I've been off the radar for a while. I'm currently on vacation; in fact, I'm writing this from my perch atop a beach towel on the sand overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Watsonville, California. I have been out here on my nostalgia tour for almost a week. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and before this trip I had not visited my hometown in eight long years. I spent most of last week in Marin County at the luxurious Tiburon home of an old family friend. Friday I moved south to my childhood stomping grounds, the two towns where I grew up (Sunnyvale and Los Altos).
Yesterday morning I went out for a very long trail run in Los Altos with my running buddy (and trail ultrarunner extraordinaire) TC. He promised long ago to take me to the top of a mountain to look at the rocks exposed there which are serpentinite, remnants of ancient oceanic crust which have been shoved onto land. The Coast Range is riddled with these fragments. I could not resist the siren call of actual rocks, fantastic rocks, so I put myself through 8 miles of grinding uphill hell to reach the 2200-foot summit and the rock outcrop. TC had a laugh or ten at my expense as I dragged my non-hill-running butt up the terrible final mile of the trail. I found a little in reserve at the end as he taunted me, "You can throttle me if you can catch me!" Somehow I found it in me to get my feet moving again as I ran after him to the top. All was as advertised and made the grueling uphill climb worth it. The view was amazing; the whole of the peninsula and the bay spread out beneath me. To the west lay the Coast Range and beyond that the ocean, invisible. The rocks were there, odd jagged grayish shapes protruding from the ground. I took a sample which is destined for my special collection at home. A few minutes, a few pictures, and then the dash back down the mountain. 16 miles, 3 hours, a run months in the making. Thanks, TC.
Despite some lingering fatigue I was up early again this morning to drive into the Santa Cruz Mountains for the Race Thru the Redwoods 10K. I picked this race out months ago and I wasn't going to miss it, hard trail run the day before or nearby forest fire be damned! I knew this was not a day for any record-breaking efforts. I just wanted to enjoy myself. The race was held at a state park thick with redwood trees (hence the name). It was primarily trail. Beautiful trail. With one crazy awful hill easily comparable to the worst of what I ran yesterday. I had to stop and walk. Once the hill had been crested shortly after mile 3, my legs felt like rubber and I still had half of the race to go. I pressed on, and after mile 4 the course went downhill for almost a mile. I let my legs whip out behind me as I flew down the slope. Flying! I was skimming the ground! Suddenly I felt a needlelike pain stab into the skin on my left tricep. "Ouch!" I cried as I swept my right hand back and across my arm, coming away with a hornet! I cast the offending insect to the ground as fire slowly took hold of my arm. Spurred on by pain and anger, I ran even faster, almost reckless in my dash downhill. A couple of times I felt my knees begin to buckle under the pounding; a failure at that point would have been a disaster. I kept my footing, though, and zoomed past mile 5. One more mile and I was feeling more energetic than I had for the entire race up to that point. I cruised through mile 6 and with only the last 0.2 left I slid into machine mode, that lovely zone where I feel as if I could run forever. Why now, when I only had a tiny slice of race left? Oh well, just go with it. I finished in 57:29, ten minutes off my 10K PR, but I didn't care. I was there for the experience.
After the race I drove down to Santa Cruz and then continued south to one of the state beaches. I have been sitting here listening to the waves and smelling the briny air for a couple of hours, hoping the sun will burn through the fog and I can get some serious sun baking done. I didn't come all this way to hide my hot pink bikini under a t shirt! The sun is out now more than it has been all day; an actual shadow is visible on the sand under my trail dust-encrusted feet. Time to lie back and soak up some rays.
I'm alone but not lonely. I have visited friends, some new and some old; seen family; gone running in exotic, beautiful places; drunk and dined well (but not too well; I have lost 5 pounds!); and generally have been enjoying the heck out of everything. And I still have a week to go!
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