Monday, December 14, 2009

The Spring Chicken Ride, Euphoric Rain Ride, and Rapturous Noble Canyon Run

So I've been training again. Or trying to...that's the problem with the Prep phase. Lots of false starts. Isn't it the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics--a body in motion tends to stay in motion? Same with a body at rest, unfortunately. So I've been trying to jump start the body into continual motion again and mostly successful. It's hard to wake up early in the morning when it's cold and dark outside. Ah, winter blahs. And I've definitely not been swimming enough.

Last weekend, an old friend came into town, and we biked the weekend away. Sunday's 50-miler up Del Dios and back through Elfin Forest was gorgeous, incredibly fun, and accompanied by a small group of great people that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting. We entertained each other as we toiled up Del Dios with various topics--favorite childhood toy (My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, etc.), favorite Halloween costume (the most humorous being a Snuggy with Care Bear ears), and random nicknames for each other (Spring Chicken?). Random but completely hysterical in the blitzed-out state you get while trying to zone out the hard work of a long climb.

This weekend, too, did not disappoint. It was precipitated by a nasty virus that threatened to leave me completely bedridden and unable to complete my weekend activities. Luckily, 2 days of rest allowed the fever to pass, and by Saturday, I was ready to attempt a bike ride. Rain was in the forecast but I called its bluff. It's San Diego afterall. It doesn't ever really "rain" here, right? I showed up for the TCSD club ride in Del Mar, only to find out it was cancelled. It was just me and 4 other nutballs. The other nutballs waffled but I egged them on. "Hey, it's not raining yet!" I convinced them to start, although they threatened to turn around as soon as they felt a drop. "But after it starts raining, and you're already wet, you minize well finish, right?" They looked at me with raised eyebrows as if to say, Who IS this crazy chick?

We started off down the coast, chattering away. Me, chattering? I know, I know. Quite the anomaly. Although it was misty, the ambient air was warm, as if insulated in a cloud. I felt giddy after my 2 days of bedrest. It just felt good to be healthy again. We reached the Carlsbad Starbucks, the 15-mile mark. We decided to keep going. Ah, the daredevils were we! Like that Seinfeld episode where Kramer test drives the car until it has no gas left...and keeps driving. We made it to the Oceanside Harbor before turning around (the 20 mile point). We were victorious. We were going to do 40 on a day when everyone else had stayed in bed!

First, the headwind hit us. I hadn't realized we had been sailing north on such a strong tailwind! Tricked again by Wind's tomfoolery! And, then, the skies opened up and the rain began pouring. Dumping buckets. We were soaked within minutes. I could no longer see through my sunglasses. I removed them and tucked them into my jersey. Seeing was still a challenge with my contacts but I managed to peer down the road with the one-eyed-half-squint. I put my head down and went to work. I began to enjoy exerting physical effort against the elements, and the feel-good euphoria began to snowball. Before I knew it, I was zipping down the coast against a headwind in pouring rain in pure and maddened ecstasy. I looked back, and no one was behind me. I waited for a few minutes. Finally, my miserable wet friends caught up with me but I irritated them so much with my senseless exuberance and peppy pace that they finally waved me on. I took off in glee. It made no sense but I absolutely loved the final 10 miles of hard pedaling against the wind and rain. I saw no other cyclists on the road. I took a sick pleasure in knowing I showed up and rode while everyone else stayed in bed. And I liked it! I felt happy for the first time all week and relished in the long-awaited emotion. I earned that happiness.

Sunday, I braved the cold mountains for a 12-mile run in Noble Canyon . I started at the top and began running down, freezing in the 40-degree (with much colder wind) weather (at altitude). Rationale? Well, Ironman Utah will be at 4,000 feet, and the run is sadistic. Strategy? Lots of HARD trail runs at altitude, of course! Which, around here, basically means Palomar or Laguna. Nice that San Diego has some mountains, eh?

The trail was narrow, rocky, and treacherous. And I LOVED it. I flew down at an 8 min/mile pace, stopping briefly to cross over 2 very full creeks. My feet flew over and around the rocks. I felt like I was dancing. I stayed relaxed and let my feet do the work. I was warm, and my quads, abs, and upper body were aching from all the work. I was invigorated by the sights--the vibrant reds, greens, and silvers blazing from surrunding bushes in the chaparral. The vegetation changed rapidly as I descended--cold, shadowy forest with pine trees, some mud--to nothing but slippery rocks with steep cliffs on either side and cacti, then meadows of crimson buckwheat dotted with manzanita, vainly showcasing their twisted, mahagony branches. Little yellow birds flitted from bush to bush. A large surprised hawk sluggishly soared to a nearby tree after I passed a hair too close. In the distance, a grazing doe ran for cover. I was 100% preoccupied--mind, body, and soul--with the run. I was focused mentally with full concentration on where to put my feet. One misstep, and I risked a sprained ankle. My body was working, working hard. And I was completely captivated and overwhelmed with the sights, sounds, and smells.

I passed a group of mountain bikers, struggling to navigate over the rocks and creeks on the way down. They must have been a little emasculated to be chicked by a runner! At the bottom, the sun peeked out between the clouds, and I removed my gloves and rolled up my sleeves. I was sweating. I smiled and nodded to a walker, a couple with a dog, a pair of mountain bikers, but other than that, I reveled in the solace of my solitary running.

After running 6-miles down at breakneck speed in pure delight and glee, I realized with dismay at the bottom that I had to run 6-miles back up the mountain. At mile 8, I began to feel tired, hungry and thirsty. I quickly downed my supply of water and Cliff Blocks. The wind picked up, and the sweat on my arms quickly chilled my skin. I rolled my sleeves down and pulled my gloves back out, thankful I had dressed in layers. My legs were achy and tired, and I had to use more willpower to pick my feet successfully over rocks without tripping. There were a few close calls, a few steep ascents where I walked, but I kept on moving. At last, I found a rhythm where I was mostly shuffling, not quite running but not walking either, and making good progress up the mountain. My breath came quickly now as the air thinned. My body was working hard, and exhaustion was around the corner.The last 2 miles were excruciating but I knew I could make it. I can always run 2 more miles. My legs felt wobbly and rubbery. As if to remind me how tired my legs were, I completely forgot to pick my feet up over a wild rose bush and instead, trudged right through it. I don't know if it was the fatigue or the cold but I didn't even notice the blood running down my legs until I got home. Ah, proudly earned war wounds.

And then, it was over. Seemingly as suddenly as it had began. Where had the last 2+ hours gone? A run so completely intoxicating I think I found nirvana. I was completely exhausted, completely exuberant, and completely victorious. The runner's high I felt at mile 1 is still with me even this morning. Last night, I just felt fuzzy and numb and happy. After making it back home, I ate and ate and ate before passing out at 8 pm to sleep soundly for 11 hours. This morning, I am tired and VERY sore but still full of happiness. Today is a rest day (from exercise) but I'll be back at it tomorrow. I think abundant volumes of exercise is key to my happiness.


mhighfil said...

Stumbled across your blog a while ago while I couldn't sleep and was looking for inspiration. I'm sick right now and aching to do a long workout. Thanks for letting me live vicariously!

Exercise does = happiness

Diana said...

"Abundant volumes of exercise" that! Feel better!

Christi said...

Thanks for such a great explanation of your great workout weekend! The feelings you explained in great detail are sometimes what I feel running and biking here in Colorado. Unfortunately, I am not as verbally talented!

Christi said...

Thanks for such a great explanation of your great workout weekend! The feelings you explained in great detail are sometimes what I feel running and biking here in Colorado. Unfortunately, I am not as verbally talented!

Alisa said...

I spent a week in Utah over the summer and felt the altitude! I didn't feel it as much on the bike as I did running. Running was HARD!

11 hours of sleep sounds positively glorious!

Wes said...

admit it... yer nuts... :-)

Laura said...

Well said: Abundant volumes of exercise is key to my happiness.
I could not relate more.

Kristina said...

I would kill for 11 hours of sleep! What an incredible weekend and you described it so eloquently, I felt like I was watching you in person.