I'm an engineer. I like to measure, track, record and analyze. I almost always wear a watch when I run. Usually I have a GPS as well which tells me not just time, but pace, distance, altitude climbed and descended. All of this data goes into my running log which I have maintained for more than 16 years.
I'm not especially strict about planning my training, but in terms of measuring and tracking it, I can be downright OCD. I've been known to make an extra trip around the block at the end of a run to round out to a specific mileage number or hit an extra hill in the middle in order to pad my climbing numbers. If I forget my watch, I can use an app on my phone. If I don't have that, I can be found pouring over maps to estimate the distance of my run.
After the DNF at Hardrock, my motivation was close to an all time low. Not that it mattered much as I was relegated to near complete inactivity for a full two weeks due to my lungs. I finally braved a trial run after that. I put my watch away and headed out with only the vaguest of plans. I headed towards one of my normal 8 mile routes with lots of options to cut short. I was prepared to turn round even after the first mile if necessary.
Overall, the run went well. My lungs were definitely not at 100%, but then neither was anything else. I finished with tight legs, with a nagging hip and walking. The walking was partially by intent. I wanted to make sure I didn't push too hard and also to take a bit of recovery time. I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting going into this first run back and I finished with no better understanding. I enjoyed the run, I felt mostly relaxed and—it being August—I partook of some trail-side blackberries along the way. However, I can't say I was particularly inspired.
My runs over the next few weeks were about the same. A few plodding runs on my standard routes, one wandering run/hike on some uncommon trails in The Headlands and an unusually short run in the redwoods with friends. My legs and hips started feeling better and I became more accustomed to not wearing my watch. My runs no longer felt like an obligation, but I still felt like, in some ways, I was just going through the motions...until, that is, last weekend.
On Saturday I set out towards the Golden Gate Bridge, but made a last minute decision at the beach to head out onto the sand. Sand running is generally something I only do during the winter months when training for races on snow. I was just looking to shake things up and maybe take some impact off a foot problem that had been developing. However, the feeling of pointlessness—like running in place—brought a smile to my face.
The next day, I drove to the Headlands. I figured only to be out for an hour or so, heading out of Rodeo Valley and up the Bobcat Trail with the intent of doing a short loop using the Alta Trail back to Rodeo. However, I was feeling good so continued all the way up Bobcat and onto Miwok and the high point of the area. Not only was I able to run the whole way, but, more importantly, I was able to do so while going easy and feeling relaxed. On the way back I took a single-track connector trail to Alta and then opted to continue onto the SCA trail rather than heading down.
It was a typical cool, cloudy Headlands day and the running felt effortless. From SCA, I ran up the Coastal Trail then down and across McCullough Road to the intersection with Conzelman. As I ran down the trail back towards the valley, I even considered turning left at the bottom to continue extending the run. I didn't want to stop. However, I reasoned it was getting close to two hours and I did have things to do in the afternoon so I headed back to the car.
In the end, I finished feeling good, like I could have kept going. I think that this is what I was ultimately looking for, to simply finish a run wanting more.
It's been a long time since I've felt that.