At the early hour of 4:30 a.m., the alarm rings and she stirs in bed. Then come the contact lenses and the hair cinched into a ponytail. Through the clothes drawer she searches out a sports bra. Then socks. Matching socks can be hard to find. But it should not matter. It’s still dark outside.
She got in late last night from a meeting and didn’t have time to lay out her run gear like she usually does. The shoes come out from under the bed. They’re a bit stinky because the workouts have been increased lately. Race coming up. Motivation.
There’s a bottle to mix up with sports drink. It goes in the belt for a short run. Three miles, plus hills and sprints. It’s still dark outside. Barely any traffic. She breathes and keeps her stride at a brisk tempo.
At this time of day, there are few cars out. That makes it all the more important to be alert. But it’s hard. It is still only 5:10 in the morning. The eastern sky barely shows a tinge of light. There’s a firm wind out of the south. She feels it tug on her ponytail and the front of her hat. Everything’s still in place. She thinks about her pace. Keeps an eye on the sidewalk ahead with her head lamp.
The miles go quicker than she expected. Her legs are tired, but they keep moving. More distance. More speed. Race pace sits out there like a carrot at the end of a stick.
Back home, she tosses dirty laundry into a hamper that is filled with the week’s efforts. Down the stairs she goes, carrying the lot. Into the washer it goes, lights with lights. The wet stuff from the washer makes it into the dryer. It is 6:05 in the morning.
Next comes the shower. The grateful feeling of washing off sweat. Tugs and strains at the hair. She needs a haircut. One more thing to book. The nails could use a touch up too, both hands and feet. The things a woman does to be presentable.
She dresses in stages. Bra and panties. Then clothes decisions. Switching one shirt out for another if there’s a change of heart. Then shoes. Always choices of shoes. Then there’s makeup to do. A face to prepare for the world. Then the hair dryer roars into action, and a straightening iron as well. She smooths her naturally curly hair into a look that goes well with her pressed clothing.
Then it’s out of the bedroom and into the kitchen to make coffee. It brews quickly, an invention she truly appreciates. Life has certainly changed within her lifetime, she observes.
But some things stay the same. She grabs from the fridge an egg concoction wrapped in aluminum foil that she made on Sunday evening. She cooks them in muffin tins and pops them into the refrigerator. One for each day of the week. Then the hotcoffee goes into a travel mug and eavy computer and file bags are slung onto a shoulder and she’s off in the car to make the 7:20 train.
This is hard work some days, she admits to herself. But she loves it. Even when it kicks her ass.
The sun peeks through a line of trees during her drive to the train. A thin veil of leaves shifts across the road with the breeze of each passing vehicle. Fall is here. It’s only 20 days until race day.
First, there are days at the office in the world she’s created in her professional life. More details to manage. More things to accomplish.
But as she gets off the train she can feel that her legs have recovered from the morning’s workout. She feels strong and walks fast through the terminal. Stepping out on the street of the city, she feels tall as the buildings that rise around her. Those incremental activities of the morning fall away. She is both an athlete and a woman which are good things to be even if it takes more work to be both than any man can ever imagine.
Her work shoes are in her bag as she strides down the city block crossing beams of sunlight along the way. She’s got it all together now, and whatever it takes to keep it that way, she’ll get it done.