Horny Lizards and Deer Ticks

So, it rained this morning and I was supposed to go on a field trip with my son to Batiquitos Lagoon, but they cancelled it because they don't want the kids to get wet. This is my favorite kind of running weather...muddy trails, clouds, a cool wind, and the chance of being covered in rain and mud all add to the experience. I texted some friends, wondering if anyone was up to getting muddy with me, in a running-related way. They all responded that they were working, so after letting them know they were a bunch of responsible members of society, and I meant that in the worst possible way, I changed into my wet-weather gear and was out on the trail, heading in the direction of the Horned Lizard Trail.

My thoughts quickly turned to why we can no longer call things with horns, horny. It's too bad. I don't like the word horned. It's one of those words that isn't quite one syllable, but it's not two either. I mumble a lot, so I feel like I have to over-pronounce things so people understand what I'm saying, so I end up saying horn-ed, like some character on Downton Abbey. I have an English friend who is an English teacher (which is almost cheating, I don't even think he needs a teaching credential for that, he probably just showed up to the job interview and was like, yeah I can teach English, check out my accent), and I'll have to ask him how to pronounce the word horned, but until then, I'm taking it back. I'm calling the trail the Horny Lizard trail. Just because some people are immature and can't handle the fact that reptiles have horns and are thus horny, we shouldn't have to change the word. It's just another case of ruining language due to society's lowest common denominator. Besides, I have never seen a lizard that wasn't horny, the way they look at you sideways and dart their tongue in and out, licking their lizard lips. Those are some horny bastards.

Yesterday was an awesome day. It started way too early at an aid station for the Lake Hodges 50K and 15K. I was pretty sick from a Halloween party the night before (and 4 hours of sleep and 2 Alka-Seltzers didn't help much), but hanging out with friends and helping runners put me in a great mood. Our aid station was school-themed, which really was just an excuse to get my wife to buy a school girl outfit. She had this big paddle and used it to give the runners an extra boost as they left our aid station. She was a little too good at it.

After a nap and some delicious Persian food from the mother-in-law, we rallied and headed out to the Belly Up to see one of my favorite bands, Deer Tick. It was a great show, complete with a tribute to Lou Reed, a Hank Jr. cover, and every song that I wanted to hear. The lead singer, John McCaulley, sings his heart out, and with such passion, that it makes me think there is no way he can keep it up for more than 5 years or so. I know some runners like that, always running too much, too fast, too hard, and they probably know that they should slow down, take some rest days, not race so much, but just try telling them that.

Thanks for reading,

Coyote Trail

I have all of these romantic notions of why I love to run...the connection to nature, hanging out with friends, working through the stuff that's in my head, the routine, the effects on my mental and physical health. And while running is all of these things, sometimes it's just about the hurt.

It's primal, I guess, this need to put myself through pain. A more evolved me would shy from it and hide in the safe, comfortable bubble of self-preservation, but sometimes I need to feel the physical pain. And I'm not talking about the great feeling after the struggle, the overcoming of pain, but just the pain itself.

Cameron and I set off on a short run on some local trails around the neighborhood. It's a familiar route, up the steep hill behind the old dump to the La Costa Preserve, down the switchbacks of the Horned Lizard Trail, to the Copper Creek connector trail, across a couple of small streams and hand-built bridges, through a tunnel of trees, then out, and instead of continuing up to the water tower, Cameron pointed to a narrow single track, "wonder where that one leads?" It doesn't take much to convince me, so I turned onto the trail that led up a steep, rocky hill. "Let's find out," I said as we were already pushing up the hill.

What started as a single-track trail quickly turned into one of the hundreds of coyote trails that snake through the local hills. You can tell a coyote trail from a running trail because the brush quickly closes in at chest level. That, and it's really hard to follow. We worked our way up the hill as the branches tore at my shirt, my shorts, and tore at me, marking their path in blood up and down my legs. I half-expected to turn around and see a witch brandishing a big, red apple, and I quickly glanced around for the little people who would rescue me.

We slowly pushed forward as the trail disappeared and each step brought thicker, sharper bushes. We were close to the top, and had covered too much ground to turn around and put ourselves through the pain of a retreat over the same ground that we had painfully won. We stopped, surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees, and with no trail to guide us, we just pushed towards the top of the hill. With every step towards the top, and with every new cut, there was this release, this screw you to comfort, to safety, and to sitting behind a computer all day.

After what seemed like a very long time, we reached a familiar trail near the water tower. I took my shoes off and dumped out the accumulated dirt, picked the nettles out of my clothes and skin, and we compared the bloody cuts that crisscrossed our legs.

I talked to Cameron on the way back about feeling down, about lacking motivation, about not wanting to be tied to future races and adventures in order to be able to motivate myself right now, and he offered some good advice, but the best medicine of the day came deep in the bushes, on a trail that was no longer a trail.

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