Trail Thoughts -- Fear and/or Bieber

Ran with Jeff and James on Saturday. I needed to get in 24 miles, and they both joined me for some of the distance. We ran the trails around Lake Hodges and San Pasqual and covered most of the Lake Hodges 50K course (wish someone would bring that one back). We passed a high school football team doing a ten mile charity run. Some of these kids were carrying weights, and there was a group of what looked like O-Linemen carrying this thick rope over their shoulders.

A few miles into the run Jeff mentioned that one of his friends asked what he thought about while out on these long runs, and his response was nothing, there was just usually some stupid song stuck in his head, then talk turned to the Bieber and Ke$ha, and how horribly catchy they are, or as my 9-year old described it, pure awesomeness. It's true, most of the time I just zone out when running long. Sometimes a stupid song repeats through the miles, random thoughts come and go, things I can't recall after the run, which is probably a good thing, but sometimes something stays with me.

I'm not sure when it hit me, probably when Jeff turned around and I was running alone down the singletrack near San Pasqual. There were rabbits and squirrels everywhere. It felt like I was in a Disney movie, but then I remembered an email from the tri-club about the San Pasqual trails and how there were a ton of rattlesnakes down there, then I realized on some of these trails I couldn't really see where my feet were landing because they were so overgrown, then I started seeing the signs warning hikers and runners about rattlesnakes and mountain lions. And then I got scared.

I don't necessarily hate snakes, it's just that I would rather not be bitten by one. It would hurt, and I was about 7 miles from my truck and, from what I could see, 3 or 4 miles away from anyone else, and it would be a painful hassle if I did get bit by a rattler. I saw this huge snake skin in the middle of the trail. The skin was broken into two parts, and at first I thought it was some sort of agricultural netting, to keep the crop hairs from contaminating the soil or something, then I picked it up and realized it was a snake skin. So, yeah, at that point I was scared.

It wasn't an irrational fear. All fear is anticipation of future events, and there is no fear of the present, only action, only dealing with the task, or the crisis, or the emergency at hand. My mind drifted to something else I am currently afraid of. I am scared to go to Canada and run 78 miles in the Canadian Rockies, I am scared that it will hurt, I am scared that I will fall, and above all, I am scared that I will fail. I feel this fear in my stomach when I am being honest with myself, and I have felt this fear before. I remember feeling it before my first triathlon, I remember feeling it before my first 5K, the Carlsbad 5K in 1989, I remember it before the one cross country meet that I actually didn't feign illness for, I remember it before Ironman waiting to jump in the water, and I remember it well last year before the 50 miler. The funny thing about this fear is that when the gun goes off, or someone yells "runners, go," the fear goes away. There is still pain, there is still suffering, but in that moment, the fear vanishes.

Fear is useful and dangerous, it prevents me from taking risks, and sometimes that is a good thing as far as self-preservation is concerned, but it can also prevent pushing to the edge. That feeling of nerves and anticipation is also why I like to race and compete. If I wasn't afraid of that edge, it would take some of the fun, and some of the satisfaction out of the accomplishment. On Saturday, pushing through 24 miles, I was glad that the fear was there because it sure beat an annoyingly horribly catchy song on mental repeat.

Heading towards Raptor Ridge

Dodder, a beautiful parasitic weed

Snake skin; this is where I decided to turn around

"Protect them by protecting yourself"

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