There is something about running downhill that can transform this boring step after step barely lifting your knees sidewalk clippity-clop activity called jogging into a thrill-ride where adrenaline pumps and coarses and you try to keep thoughts about what would happen if... out of your head. This is trail running at its purest and most instinctual and by far my favorite part of running. There is not much danger in my life anymore as a consequence of having a wife and three kids to look after and who look to me to provide. I don't smoke anymore, I don't do drugs anymore, I jumped out of an airplane when I was eighteen and I probably won't do that again either. Motorcycles have never interested me. I purchased life insurance a few years ago and got a complete physical and took the risk questionnaire which was sent to the actuary and I got a good rate. But they didn't ask a damn thing about trail running, because it doesn't sound that exciting, it's just running right? Even worse, jogging. I was doing intervals at the track last year, grinding out what I thought were pretty fast 400s and there was soccer practice going on and this mom in her 20s with her young toddler walking on the track and I thought I would fly by them and they wouldn't know what in the name of Mercury had just scorched by and as I passed the mom said "watch out for the jogger, honey." And with that, a little piece of me died.
On New Year's Day I organized a "1st Annual No Puking on the Trail" trail run on the trails around Lake Hodges. It was a beautiful morning and I still had the previous evening's indulgences threatening the name of the run and my head was screaming at me and the sun to stop, just stop. But as I worked my way up the trail and around the blue lake with the sun reflecting, bouncing back to me dripping in sweat, I felt good and as I hit the trail back down, plotting a course and dodging people, jumping around rocks, leaning forward, breathing hard and searing lungs but not noticing because you can't take your eyes off the trail, you can't lose that focus while running that edge between control and running with scissors and I felt the best I ever feel.
New Year's Day at Lake Hodges
Running With Scissors is one of my favorite books and I think it would make a great running book title, but it isn't a running book, it is a book about a seriously messed up childhood and coming of age that will make you feel all too normal. But it would make a great running title and that was the reason I first picked it up. I try to read as many books on running as I can, and every year I try to read the new running books that end up being similar to the old running books, but with new voices. The best running books I read this year were:
- Brain Training for Runners (Matt Fitzgerald): I recommend this book to everyone that I run with. When I first picked up this book I thought it was going to be about the mental aspect of training your brain to deal with the pain and discomfort of racing. It really surprised me because it was more about exercise physiology and how to properly train yourself to avoid the fatigue that sets in when pushing the limits in a race. Matt also co-wrote, with Brad Hudson, another of my favorite running books this year, Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach (the title needs some work, but the book is great especially if you want to set up your own training plan for a goal race).
- Born to Run (Christopher McDougall): Just read it - even if you don't run or hate running, after you read this book you will want to enter your first ultra.
- Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food (both by Michael Pollan): These books aren't running books, but they are great and will change the way you eat. Most people hate running because they try it while they are fat and out of shape and it hurts, bad, so they don't give themselves enough time to get fit and healthy, and that is when running starts to become enjoyable. These books help you get fit and healthy.
Happy New Year. I didn't make any goals this New Year except to try and be a better person. I don't write it down, I don't follow a step-by-step action plan and I don't have a dream board; I just work on it. Going back, I could have written down that this year I want to go trekking in Nepal and climb to Everest base camp, but that wasn't really in my realm of possibilities a week ago, but a few days ago I was offered the opportunity to join my mom and brothers on a trip to Everest, so I took it. The 100k that I was training for is going to have to wait until next year, but that is okay...it wasn't a New Year's resolution anyway.