Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clearings

Looks like our little spell of winter weather here in the Bay Area has broken. There's nothing like clear skies and temperatures in the high 60's to low 70's in early February. It was the perfect weather for a nice long running adventure somewhere along the ridge encircling the San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, for me, my health has not returned to the level where that was an option this weekend. My cold/flu symptoms abated about a week ago, but the whatever was in my lungs just didn't seem to want to clear up. By Wednesday I could no longer take it so I hopped on the treadmill in the morning for an easy mile to see if it would help clear the phlegm or make me feel worse. The result: I made an appointment to see my doctor for Thursday. After listening to my chest and telling me that it sounds "bad" she had me take x-rays to assure it wasn't pneumonia. It was nothing so dire and she put me on some antibiotics for the next week. Antibiotics are generally hit-or-miss with bronchitis as it really depends on weather the cause is viral or some sort of infection. Since mine had gone on beyond the other symptoms there was a better chance that it wasn't just the initial virus still at work. The good news is that within a couple days the "gunk in my trunk" was already starting to dissipate. I planned to still take the weekend off to be safe and start things back up in earnest this week. With only two full weeks off, I should be able to ramp things back up fairly quickly this week with a reasonable length run next weekend followed by something more major on the next weekend and then the Skyline Ridge 50K(++) three weeks before C2M. If I can execute on this plan I will feel much more confident about the 100.

Well, this weekend came and it was clear that the weather was just plain going to taunt me. Saturday was simply gorgeous, but I was resolved to keep disciplined and continue to rest. I took advantage of the weather by grabbing a blanket and a recent issue of Ultrarunning magazine and lying out by the pool in the backyard to read. At least I could enjoy the sun and think about running. It was hard to believe, but Sunday brought even nicer weather. Driving my wife across the bay to her office, I decided I just had to get out and do something. After a few errands I would head up to Purisima Creek Redwoods and do some hiking. Since all I had on my feet were my "nubby" sandals, I decided that I would go barefoot. I reasoned that even if I couldn't get a real aerobic workout, I could at least work my feet. Besides, heading down some of the steeper rockier trails such as the North Ridge Trail without shoes on would help me resist the urge to run. It actually worked at first, too!

I remembered the last part of this trail as consisting of three steep hills which I dubbed in my mind as steep, very steep, and "how do the rocks keep from tumbling down this hill" steep. What I didn't remember was that there are actually some very nice, relatively flat little sections of this trail. Furthermore, with all the rain we've had this season they were covered with foliage. I ask you, how can any self-respecting trail runner resist a gentle slop covered in soft grass under his bare feet? Oh, it felt good. So good in fact, that I decided to run easy on some of the slightly steep parts after the turnaround. That first 3.8 miles just sort of flew by and I had all afternoon to kill so I decided that I felt good enough to head down the 2.2 miles of Whittemore Gulch Trail. This gentle downhill covered in soft pine needles was equally as irresistible. I couldn't walk. However, I kept my pace very slow partly forced by my desire not to trip or step on anything sharp. There were a few steeper bits and a few rocky sections that required me to return to walking pace, but mostly I was just enjoying cruising along at a what I would call a slow jog. I was enjoying this immensely. With no goals and no pushing to go fast it was like regaining that sense of "play" that first drew me to trail running. Barefooting through the muddy sections near the bottom made me feel even more like the "wild child" of my youth when I would wonder the hills near our house on Mt. Diablo, often sans shoes.

Once at the bottom, I had to, of course, return back up. I opted to head up Harkins Ridge as it was steeper and a bit shorter to the top. I was supposed to be hiking after all. Well, I felt really good the whole time so I ran what I could and power-hiked the rest. I think I found an even slower running gear. Somehow the steep hills didn't seem as steep or long as previously when I have run here. Perhaps it is the difference in pace or perspective. When running, the steep hills seem to represent a huge slow down and I also have trouble finding the right effort level when switching between such different gears. Since my overall pace was so much slower on this day, the transitions were smoother and the effort of the harder parts seemed relatively easier. Heading up that trail, I can't tell you how many people asked if I had lost my shoes, but just as many simply looked at me like I was crazy and said nothing. This kept me smiling. I made it to the top and got a little more, very slow, running in before the finish. My feet felt OK though I expected soreness later. I did get a few scrapes and scratches, but nothing major. One was a result of my own stupidity in trying to rub some mud off in the tall grasses that ended up cutting the top of my left foot. The other was just before finishing when a lack of concentration resulted in a stick jabbing between two of my toes. Ah well, what's a good trail run/hike without some mementos to bring home.

Looking at the map, my total mileage came to 9.5. It took about 2 hours and 50 minutes to cover those miles. That's pretty fast for a hike, but for a trail run that seemed nearly glacial. Heck, that's not much more than 3 miles per hour. I didn't care. It was progress and I felt great at the end. That made me happy. Then I started thinking about it and realized that at 3 mph it would take a little over 33 hours to cover 100 miles. Wait a sec. Isn't that exactly what I estimated as my finish time for Coyote Two Moons? All I had to do was keep close to that same pace I had just managed for another 90 miles (and stay awake through two nights) to hit my goal. And, I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go with shoes for that one. Maybe it was a good training "run" after all!

3 comments:

Sarah said...

It sounds like a WONDERFUL training run, Steve! I'm SO happy for you that you got out there for awhile!!

Looking forward to seeing you early next month!

Sarah (PCTR)

Eudemus said...

Thanks Sarah. I'm just happy that my chest is cleared up. Another week of that junk and my race plans would be in big trouble!

miki said...

Two funnies.

1. You did Purissima in no shoes. Omg!

2. You laid out by the pool. I was getting over a fever this past weekend. Was it really THAT nice outside? Damn.

Glad you sound like you're recovering. Since I was hit with something myself I've been hearing stories left and right of flus and colds lasting for a month. Evil bugs floating around.

Happy running.