Black Friday Trail Run in Huddart Park

Happy Thanksgiving, sorry it's late, but I still wanted to get it out there. It has become my favorite holiday, mostly because I'm lazy, I don't like shopping, and I don't like to mix religion and fun. I do, however, like to eat, and spend time with my family.

Last week we loaded the kids into the jeep and armed with 4 DVDs, we headed up the coast to Los Altos to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

On Black Friday I decided to head to Wal-Mart, pepper spray and bile in tow, and saved $5 on a giant flat screen TV where I can now watch C-SPAN in super high def 1090p (you haven't lived unless you've seen every detail of Waxman's 'stache in high def).

Not really. We drove up to see some redwoods at Huddart Park. The kids took off with Grandma in hopes of earning a quarter for every banana slug they saw, and I proceeded to get lost among the giant trees and narrow pine-covered trails of the park.

It was a beautiful 10 mile run, surrounded by the sound of falling water, heavy drops falling from the canopy above. Once I got away from the main parking lot, I only saw one other person, and one big deer who stared at me, blocking the sun. It had a nice rack.

I stood in a circle of trees and stared up, taking in the energy of this place. A few years ago, I sat in the audience as my mom gave a talk about building a successful business and she referenced these trees. She talked about how Sequoias are some of the oldest and tallest living things and shared the strategies and adaptations that led to their growth and persistence; the fact that their roots only go down about ten feet, spreading wide rather than deep and connecting to surrounding trees for strength, and how they grow in family circles, nourishing and supporting each other. And as I stood there, the day after Thanksgiving, I was grateful for my own small family circle, and for the fact that my roots have spread beyond my family to friends, people I run with, and to people who I have never met face to face, but I feel connected to, and I am grateful for all of these connections that support, strengthen and sustain.

Rediscovering Joy

“Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” – Once a Runner

I hit a low point in my training the last couple weeks. I'm out of it now, feeling good and running well, but those low points suck and I wanted to share a few things that helped me get out of it. As is pretty obvious, I'm kind of passionate about running. I devote a lot of time to this hobby...reading blogs, magazines, and books about running, watching video clips, listening to podcasts, planning, and running itself, all without a chance of financial gain. The least I demand out of this hobby is joy.

My friend Eric posted the quote above on Facebook and it really stuck with me this week (as a side note, if you run and haven't read Once a Runner, you really should). Not every run is full of joy, and there's nothing wrong with admitting that sometimes running sucks and is far from enjoyable. I do enjoy the process, however, the process of growth, getting stronger, faster, and going further. I enjoy running at a tempo pace, semi-comfortably, a pace I couldn't hold a few months ago for more than about a mile. I also realize that, just like in a long race, there will be highs and lows. The lows are temporary, and that if you wait around long enough, you'll get a high (I guess I did learn something from that year I spent at Humboldt State). 

I don't know if it was over-training or boredom or pushing too hard or real life getting in the way, or a combination of all of these, but I had no real motivation to run, and it lasted for a couple of weeks. These are the things that helped me get my mojo back, and only a couple of them involve a penis pump.

1) Take a break.

As runners, we are conditioned to deal with the pain, and to push through it. Luckily, I have an awesome coach who listens to me and designs a training schedule for the week based on my performance and feedback from the prior week. This is invaluable for me because it takes a lot of the guesswork out of my training. Normally, I would try to push through these low points and continue with the cycle of fatigue, thinking that it would only serve to make me stronger, when what I really needed to do, and what my coach recognized and advised me to do, was to take a couple days off and when I was ready, to just get out and run, without a watch, without a goal, just run, which leads to the second tip.

2) Go naked.

Run without a watch, GPS, music, and goal. I went to my favorite local trail with my dog (who ensures that I take it easy), and just ran. I stopped every couple of miles to just look around, listen to the sounds and let my dog explore off-leash. I wasn't worried about hitting paces; I was just doing something that I do nearly every day, and enjoying every minute of it.

3) Focus on the now.

I have been stressed about the marathon, and trying to hit a goal time. As the date approaches, I have been beating myself up for not hitting certain paces in training, losing confidence, and creating more stress for the race. I started to feel extremely negative about the marathon, and to look beyond it, focusing on next year's plans that include a lot of trail running. It's funny because I did the same thing when preparing for the Canadian Death Race, sometimes cursing all the trail running and hiking I was doing to prepare for the race. I would focus on the upcoming marathon training and how much better it would feel to run shorter and faster. This is a defense mechanism and a way to give myself an excuse in case I have a bad race. I am now focused on running a strong marathon, trusting in the good, consistent training I have done, and knowing that on a good day, I will run strong, but also knowing that I will enjoy the race and the experience of running with friends under the lights of the Vegas strip. And regardless of the outcome, I will enjoy the after-party.

4) Run with friends.

There is a group of about 5 of us who meet Mondays, Wednesdays, and sometimes Fridays. Someone will usually send an email out the night before, late, to see who else is going to show up, but there is almost always someone there waiting, sometimes with a headlamp in the dark, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with sleep still pulling towards the warm comfort of home, and sometimes pissed off and just wanting to get this run over with before starting another long day.

This group has been rock solid, through good training periods and bad, and as my motivation slipped, and as I started to question why I was training for a stupid marathon...on the road, I knew that I had to get out and run with these guys, with our steady pace, easy conversation, and the comfort of a well-known trail.

We all are out there for one reason, to run, but that encompasses different things for all of us. That morning, for me, "to run" meant throw the self-doubt and negative talk to the wind and the cold, to spit on it. And as the sun came up and the air warmed, nothing special happened, no breathtaking sunrises or hills covered in blankets of wet fog, just one foot in front of the other with friends talking about work, running, kids, problems, future races, past races, and small victories.

I can't join this group every morning, but I know that one or two of us will always be able to make it, and when I need it the most, I know that they will be out there running a steady pace, running for our own reasons, our own "to runs."

5. Rediscover your joy.

Really, this is what it's all about. This whole post could have been simplified to those three words, but it took me the whole process of thinking it out and writing it to bring me here. A few days ago I went for a long tempo run on the coast. It was a beautiful post-rain clear and cool morning. The ocean was like glass, the waves were small, and there was a pod of dolphins about 30 feet out just playing. They were kind of moving with me, pretty much in the same spot and for the duration of the 12 miler, I kept looking over my shoulder and there they were, jumping and gliding in and out of the water, not worrying about a destination, a time, a place, just enjoying the simple beauty of the ocean.

I love watching these short Killian's Quest movies. His joy and his love of running and the mountains flows through everything he does. His joy is so real, young and infectious, that I can't help but be motivated every time I watch him. I especially liked the most recent one below because it not only shows the connection with the beauty of the trail, it shows the joy that flows through everyone that has discovered this connection, with each other, with the trails and with running.

Sony Walkman Mp3 Player Giveaway Winner plus My Snake Encounter

I want to thank everyone who liked Dirty Running on Facebook, and also to everyone who left comments on the Sony Walkman Giveaway post. You shared some great music, some more embarrassing than others, and I've had some really bad songs stuck in my head for the last week.

I did the thing and picked a number between 1 and 154 (I added up the 117 likes and all the favorite running song comments). The winner was number 118, which is pretty cool because it turned out to be the first comment on the blog, so I didn't have to count very high. So, congratulations to Rose at Eat, Drink, and be Meiri. You won, and now you too can look like Lobot. Send me a message with your address and I'll ship the Sony Mp3 player out to you.

I would suggest you leave the music at home when running windy single-track.

You can still like Dirty Running on Facebook as that is where I share running videos, links to podcasts, running tips, and other cool running-related links that I'm sure my "normal" friends get sick of seeing and hearing about.

Speaking of snakes.

I was running in a part of Daley Ranch that I have never been through before. What started as a group of six, slowly became a group of one as each runner peeled off to head back to the trailhead. It was quiet on the trails as I hit 15 miles, and with only 3 or 4 to go, I decided to do a little exploring.

I ran up and then back down the steep and rocky section of Cougar Ridge, and I passed a couple of hikers beating the brush with trekking poles, cameras at the ready. I asked them if they had seen a snake and they said not yet, and they asked me if I had seen any, and I said I haven't, but I'm so oblivious I'd probably step right on one before I saw it (I swear I said that). Once I passed the hikers, I hit Boulder Loop.

I wasn't quite sure how to get back down to the Meadow Loop and eventually the trailhead, and when I saw a couple of mountain bikers fixing a flat off the side of the trail, I asked them for directions. You should head up to the top of the hill, then take a left onto a beautiful single-track, they said, you'll love it, then you'll hit a fire road that will take you back to Meadow Loop.

It was a beautiful single-track and I was loving the shade-covered narrow twists and turns of the trail. I saw a branch sticking out into the trail and I was just about ready to leap over it when the branch opened its mouth wide and hissed, baring long fangs. I wish I could list the string of words that came out of my mouth as my body broke a few of the laws of physics, stopping mid-jump, reversing directions, and quickly backing up about 15 yards as the triangular head of the Diamondback rattlesnake turned to look at me, tongue sliding in and out, seeming to decide if I was worth it or not. It was too late to re-trace my steps, so I decided to wait it out. I probably should have thrown a small rock at the snake to scare it back into the bushes, but I was watching in awe at the harsh quiet beauty of the snake in its natural state as it slowly made its way across the narrow trail. I also didn't want to piss it off any more than I already had. The trail was about two feet wide and as the head of the snake disappeared in the bushes on the other side of the trail, the body seemed to just keep going and going until the long white rattle slid across the sand and into the cover of the brush and scrub. I'm not sure exactly how long it was, but I'd bet some good money it was at least four feet.

I couldn't see where the snake was, and as I debated whether to make a run for it or to wait a couple of more minutes, the mountain bikers who sent me down this path came rolling by. I warned them about the snake and they seemed to speed up to pass it. I watched, waiting for a strike, but none came, so I went for it, releasing a freeing, wild scream, something from deep down, between fear and exhilaration as I bounded down the trail, again, oblivious.

I didn't have my camera on me, but this is a snake.

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