I'm sitting in the passenger seat of my wife's Prius. We are driving towards the beach and I sense that she is a little annoyed at me. For one, I'm feeling lazy (to the extent that one can be deemed lazy when one is still looking forward to a 10 mile run) because it's windy and I have thus chosen a route that mostly avoids a head wind but starts at a point 4 miles from my house, thus requiring the ride. Also this is the second time in 15 minutes that we have covered this same stretch of road. The first time was just a few minutes before we arrived at the beach the first time, whereupon I looked at my left wrist and saw that my Garmin was not on it. My initial reaction was horror. My second reaction was to revert to behavior reminiscent of a 6 year old and refuse to leave the car until we drove home (and then back) to get it. My only defense? I had remembered to put on my heart rate monitor and it would be lonely without the watch.
But now I'm running. I don't have a tail wind, but it's not quite a cross wind either. Rather I feel it on my right shoulder neither pushing or hampering my forward progress. I'm fine with this. The Bolsa Chica lifeguard station is just ahead now.
The lifeguard station is now behind me and I am running along the parking lot that is popular with the RV campers. This means that this particular section of beach path is crowded with tricycles and BMX bikes and dogs on leashes. Unfortunately, none of the operators of these things are paying particular attention to anything or anyone else. Bobs and weaves are common here, as is choking on the smoke from the grilles burning in the parking lot and the wood fires burning in the beach side fire pits. I look at my Garmin and I'm holding a 7:40 pace. Too fast, I want to be just over 8:00. But I also want to be clear of this section as quick as I can.
I'm past the RV's now and am running in the no-mans land between Bolsa Chica and Huntington City Beach. Most of this mile is uphill, but just slightly. I've never really liked this section, and thinking about it as I run affords no additional insight as to why. Rather, the mile remains remarkable only for being a measured distance between here and there. But my pace has settled to where I want it to be, so all is good.
Mile 4 is a transitional mile. I cross into Huntington City Beach as I make my way towards Goldenwest Street, where I will cross over PCH and start making my way towards home. Traffic on the path picks up again, but this traffic has more purpose in that it's mostly other runners or cyclists. Because there is more purpose here, the rules of the road apply.
I make it to Goldenwest and am secretly relieved that I didn't time things right and will have a minute to stop while waiting for the walk signal. More out of habit than need I take in a gel. I then reach for the flask off of my fuel belt and am immediately reminded how much I hate this belt. Half the liquid has already leaked out. I could spend an hour carefully screwing the cap on to the bottle, but anything resembling a good seal is simply not possible. I promise myself that I need to replace the belt soon, but as the walk signal lights up I immediately forget this promise and start running again, with the flask now jammed back into it's holster. Surely this will happen again next week, and one of these weeks I will make good on the promise. However, I can almost guarantee that this will not be that week.
I run north on Goldenwest and then take a left on to Palm Avenue. This turn puts me into a headwind and starts my run through one of the more exclusive neighborhoods in Huntington Beach. Seacliff is filled with any number of gated communities each with 4 or 5 available floor plans for the hopeful home buyer. Yet I can't quite get my head around the area. Twenty-five years ago, these were active oil fields. And since I don't have any experience of note in either chemistry or geology, I have no idea how one goes about building homes on a site that was no doubt an environmental nightmare when it was an active oil field. Nor do I know what was pumped into the ground to replace the oil that was extracted. For all I know, the answer is "nothing" and a massive amount of empty caverns await just below the surface for the next big earthquake.
I am listening to the album "Nonsuch" by XTC and it strikes me why I like it so much - it's the perfect British middle class art school take on the Beach Boys. But I've had this album since 1992 and have listened to it thousands of times. Surely this thought has struck me before and I've just forgotten. Perplexed, but only barely, I continue on.
Mile 7 is nice because there is a down hill section right in the middle of it. And though running down hill is a little tough on the quads, I don't mind it so much. I pass a guy in decent cycling kit walking his decent bike up the hill. He sees me and looks away, perhaps embarrassed. I actually feel for him, this stuff happens (but not to me on this hill, hah!). And besides, there IS a chance that both his derailleurs broke just before the climb leaving him in a 53/11 gear. It could happen, you know.
I turn left into the wind again. I'm forced to do this because I want 10 miles but the direct route to my house would only afford 8. So I have to push the route out and then back in to make up the missing two miles. I'm a bit of an aviation geek so I pretend that I am actually on approach to a busy airport and the chosen flight path is standard arrivals procedure. Am I really this much of a dork? Perhaps.
Mile 9 is two blocks down Springdale. It's a boring stretch of road and thus I become bored. But I then remembered a nightmare that I had last night. I couldn't recall many of the details, but I did remember I was in a hotel, probably far from home. It was late and I was panicking because I couldn't remember if I had worked out earlier in the day. This in turn was making me very anxious.
Sometimes when you are dreaming there is a small part of your self that realizes that you are, in fact, having a dream, and that awareness is just enough to keep things in balance. But last night that awareness was completely missing and I woke up totally confused. I had no idea where I was, but one of the first things that popped into my now conscious head was that I had gone on a 55 mile bike ride earlier. This caused me to both immediately calm down and reorient myself into reality. Over the years, exercise has given me a lot of comfort. But I think I just raised the barre.
Honestly? A junk mile. Just another mile to round up the run to an even number. I speed up because I am ready to be done; running here is just too familiar to hold any of my interest. I obsessively stare at my Garmin, counting down 1/10's of miles and then finally 1/100's of miles. But I'll be damned, because I reach my house just as my Garmin kicked over to 10.01 miles. Right on the money - no running a little past my house or even worse - no tight circles in the driveway to hit the number. I take off my fuel belt. I sit on a bench and take off my shoes. And then I take a shower. One hour, twenty two minutes.
Note: The format of this post was heavily influenced by a book called "The Rider" by Tim Krabbe, a Dutch born chess-master, competitive cyclist and novelist (really). In the book, Krabbe recounts, kilometer by kilometer, his participation in a 1977 French amateur cycling race. I recommend this book to anyone, cyclist or not. Because his descriptions of physical pain, mental stamina and racing tactics apply to everyone involved in endurance sports.