Sunday, September 6, 2009

26 miles to go before I sleep

I have two very tired dogs at my feet tonight and that is a truly good thing. Buddy, a muzzled Tunavicious and I just returned from a 4-mile nighttime jog along the American River Parkway. This is the first dog jog that I have taken since the dog rumble earlier this summer landed Sadie in jail. It was cool enough tonight for me to not have to worry about her overheating in the muzzle. Buddy is always laggy on these runs, and I just have to drag him along--until he smells a deer, that is. Then, I can barely hang on as he pulls me down the trail through brush and dry grass.

The book Born to Run reminded me of what I love about running. I think that sometimes I get so caught up in my regimented workout programs that I forget about what I love about the sport and end up depriving myself. You may be shocked to learn that I do not sit around chomping at the bit to run my killer workouts. I dread them too some days and rarely look forward to them though I always feel great after I've done them.

What I really love is running down steep trails. One of my favorite hikes is out of the Cache Creek Canyon near Rumsey along the Blue Ridge Trail. I have made it a Thanksgiving Day tradition to pack up my Vanagon with good food, good wine and my pups and head to a cute little campsite about a mile from the trailhead. After I race the Run to Feed the Hungry in the morning, we head straight to the trail for our hike. It's a brutal ascent, gaining over 2000 feet in 4 miles. The view from the top is fantastic and there's a little notebook at the top that we all sign every year documenting our summit (it even survived the brutal fire of 2004). Then, the fun begins. I take off and immediately start glacading down the steep switchbacks. It is actually impossible for me not to run down these hills. I love the bounding, hopping, braking and careful concentration it takes to do this without breaking an ankle. The dogs generally can't keep up. I get to the bottom exhausted and exhilarated. Then, we head to the campground for dinner and a good book or movie in the coziness of the Vanagon. It's a good tradition indeed.

I also love running in the dark. There is nothing more meditative than moving through still air on a moonlit night with crickets chirping, dogs panting and the sound of your footsteps on a dirt path. There's also that little bit of adrenaline coursing through your body as you anticipate what might be behind the shadowy brush up ahead or around the next turn in the trail. There have been a lot of warnings flying around about muggers on the AR Parkway trails lately, and I refuse to let the creepy bastards scare me away from something that I love. I know the risks, and refuse to live my life in fear. I also accept the consequences of this decision recognizing that there is a tiny amount of danger associated with it. It's not in my nature to shy away from danger (much to my Mother's chagrin). So, now that it's cooling down again in the evenings, I can take the pups out for a dog jog and enjoy my moonlit runs again.

I also enjoy doing something different in my workouts. Today, I introduced The Dissin' Genius to my Great Train Run. I invented this run a couple of years ago when they opened the new Regional Transit line to Folsom. I could take the RT all the way to Folsom and run home from there. The distance is just a hair over 20 miles. Even though you end up running the same stretches of trail that you typically run, somehow it's much better doing it this way--point to point.

I had a 22 miler this morning with the last 12 miles at goal marathon pace and The Genius had 20 miles too. So, we started out from Old Town Folsom, winding along the trails on the east side of Lake Natoma, then at mile marker 20, I started into my GMP work. Remember, this is coming at the end of my 102 mile week and less than 24 hours after doing 3 sets of my weight program. My legs felt like bricks most of the way. Oh, the train didn't start running from the Watt Ave. station until 9:25, so we didn't start the run until 10:00. This, of course, meant we ran in the heat though it was mild this morning only getting into the mid-70s by the end of the workout. I really wanted to practice my GMP which is 6:20. For some reason, my legs want to run 6:13-6:18 pace when I tell them to run GMP. I was really trying to keep it slow, but was not successful for the first 4 miles: 6:13 pace. So, I hit my split timer and tried again in the next 4 miles: 6:14 pace. I was getting better. Certainly, I would be able to slow down in the last 4 miles. Well, I got down to 6:17 pace. This did not feel easy, but I did not expect it to. I was up to 98 miles for the week.

I had things to do today that I couldn't let my running get in the way of like back to school shopping (for me) and a nice dinner with Sprinkles and The Genius at Casablanca. I had some success on the shopping front and left the restaurant this evening at 9:30 full as a tick but determined to get my run in. The dogs were sleeping on the couch when we got home, but they rallied for my cause when I asked them, "dog jog?" Buddy jumped up to dance with me and Sadie looked giddy at the prospect of being dragged for 4 miles in the dark.

We didn't get mugged. Sadie was able to breathe just fine in her muzzled state, and Buddy didn't collapse or charge off after a deer. That's 26 miles in the books, 2 happy dogs collapsed on the wood floors and one runner ready for a marathon taper.

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