May I suggest it cooled down in Austin suddenly enough to have a chilly morning and put sleeves for the run? Of course I had to roll them down 5 minutes into the run itself, but the start with winds howling was rather exciting at mid-60’s. Tomorrow is promised to be something around 50’s for my dark-o’early and I may have to try and find my long-sleeve shirt. Woo-hoo! That sounds just awesome! Just as my week has been. It is fun to have settled in to a structured routine and have days (mornings) allocated to certain things. I had a couple of good trail runs on the weekend, and had realized that living NOT at the trailhead is actually a blessing – because it gives you incentive to get to various trails as opposed to do same thing day in and day out. Of course, it is very convenient to throw in a trail run at any time, say, while your dinner is cooking in the oven, and it ain’t happening anytime here, but at the same time, the loops we could do from the doorsteps (of either 6, 7, 10 or 15 miles combinations) were getting old too. That said, I drove to the Hill Of Life on Saturday, where Larry has been running his long run since before 5 am (this boy is crammin’ miles into his life, trying to decide whether or not he’d shoot for Ozark 100 in just over 2 weeks’ time), and where Tejas Trail group along with Rouge Runner’s group had their runs set up every Saturday (or it seems to be). And while I am a total solo runner and truly enjoy my introvert outings (I also run better, stronger and faster by myself), I like meeting people and chatting for a brief moments and exchange smiles and go on till the next group pops up. And I truly loved almost forgotten trails too! I felt pretty lost at times (Austin’s Hill Country is famous for making dozens of miles of single track in a few acres of land, twisting and turning and going up and down relentlessly and criss-crossing endlessly…) and since I have pretty much no sense of direction and never try to memorize any landmarks when on the run, I just run, hoping at some point to come across a familiar territory (or a person to ask how to get back). I did run out of water, even with generous refill by Rouge folks, and since I started somewhat late and the sun came up shining hot and bothering…but I ran every step, and that was my main agenda.
I feel like I am re-learning to run again. That “back to the roots” thing? I am putting on the base, and I am where I started with really running, way before days when I knew that power-hiking saves me lots of energy and really even time at the end. I am running every hill, no matter speed or push, just working the moment, pumping my arms, Hill Of Life including, just smiling and thinking of some 10 years ago, when walking was a crime, and structure was a staple in training. My marathon will have a good solid structure, the way it was taught to me in those days of NYC running. I am excited. I am excited about entering shorter races and pushing myself, excited about toeing the starting line, about not having to run an obscene amount of miles for the first time in over 7 years…truly am. I was a slave of “more is better”, and this is the first year I will hardly hit 2,000. I don’t think I was under 3k since 2003, and I am OK with it. I still tally, but the thought of “OMG, I need to squeeze another 2 runs to make week counts” doesn’t cross my mind anymore. Having been injured for so long helped sooth that desire (there is only that much one can do). Thinking “quality over quantity” and having a rather successful year behind on training with hardly getting over 60 mpw during peak of the season is another reason. I can run long. Now I want to figure out again if I can run at least as fast as I did in 2002/2003 – not extremely fast by no means, but certainly faster than I had been running since. And I want to do it the right way.
Speaking of faster and running every step. Had a second attempt of running every step on River place nature trail, that nasty and most beautiful “Staircase” trail with crazy footing over logs of steps, which don’t let you speed up even as you go downhill – and this time succeeded in EVERY step (as opposed to last time’s 20 yards of final steps on the longest last hill), and cut my total time by 4 minutes (and that’s after cutting it 5 minutes about 3 weeks ago from the June time). It was fun, I felt pretty relaxed, and while panting on the climbing part, still strong enough to not give up. Yay me! Since my left foot still doesn’t allow me to push off it on the uphill, I only push with the right (and use left foot flat on), what leads me to a serious right calf overload – which hurts for the next 48 hrs. And that’s ok, I can deal with it. When I run roads though, it’s the heel itself that aches, but unlike AJW, I am done being patient already. Enough is enough, I did the "2M at a time of flats", and while I am certainly not overdoing things, I am back, and I am planning to be optimistic and plowing forward.
I do have a funny story, if I may. Last Tuesday, on that blissful run I described in a previous post, I needed to use a pit-stop as I finished. Not living next to a trailhead makes you go in a nature - not that it ever stopped me. However, for some weird reason, I managed to use some leaves from some bushes instead of rocks...and ever since my bottom had been on fire. Sleep at night is torn in pieces by pain and angst. Go ahead, laugh, now that it's getting better, I can too.
This week's Tuesday run really didn't get much better. I forgot to change batteries in my headlamp, and just as Larry on his Sunday run (he simply forgot the headlamp at all), I had to "feel" my way on this technical trail. Thankfully, it was my "easy run" per schedule, as it took me almost an hour to cover 5 miles. I was smiling the whole way. At least I didn't need to squat...
I have to say, I am getting to like Austin. Of course when people talk PNW and post pictures of the Gorge runs, I get antsy and a little sad. But once the heat of the summer is finally gone, Austin is actually really lovely. There is not much one can add – a few mountains in less than 3 hours’ drive, and a shorter span of 100+ degrees stretch. But it’s green, hilly, has a good public transportation system, nice downtown, young generation with many schools around, a stable economy (an important part these days, especially as one nears the retirement age), fit community that loves running and biking, and an airport for an easy access to destinations.
Speaking of destinations, I bought tickets to Russia for a New Year’s trip. Yep, I am going home again! Only 5 days, and by myself, but this time can’t come soon enough (trust me, 5 days is all I can handle, and by the end of it I’ll be longing for going back “home” here). This will allow me to spend time with my sister, help her renovate her flat, celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary, their 75th birthdays I had missed this years (apparently, dad secretly hoped I’d fly in October for his), sit at the table at midnight on December 31st drinking champagne, and in general, when your folks are in Russia and past 70, every visit counts as last one. So, I am going.
Speaking of my folks and sister, they got really worried about the way I looked in those last pictures, and the only desire in their souls is to feed me. I had to calm them down – that woman is gone, and I am pretty much where I was in June (which is better than May, but not September), putting on almost an inch on my midriff and some less on my rear. While it is frightening after such drastic transformation, this is where I belong, and I work really hard not to freak out or get depressed over it, as well as keeping it under control and not giving up on myself. Besides, the approaching speed training should help me in doing so. Having a husband who keeps saying compliments and is very supportive helps.
Speaking of a husband -we have lovely dates on Sunday night when we go to Z-Tejas and have a drink. I had never been a fan of going out for a drink – or going out, or drinking – but this routine is really precious (kind of like finally wearing a pair of pants that fits well and doesn't cost $10 in Target - I guess it's a sign of maturing?). We have time to reflect on our week, talk about a week ahead, and hold hands as adults, without kids, or house chores, or other problems. I am picking through the menu of drinks slowly, realizing nothing compares to the Mojito in Silverton, as well as that I am getting old – I have to hold that menu as far as my arms’ length allows me to being able to read… One of my tooth crowns broke at the base and it can’t be put back, implant is like 5 grand and isn’t covered by dental insurance, so I am choosing to be toothless (it’s not front enough to look ugly, don’t worry). As I yelled out to Meredith on that Saturday run, I am old, menopausal, toothless and with diminishing eye sight (not skinny anymore either), but I am loving my life, every bit of it! What’s not to love?
We painted living room and the hallways past weekend, only kitchen is left. The house is coming along. Every night I sit there and think how much I love it. Watched a couple of episodes of House Hunters – could not believe what those (young) women demand when they go “house shopping”. Really? Is that important? I am thinking we have enough little things to take care of slowly for as long as we decide to be here, but it is exactly what makes it “ours”. House-warming party coming next month! Hey, I even finished that sweater I was knitting since last Thanksgiving - finally! Not it needs to be cold enough to wear it - but this coming Thanksgiving is a trip to Oklahoma to visit in-laws, and I am sure I will benefit from it there.
In a meantime, this weekend we are off for a mini-vacation to Arizona! Back to Grand Canyon! And my foot better behave, because I am double-crossing whatever it has in store. There will be few friends there, Steve and Deb Pero, Tina Ure, a couple folks from HR100 regulars, the Oregon crew comes to do crossing on Sunday…we’ll hang out, but each group (or couple) goes across on their own, and Larry and I have high hopes to make it around 13 hr mark. Should be fast enough to not be embarrassed, yet slow enough to take pictures and enjoy North Rim.
My first venture into Grand Canyon was in 1996, when Alex was 5 and Stephen was 7 month old baby. I alternated carrying each of them, it was middle of July, and we as a family, while great in backpacking trips, weren’t prepared for hot canyon adventure. We made it about 3.5 miles down the South Rim and came back up, thankfully.
In October of 2008 Larry, I, Bushwhacker Burke, Tina and Jim Skaggs came to celebrate my birthday – but I was only less than 2 month into trying to recover from my femur neck stress fracture, and while we made it down to Phantom Ranch and a little bit over, we also came to a smart decision to stop right there – my leg would not have endured another 8 miles of downhill pressure on it. Photoset.
We have unfinished business to do. And we have this trip long planned – and very well deserved, with the move and all. So, this is where we’ll be. I shall see you on the other side.