Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hitting the trails in October

Despite the fact that the weather on October 1st, topping out in triple digits, did not seem to indicate a change of seasons and a new month, by the end of the week (yesterday and today), the temperatures dropped by 20 degrees.  Hooray - it FINALLY feels like fall around here!  It seemed to take long enough, but I honestly think I think that I forget every year how miserable I was the previous year in September.  This year, September's heat seemed particularly obnoxious, perhaps because I was, in theory, trying to kick-start my running mojo.  At a certain point, I decided that my mojo would just have to wait until October.  First of all, the weather.  Secondly, we seemed to be ridiculously busy in September as I returned to school and we had a busy social schedule.

Going out of town last weekend did not help the 'busyness' feeling, but we could not avoid that trip.  Someone in my family had a significant birthday, so, being the dutiful daughter that I am twice a year or so, we traveled to south Texas for a weekend of revelry.  And what a weekend it was - filled with the usual activities: drinking too much; going to Mexico to shop, eat and drink margaritas; fighting/arguing over politics; shooting squirrels with the bb-gun; and playing around with my nephews (my niece is officially a teenager and I'm not sure that "playing around" is possible).  We also saw a soccer game in which my nephew suffered two injuries - he got the wind knocked out of him when a ball hit him right in the belly and he also chipped a tooth when he took a header.  Fortunately, he's a pretty resilient little guy, so neither one slowed him down too much.  I also went for a run on Sunday morning (that would have been physically impossible on Saturday morning when I felt that someone had hit me over the head with a sledgehammer - so much pain!).  Considering how flat it is where my parents live, you would think that I would have kept a fast pace, but I was definitely taking it slow.

While this week started off a bit rough around the edges as I recovered from our trip (it takes me at least a day or two to catch up) and tried to not be too angry about the heat, I also managed to hit most of my workouts and even got in THREE workouts before work - two early morning swims and one run.  That is a minor miracle for me!  I also hit the trail this morning, motivated and accompanied by a drinking/running mate, and I managed to slog through a 12-mile (or so - don't entirely trust the Garmin) run.  I hoped to hit 10 miles, and while those last two were pretty rough, it gives me a small confidence boost as I think about the 30k.  It won't be a fast race, which was confirmed today as I reacquainted myself with trail running and had to take it easy on both the uphills and downhills, but running on trails is such a different experience from pounding out the miles on the pavement, in both a mental, physical and even philosophical sense.  Mentally, I find trail runs both more and less challenging - it is hard to see a 15-minute mile pop up on the Garmin, but then it's great to enjoy the sense of getting away from the noise and busyness of the highway - and even just local roads - even if it's just a for a morning run. Physically - the tricky terrain can present problems (I almost turned my ankle twice and had visions of being airlifted out), but I always feel better after a trail run than after a run around the Rose Bowl, for example.  My joints creak and ache less, probably because my body is constantly adjusting to the rise and fall and twists and turns of the trail, and probably because I can't run as fast as I would like.  Finally, the philosophical aspect - well, I'm not sure if I want to fully wade into that topic yet, but I approach a trail run with a different ethos than when I'm pounding out a mile or two or more on the road.  It is definitely about the process and not the final product!  At times, I found myself thinking that the run was really just like a fast hike - I could cover more ground than if I were hiking, but that was just about the only difference.  In the meantime, I crossed a small creek several times, stayed on the lookout for rattlesnakes, took in a deer that bounded off in the opposite direction, and on more than one occasion stopped to take in the scenery on a beautiful fall morning!

And now, thanks to having Monday off, rather than grade essays this afternoon, I'm headed for a big, fat recovery nap!

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