Saturday, August 13, 2011

14 Miles of Bliss


I got up at 5:30 on yet another Saturday and drove 45 minutes to the park in SLO to run with the team. I didn’t expect many of my girls this weekend as I have two on the injured list and two other who were scheduled to be out of town. But I wanted to be there in case even one showed up. I don’t want any one on my team showing up expecting me to be there and be missing. I’m in this as deep as they are.

When I arrived our manager reiterated a small group was expected. “In my experience, this is the biggest out of town week of the season for some reason.” So as expected there were a small group of half-marathoners and I was the only full marathoner that day. The half marathoners were also on a rest week. So they were only going 5 miles that day. I had 14 miles to run.

This meant the half marathoners would be in after about an hour and the coaches would have to wait an ADDITIONAL two and a half hours for me to come in. No way! I wasn’t going to make them wait that long for one runner. So I told Coach April I was going to go back to Santa Maria and run with my husband.

I wanted to stick around for a couple extra minutes just in case we had any late arrivers and thought I’d call Kris to let him know I was coming back in hopes I could catch him before he went out on his run.

I like to make up little songs on the fly just for fun. So I quickly whipped up this little ditty and sang it to Kris when he answered his phone:

Hello my honey
Oh how are you?
No one is here
What am I to do?
I’m coming home now
to run with you
So my darling
Put on your shoes! 

I was happy when he laughed with my song. Not so happy to hear he was already in the middle of his run.

On my drive back to Santa Maria I lamented running in Santa Maria AGAIN when I realized I was driving through Shell Beach. I used to a ride 30 miler with my cycling club around that area. It’s a beautiful place. So I dived off the freeway and parked at our old meeting place.

I only needed to run 14 miles. So I quickly guessed at an abbreviated version of the old bike route and made sure it took me over Cave Landing road so there’d be a good hill to climb. I figured if I was off on the mileage I could walk back to the car if I was too far out at the 14 mile mark or run extra if I made it back short of mileage.

I started from Shell Beach and headed to the Bob Jones trail where I stopped for a bathroom break at the pit toilet in the parking lot. I hate pit toilets. Especially, when you have all your running gear. I was SAGging myself so I had a well-stuffed waist pack. I performed magic to stow it in a place where it’d remain uncontaminated while I took care of business. All ladies know you never sit on a pit toilet. We all have perfected our version of hovering for just such occasions. Thankfully, I have hover a technique that puts the special effects from “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” to shame.

After the pit stop I was strapping my waist pack back on when I noticed a text had come over my phone. “Hi Jill, I’m at the spa and see I have you on the book for a massage today at 4. C U then.”

“Yes!” No matter how hard the run might be today, it was confirmed I had a nice treat to look forward to. I continued onto the Bob Jones trail will a little extra spring to my step.

The Bob Jones trail was a lovely as ever and the weather was still cool and overcast. Just how I like it. I was remembering the last time I ran on the trail. It was for our 20 mile training run from last season. It was a lot hotter. But I remember enjoying this piece just the same.

Before I knew it, I was coming out near the golf course. I looked at my Garmin and I was pretty sure I could run out to the end of the pier and back and be about on target for my mileage. So I did.

I don’t enjoy running on the road out to the pier. There are a lot of cars and I feel like it’s hard to see runners. So I had my head up and was being extra alert. Which was a good thing because a driver decided to have a little fun.

He wasn’t going fast at all but he was driving toward me and kept creeping over to my shoulder as he approached. I scooted over and he creeped over more. So I knew he thought he was being funny. I looked at the driver and saw he was looking over at his passenger and laughing. I stared at him until he looked me in the eye. Then he stopped laughing and got back on the road. What a schmuck! That is not even remotely clever.

On a happier note, I was wearing my TNT top and I love wearing it because people will cheer you on when they see you are running for a cause. And today I saw a group of three serious looking runners. As they approached me the guy on the outside saw my shirt and yelled, “Yeah team!! GO!” and he stuck out his hand for a ‘high five’ as he passed.

I eat that sh/t up. If you ever need me to accomplish a big feat, just cheer me on. One “Go Jill you can do it!” will get me over the next mile. My favorite cheer is “Go you Badass!!” :) (I also like “Run Fat Girl Run!” But it upsets my husband when anyone calls me “Fat Girl”. So I don’t promote that one.) For the record, “Fat Girl” is not an insult in my book.

Anyway, my favorite part of the run was running out to the end of the pier. I love running on the wood planks, and the birds will let you run right next to them. The smell of the ocean is lovely and the breeze oh so refreshing!

When I got to the end of the pier I took a good stretch break and this nice big family that must have been vacationing asked me to take their picture. I was trying to line up the shot but I noticed there was this weird oblong blob along the top corner of the view finder. I was trying to figure out what it was and move the camera around to see if I could get rid of it when one of the daughters said, “Your finger is over the lens.”

Oops! That explains it. Even though my hair was totally covered under my hat, I think she figured out I am a blonde. :) But I managed to get a couple good shots off and it was time to turn around and run back.

I stopped to get a few pictures of the birds hanging out on the pier and this time I was able to keep my hands off the lens.

Back on the road out from the pier I had no other face offs with cars. But I was heading into what I knew to be the most dangerous part of the run. To get to Cave Landing road and the featured hill of this route, I had to run on the piece of Avila Beach drive between Avila Village and the Avila Hot Springs resort. It has narrow shoulders and blind curves and from biking on it all these years, I knew cars like to use it as a speed way. As I approached this section, I kept looking for signs that read, “No pedestrians” or “Bikes and Cars Only” just in case it was restricted. But I didn’t see a thing. So off I went.

I ran in the bike lane facing traffic and kept my head up. A CHP passed me by and I figured if I was illegal he would have stopped. But he kept going and so did I.

I knew there was a bit of a hill on the way to Cave Landing road and sure enough it lumbered ahead of me pretty quickly. It actually felt good on the way up. Hard but totally doable. My weekday hill training this season is really paying off!

I saw the CHP pass me from the other direction this time. Again he didn’t stop. So I was feeling pretty confident now. Until I got to the bottom of the hill and I was running toward a blind curve.

Blind curves are so dangerous because no one can see around the curves. So I can’t see the cars until they’re already coming around and they can't see me. Also, because cars like to drive fast on this road, they would swing around the curve and consistently come into the shoulder as they came around.

I stayed as far to the left as I could and prepared to bail off the road if I had to. I made a mental note not to run this piece again. And here came my friend the CHP AGAIN. This time he came around the blind curve and like everyone else he swung a little into the shoulder and passed me within about two feet. I thought for sure he was going to pull over now, get out of his car and yell, “Get out of the road already!” But he kept going.

I made it around the blind curve safely and was running along the edge of the golf course. I could see the Cave Landing road entrance up ahead about 100 yards. I was almost off this dangerous piece. Thank goodness! Then a golf ball came sailing through the air right in front of me! I saw it appear out of the sky and hit the road three feet in front of my shoes!

I had been dreading the nasty Cave Landing hill for most of the run. But now I couldn’t wait to turn onto it to get out of this danger zone! Yikes! Bring on the climb!!!!

At the entrance of Cave Landing road, I paused to rest and get myself psyched up. I had climbed this many times on my bike. So I knew it was a bear. And it’s long. I was in for it. But I wanted it.

I started plugging away tapping my feet in short strides up the hill. Taptaptaptaptap. Oh! It was as tough as I remembered it. I know there are places were it is less steep than others. But there are no real flat areas where you can rest. So I just told myself I would run as much as I can. Taptaptaptaptap.

Tap tap tap tap tap.
Tap         Tap           Tap        Tap    Ta-

Ugh. Must stop. I started walking so I could catch my breath again. I held my hands above my head and breathed deep. Aaahhhhh, air feels so good in your lungs! That’s the stuff!

I walked to let my heart rate recover and  I heard a car coming up behind me. Why do they have to come by now?? Why couldn’t they have passed me as I was running and looking cool? Oh my ego! What a complainer. I was the only one out here trying to get up the hill without the aid of a car. No one is thinking, “Look at her WALKING up the hill! What a wimp! If I wasn’t driving this car, I’d be RUNNING the hill!”

But still, ego can be a good motivator. I got back to running and I could see the crest from where I was. I made a pact with myself that I wouldn’t stop running until I got to the trees at the top of the hill. No matter how much my lungs started hurting I would still run it. I knew I could do it. I just had to believe it.

So I’m fighting my way to the top without stopping and here comes the car I saw on its way back down.

“Yeah!” my ego cheered, “They can see me running now.” 

And they did see me. In fact, the wife on the passenger side rolled down her window, stuck her fist out, held it up in the “power” position and yelled “Don’t stop! You can do it!!! GO! GO!”

I looked over at the driver and he was also pumping his fist and yelling “GO!GO!GO!”

That’s all it took! I smiled and gasped “Thank you! Thank you SO much!” and that’s all it took for me to fly to the top! I slowed down under the trees, caught my breath and walked to the trail head that would lead me back to the Shell Beach neighborhoods.

Oh I love running.

But I was tired!!! I felt my legs were starting to fatigue and I was feeling overall tired. I needed a nap! I knew there’d be benches along the path near the neighborhoods that over look the ocean. It would be tempting to catch a little snooze on one of those!

I made sure not to look at the mileage on my Garmin. I was afraid that if it was close to 14 miles I’d start walking more. And if it was far from 14 I’d become too discouraged. So I told myself I wouldn’t look at the Garmin until I got back to the car and if I ended up doing more than 14 miles well then that’s just bonus!

I worked my way along the walking path through the neighborhoods as best I could. I had to stop for a good stretch as my legs were trying to cramp. I remembered on the half marathon I did a few weeks before, I was feeling this way at about mile 10/10.5. I prayed I was farther out than that because I believed I was only a couple miles away from my car and I was good and fatigued already. I didn’t think I could add any mileage once I made it back to the car when mentally I would feel like I was done.  

But I couldn’t think of any of that. I just had to keep going and worry about the mileage only when I got to the car.

There were nice little rollers all the way back and happily the piece that led to my parking spot was a brisk down hill. A good way to end the run. And as I promised myself, I didn’t look at my Garmin until I made it back.

As I approached my car I prayed, “Please God let this be 14 miles. I don’t know that I can run anymore. Please please please let this be 14.”

At my car I finally looked at my Garmin and it read......13.93 miles!!!!! Yes! Technically I could have called it a solid 14 and no one would have faulted me. But I am quirky and I just had to go run another block up and back. When I officially ended the run my Garmin  displayed “14.01”.

Mission accomplished.

5 comments:

Kris said...

You are amazing! Great story! This was a good one. :)

Bob said...

Wow! So much activity, things, sights, danger, good people, the stupid, thoughts, trials, easy, difficulty, effort, pain and accomplishment and fun all on one run. You're right Kris. This gal is amazing.

Mom said...

Amazing is a big word for such a little girl. So loving too. Love you Mom

Ron said...

Great Run, Jill. I'm worried about you running in traffic though. Maybe you could hang your flashing bicycle light and hang it on your shorts or somewhere : )

Jill said...

Yeah Ron, I don't like running in traffic either! I don't think I'll ever run that piece again.

If I have to for some reason, I'm going to get 20 bike flashers and hang them all over me! Yours is a good suggestion! :)