When I first started this blog, it was primarily about running. It’s my true love, the thing that saved my life and keeps me going. That’s kind of why I chose the name “irunintotrees.”* Trail running is way better than road running (obviously) and sometimes, when I’m not paying attention (often) or when I run without contact lenses, I might (often) smack into a branch or two. With my face.
I haven’t been writing a whole lot about running recently. Not because I haven’t been running, but more because my running routine has gotten much more… routine. I only began running a little over five years ago, so at first everything was new, exciting, and I was pretty darn impressed with my constant improvement. After a while, it started getting more and more difficult to out-do myself. I still remember the first time I ever ran the entire 15 mile stretch of the Columbia Trail in New Jersey. It took at least half a day before I could even believe I had done it. My feet haven’t amazed me like that in a really long time.
One of my favorite aspects of the long runs that used to totally dominate my weekends was the thrill of knowing that, at some point in the ever-increasing distances, I would hit a point where every step I took was the farthest I had ever ran. Today, I would have to run over 31 miles to hit that same point. That ish takes time, yo! Not to mention that I don’t think I could go much farther than 15 miles right now without hurting myself (body and ego). So, needless to say, I miss that feeling.
I haven’t pushed miles in a couple of years, and during the bizzy farming season my body was way too exhausted to handle more than 20 miles per week. In January, when I registered for my first official (timed and paid for and all that jazz) race in over two years, I figured I would probably just be embarrassing myself.. but hey, I LOVE EMBARRASSING MYSELF! It makes people look at me like I’m very special. But I’m really glad I went for it, because the 2014 Trinidad to Clam Beach 8 3/4 mile run started to bring back that warm, fuzzy love buzz I used to get from running.
However! I actually rather impressed myself with my performance. Before the race started, I told this lovely lady pictured with me below that I’d be happy if I ran a 9 min mile for the 8 3/4 race. After saying it out loud, I thought to myself how I might not even make that pace. I’ve hardly bothered to keep track of my times and miles in the past year or so. I used to log that data religiously. My nerdery has decreased substantially with the whole dropping off the face of the Earth, living off the grid, out of my car, in a tent, and on what should have been called, “The REAL World: White Hippie Farmers” kind of thing I’ve been getting into recently.
Anyway, I clearly had no idea what kind of shape I was in, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life is that if you set your expectations way low, you’re much less likely to feel the sting of disappointment! Yay positive thinking!
The race was amazing. It started out in the lovely little coastal town of Trinidad, CA. The night before, I couch surfed with an older (but by no means OLD) woman who is locally famous for her involvement in environmental activism and food politics. It was honestly the best possible couch surfing experience I could have imagined. Carol was also hosting three dudes who were cycling from Seattle to San Diego that night, but she let me stay in “The Princess Room.” The cyclists were all friendly and I stayed up chatting with them for a bit after Carol went to bed, but I mostly hit it off with this one guy who, of course, turned out to be a runner himself. Even better, a trail runner. Better yet, an ultra trail runner. I should have known upon first sight; he just had the look to him. The long hair, scruffy beard, and well-conditioned body combined with a general “I don’t give a fuck” attitude. The crass jokes that didn’t really hide the sweetheart underneath. Oh yeah, he was one of us and I knew it.
Obviously, we started talking about running. The conversation, and not just the subject of running, but the opportunity to share this somewhat unusual obsession with another individual, one who felt as passionately about it as I do, roused some pleasant butterflies in my tummy that haven’t made their presence known in quite a while. It felt so good! I missed those butterflies.
“You gotta run like 100 miles per week,” he told me, completely seriously as his travel companions scoffed and rolled their eyes.
“Umm, I would.. buttt I don’t think I have enough time to do that while I’m farming. I don’t even think I’d even have the time to eat enough calories to fuel that much running while working a physically demanding job,” I tried to explain.
“You could do it. Just run everywhere. Stop driving. Run instead.” Something about the way he said it and the look upon his face made me instantly zip my lip. I knew that voice. It was almost like the one I use whenever someone expresses doubt about their own ability to run a marathon, 10K, or even a mile.
It was also exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Not that I’m planning to train for an ultra this summer or anything, but I’m not going to tell myself I can’t either. If I determine that that’s the kind of hell I should put myself through, then I’ll do it. It’s just that most people tell me I’m crazy or some similar adjective whenever I express my burning love for running, especially when the milage gets beyond their own comfort zone. This guy was refreshing because he was ALSO CRAZY and he knew the secret: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMFORT ZONE, FOOLS!
He gets it, and I appreciate that. You know who else gets it? Dogs. But they don’t talk, soooo..
I said goodnight to the cyclists and washed up for bed. But before I retired to the “Princess Room” for the night, ultra-runner dude pointed a finger at me from his spot on the floor in the living room, and shouted, “REMEMBER! The only good pace is suicide pace, and tomorrow’s a GREAT day to die!!” Steve Prefontaine might have said this? Either way, it was perfect.
Back to the race: my couch surfing hostess let me keep my car at her place and gave me some “backroads” directions to get to a sweet little cafe where the bus would pick the runners up to shuttle us off to the starting line. It was a gorgeous walk across this beach
Two mugs of java and two delicious pastries later- I was warming up by the starting line. The race went pretty smoothly. It was mostly on the road, with some rolling hills in the beginning. I’m not so great at going up hills, but I can bomb the downhill like a champ. Usually, I can gain distance on people on downhills, or at least keep pace with runners who pass me on the uphills. I just let gravity do its thing and hope I don’t fall.
The last part of the race was a steep downhill, then a small river crossing, and then a good couple of miles on Clam Beach at low tide to the finish line. As soon as I got to this last part, every cell in my body knew it was go time. From the steep downhill onward, I was only passed by two people, who I caught up with about a quarter mile before the finish line. All of the road miles up until that point just felt like a big group run, but when I crossed the river I found my race. I ran in my Five Fingers, so didn’t have to worry about taking off my running shoes when I got to the river crossing like a lot of the other runners did. And when I got to the beach, my feet instantly remembered running barefoot on the sand in Costa Rica, where I officially decided to ditch running shoes altogether. “I totally got this.” Was all I could think as I passed one runner after the other. Either I was getting faster, or they were all getting slower, but probably both.
I passed at least four more people on my final sprint through the finish line and was greeted by Humboldt State University’s pep band, dressed in clown costumes and playing Queen on the beach. Gotta love it!
As far as results go, I was thrilled with my 8:22 pace. I was even more thrilled to find out that I had placed in the top 10 of my age/sex group! I know that this is only because I turned 30 last year and am now among the youngest in my age group, but still.. I finished in the top 25% of females overall. Considering the fact that only five years ago, I couldn’t even picture myself finishing this race, I’m going to be pleased with myself. Plus, I have plenty of room for improvement :)
Last week, I took a nice, slow long run around the base of Mt Shasta for about 10 miles. It made me feel so warm and fuzzy to do that again, I have no doubt I’ll get back into it.
*I have another wordpress blog that’s currently for my eyes only because I felt like I was so totally over my “asneuralslime” phase. Maybe I’ll poke through it and maybe bring some (or all) of it back to life.*