Jon Gugala, is on tour with the Karhu Originals Airstream. Here is how his first day went, as they started this week in Texas. Today’s column is a bit of a meditation on bats, getting lost on a run, time zones, and of course, the joy of being on the road with your own Karhu Airstream.
Karhu Originals Tour, Day 1: Texas, a Home for Bats
The Karhu Bear provides advice
AUSTIN, Tex. – Running on Lady Bird Lake my first afternoon after joining the guys on the Karhu Originals Tour, I saw a sign that said, “Texas: A Home for Bats.”
I did not know that Texas was a home for bats–had never considered this–until the next morning, the official start of my trip, when it began at 4:45 A.M.
The local Karhu rep woke Joe Moore and me up after we’d crashed at his place. Moore, a 2012 Olympic team trials competitor in the marathon and a Minneapolis, Minn., local, had also joined the tour with me on day 0, and he was in worse shape, having come direct from 2012 USA Cross Country champ Bobby Mack’s wedding in North Carolina complete with a case of food poisoning.
The Karhu bear in a moment of thought
For someone acclimated to the west coast and its time zone–as I am–waking up at 4:45 A.M. CST reduces you to a mass of cause-and-effect muscles: You do what you’re told, and nothing else. You are only dimly aware you’re mouth-breathing.
Joe and I death-marched our way to the Karhu rep’s car at 5 and drove through the neon Austin morning to Rogue Running, one of the city’s independently owned specialty running stores. There, Wesley, the departing American Joe was replacing on the Originals Tour, and Jyrki, the token Finn for the trip, had set up the Karhu trailer (referred to herein as an Airstream, since, as the CEO says, a trailer is something that gets hit by a tornado).
It was 5:15 A.M.
At 5:15 A.M., I am not normally out of bed. I am not even thinking about getting out of bed. I AM NOT AWAKE AT 5:15 A.M.
But at 5:15 A.M. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are on average 75 people in Rogue Running milling about, who by all appearances show no sign that this is abnormal. They wear little clothing (more on that in a second), preparing to put in a morning’s work before heading to their workday.
Most are what owner Chris refers to as “locally competitive,” which in the men’s case can mean a 2:35:00 marathon (God knows what the women run–fast). We were invited by one of the coaches to follow the marathon groups, which were doing six, eight, or 10 miles.
And that brings up another point of running in Austin before the sun comes up: it feels like the inside of someone’s mouth–hot, humid, and dark. It requires the navigation skills of a bat.
Joe and Jyrki and I took off our shirts as a survival mechanism and headed out after a late start. We caught one group, and then another, and kept going, only to discover that–surprise!–it is a poor decision to take the lead of a group when you do not know where you are going.
And so we got lost.
When we found our way back to the shop, Jyrki and Joe went out for another few miles; I put on the Karhu bear head and gloves and ran a mile in preparation for Sunday, since I’ve been conned into running a 5K in a bear costume (Karhu PR person: “It will be a great story!” Me: “Um.”).
We visited one more shop after Rogue, so we towed the Airstream across town, which sounded like someone had tied a frying pan to the fender and we were dragging it behind us.
As we approached the parking lot, Jyrki, who has been navigating for a month and a half with the Airstream at this point, said, “If you’re driving on a highway and you have space, it’s no problem. But places like this . . .”
We took up six spaces in a parking lot in front of 1379, another run specialty shop kiddy-corner from a Starbucks. Joe spent the next four hours demonstrating his ornithological knowledge, which consisted of pointing out the same species of bird (the “Texas Grackle) five or six different times. It looked like a blackbird.
Jyrki actually worked, and helped a handful of people try on shoes. But mostly we were ignored by people on their way to Starbucks. We took pictures with the staff of 1379, packed up the Airstream, and started the drive north to Dallas, where we’re camped in a state park for the remainder of the week before the Dallas 13.1 Half Marathon this weekend.
Jon Gugala, trying to fly
It’s almost 10 P.M.; I’m in a Target Starbucks poaching internet and drinking coffee that will keep me up too late. I’ve purchased batteries for my headlamp from a sporting goods store, which is good, because unless I learn how to make clicking sounds to navigate in the dark, I will fall into the lake our campsite adjoins.
It’s getting late, but then again, nighttime is for bats, and Texas is their home.