface. I think to myself, "things could be worse, you could have just been eating by a large tarpon." The water fountain doesn't look far now and I start to run again. Peace out mile 6!
WILDLIFE #3 = Large tarpon and mullet/life and death motivation.
The water is super cold and hits my lips with a freshness that is indescribable. It's good. REAL GOOD. I force down a Power Bar Gel packet and drink more water. There's a drunk guy on a nearby bench smoking a cigarette. He's staring at me like, "what's your deal man?" I give him the "Screw off loser," stare back while nodding good morning to him and continue my run. Only 2 miles to go!
WILDLIFE #4 = Drunk man on park bench smoking cigarette.
The last two miles are uneventful. I ease into a zone. Perhaps I'm at the point of NOT noticing my surroundings. I'm focused on finishing. Tunnel vision for sure. I pick up the pace a little and my body makes me slow back down after a short ways. My knees are fine. No cramps. I just have a little bit of "get-there-itis." The final stretch is before me and I can see my own finish line in the distance. My Chemical Romance's, "I'm Not Okay," starts playing in my iPod. I feel okay as I cross the finishing point, tear off my drenched shirt and headband, start walking for my cool down and start to feel the "runner's high" hit me. I just ran EIGHT FREAKING MILES and most of my friends are still sleeping! Am I okay? I feel fine, but somehow I relate to the song on a small level. I feel like I can eat a small animal. Who knew running would make me so hungry!?!?
I manage to surf for three hours later in the morning with some friends that give me the "you are NOT OKAY" look as I paddle up and tell them I just ran 8 miles. Later in the evening as the sun is setting I surf again, this time because my roommate wants to learn. He takes a pounding and after an hour looks more beat up than myself. He gives me the "how do you do it and make it look so easy," look. It's then that I know after burning about 2,500 calories and still going strong, sunrise to sunset, that I know that I am truly OKAY!