Originally, I hadn’t planned on running long or hard-ish today, especially after my LONG hike with C yesterday – it just happened. Perhaps it’s a little or all of the upcoming deployment, issues with family & health, an undercurrent of unease and what the fuck am I going to do when N is gone again? or even the gallon-sized portion of Red Cup FroYo that I ate last night (regret….what was i thinking…? I don’t even LIKE PB FroYo!) – but half-way through my morning coffee date while N and I were planning a trip to REI and selecting which craft beer place to hit up post-REI today, I just needed to get out.
I apologized while gathering my running gear and told N I would be back, “in an hour or two.” He responded with, “have fun!”
Oh, how I love this man.
I didn’t set out with a plan, except that based on yesterday’s (and tomorrow’s) hikes and elevation gain, I would stay along the flatlands of the coast and avoid the hills. Otherwise, the road was open and promising. I cruised south along the PCH, gradually increasing tempo to a solid zone 2 – the kind of pace that I feel comfortable at for hours. My legs felt totally fine, like I hadn’t even hiked yesterday and everything just felt good. I cruised past the campground, South Ponto State Beach and even waved a quick hello! to Leucadia Donuts and kept running until the 7.5 mile turn-around point at Leucadia Blvd. My mind wandered, but it wasn’t based on that undercurrent of prickly unease that seems to sit at a constant low-level hum….I was simply in the moment, enjoying a beautiful day.
Everything just clicked. It’s like this when I hike as well – everything is just right and I get to live and love in the moment.
On the way back, I decided to pick up the tempo. In spite of the headwind, the faster pace felt good and my pace dropped by about a minute per mile – still very doable, but harder. I’m not sure what it was about today, but I wanted to work hard and feel uncomfortable…to even suffer – and then push through that feeling and dig deeper…show to myself that I CAN overcome obstacles and take control when occasionally feeling panicked or trapped. It’s an odd sort of phenomena: my ability to suffer on a run, to gut it out and just GO comes easier to me, and in a lot of ways, is SO MUCH easier to deal with than the shitty little things in life. I guess that I didn’t want to think about family drama, or crap with my health. Screw the FroYo. And that undercurrent of fear with a looming deployment #5 – that too gets pushed to back when I’m focused on running hard and I can control my own hurt level. I know this isn’t always the healthiest way of thinking, and it’s not how I would normally handle myself – but again… I think that today I just needed an escape, and running was that vehicle.
During the last two or three miles, I was holding x:xx pace, when I got passed by another runner. Not that I’m always speedy – but when one is running sub 7s, it’s not often that a dude who resembles The Incredible Hulk goes by. Instinctively, I let him get a bit of a gap and then held it. And then gradually, over a 1/2-mile section of coastal highway, I reeled him back in. He choose the pedestrian path, while I took the outside bike lane, figuring I would use the parked cars and campers to my advantage as both wind and sight blocks…. because when I re-passed him, I did NOT want him hanging on my shoulder. Suddenly the run became tactical and even a little, ahem, competitive. I guess I needed that as well. Cruising past the Carslbad Power Plant, I knew it was just under a mile to Tamarack, my turn-off to home and the point where I start my cool-down. So I made my move and felt the pace drop by up to a minute per mile. He hung on briefly – but then I surged and used every tactic I could think of to stay ahead. At one point, I was running so hard that I was focusing on moving from one camper to the next, from one lifeguard stand to another…. and then to the bridge…. breath…..and to the other side of the bridge…left quad hurts….keep breathing… and finally I counted 90-steps in the final block-long segment, knowing that my focus was on running as hard as I fucking could until Tamarack.
And it worked.
I hit the light and then nearly keeled over; and while I could have run across the PCH and jogged home, I waited. I turned around and saw my carrot running towards me, grinning. I thanked him for being a great motivator while he gave me a high-5 and said, “that was awesome!” And then he continued on his way, while I jogged home, trying to not collapse my lung or quad.
I don’t usually write about stuff like this, but there’s often an undercurrent of something or another. I mean… we ALL get and understand the Real Life Shit – but I guess I hardly ever write about an immediate and personal response.
I run because I love it. It makes me happy, and even though there is a lot that is wrong with the world – when I’m out running and I feel the wind, smell the ocean, hear my footsteps and breathing, my heart is happy. Not every run is like this, and I don’t always work this hard or need to toe that line of suffering and pushing beyond pain. To me, running is a type of freedom to just be myself. And sometimes, a really special run just comes along, exactly when I need it.