A Fast Run and a Slow Walk

I ran along Lake Hodges on Saturday, 16 miles along the edge, a great run. It started cold and sunny, with a thin layer of fog. We separated into pace groups, about twenty of us previewing the Painted Rocks Half Marathon course. My workout was set at 16 miles, progressing from a warm-up of 6 miles to 4 faster, then 2 even faster, then 4 easy.

It turned out to be a natural progression, running with Cory, Jess, Chris and Jeff, starting pretty easy along the lake and through muddy trails, the pace felt good, then coming across a downed oak tree, a giant across the muddy single track, working up and through branches, not wanting to risk the poison ivy detour route, scraping my knee, then running again. The group turned around at Hernandez Hideaway, a spot my wife and I went to when we couldn't get into Stone Brewery on a Friday night, so we settled for the Hernandez margaritas. Most of the group turned around. Jeff and I went on, the trail got rockier, and we pushed the pace, up a short hill, pausing to take in the beauty of the lake, and I wasn't able to push the thoughts of Chelsea King out of my head. This is the trail where she was kidnapped, this is the lake where the young girl's body was found. We headed back, pushing the pace, me trying to keep up with Jeff, trying to keep his back in sight, rounding turns, losing sight, breathing hard, crossing that easy aerobic line into searing lungs, holding on for one mile, climbing a ridge, holding on for another half mile, through the mud, then Jeff pulling away, then waiting for me, jogging the last four miles back to the car, and stretching in the sun.

Sunday, I walked slow. We took the kids to one of my favorite places, Quail Gardens in Encinitas, which is now called The San Diego Botanical Gardens, but I'll always know it as Quail.

Quail Gardens
The place will always be special to me. I remember walking there with my wife, 10 years ago, from our tiny one bedroom apartment, a couple blocks from the gardens. She was pregnant with our first, so we walked, slowly along the dirt paths, her pointing out the different types of trees, flowers, cacti, as we talked about the small being growing inside her, and the dreams we had. We sat on benches under giant tree tunnels shading us from the summer.

The place hasn't changed much in 10 years, still the same giant tree tunnels, the beautiful pathways through different ecosystems, although we have changed quite a bit, with three kids now and three sets of dreams.

My son, who was sick the entire week, who we had to drag off the couch because we thought the fresh air would do him good, walked slowly down the path, 5 days worth of flu tearing through his little body, his clothes hanging a little looser, too weak to walk more than about 20 feet without a break. The girls walked ahead, and my son and I walked hand in hand, stopping every time we came upon a bench, he pointing out the different plants, telling me the names of his favorite ones, showing me his favorite statues, sounding like his mom did 10 years before, pointing to Cork Oak, Owl Eyes, and Little Pickles. He knows the paths well from afternoon outings with his mom along the same paths she and I walked ten years ago, past the same giant Oaks, and the same fragile flowers. My son and I held hands and shared in the beauty of the gardens, walking slower than I ever have, and seeing more than I thought I could.

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