It came from behind and it nearly knocked me on my face. Somebody or something had goosed me hard… right between my legs. What the hell? As I was frantically looking around for the source of my assault, something hit my leg hard from the side and again, nearly toppled me. Still searching for the source of this mayhem, I turned, and all at once I was overwhelmed with big wet doggy love.
This morning did not begin as planned. Last week, I had scouted and clocked a fourteen mile “trail” running route. My plan this morning, was to leave the trailhead by 6:30 am, which would allow me to beat the predicted 93 degree high temperature for the day, as well as get me back home before my grandmother even thought about getting up.
It was not to be. Granny was up drinking coffee by six am this morning. I fixed her breakfast and got her settled in with the Sunday paper and decided that I could still get in a longer run, but that I wanted to stick a bit closer to home.
I’ve clocked most of the local roads for mileage, and I was able to quickly put together a 10.5 mile route. This route would allow me to log a “higher” mileage day without the need to add any travel time to my workout.
As I ran out along the River path, the occasional bird call of the indigenous water fowl was the only distraction from the calm of the glassy mirror like waters of the Columbia River. I was focused on starting slowly and allowing myself to warm up properly before attempting a pace resembling anything more energetic than a “plod”.
As my route turned and headed through town, the only traffic stirring was a lone semi headed down the highway. As I ran through the orchards, the cooing of the local dove population provided a lovely distraction as well as flooding me with warm memories of summertime bliss spent visiting my grandparents in this idyllic farming community.
The temperature was fairly cool as I headed up the first major hill of the route. I told myself, just keep running, you can walk at the top of the hill if you need to. Once I gained the top of this hill, I felt great, and I kept on running. Phil, aka the “running man” calls these little mental barriers “tissue paper walls”. At the time that they surface, I am feeling fatigued and I really want to quit running, but in the true athletic sense of hitting the “wall”… these are just misty vapors… phantoms if you will, and as I ran through the temporary discomfort, the wall disintegrated in my wake. Much of my route involves running through orchards and with harvest nearly complete, the smell of ripe fruit is heavy in the air.
Today’s course has me running along the highway for a bit, and as the morning blossoms, so does the flow of traffic. As happens so often in small towns, most of the folks in the cars that pass by, lift their arms to wave a greeting. I’m not particularly fond of this section of my route, as when vehicles are passing by, (cue the theme from Chariot’s of Fire) I feel as though I have to run like I am a contender for the Boston Marathon. Thankfully, after a short distance, my route leaves the highway and heads up for the second of the three major hills. When I first began running hills this year, my calves would scream for days following a run. Adaptation is an amazing thing, and I am amazed as I easily float on strong sturdy legs to the top of the hill, this no longer feels difficult to me.
Easily completing this second hilly loop, I find myself back at the highway. From this point, I could run the mile home for a 6.5 mile loop, or I could head back out on the highway for the most difficult 4 mile hill loop of my repertoire. I still had a great deal of energy and I didn’t even give it a second thought, as I turned away from home and began the trek along the busy road. Again, waving at passing motorists, the mile along the busy highway went by quickly and before I could have second thoughts about my choice of route, it was time to get busy and head up the hill.
Max Goehry Road…. now this is a good hill climb. I first discovered this hill while riding bikes with the boys, and thankfully, for me today, it is far easier to run up a steep hill than it is to bike up a steep hill. I kept my breathing in check, my effort steady and sustained, and I quickly chewed away the puke inducing grade. It was at the flat atop this long hill climb where I met my little “naughty” wet furry friends.
I had my headphones in and tunes blaring. The music on my ipod, in reality is far “too young” for my musical tastes, but the throbbing beat provides the necessary driving tempo to keep my feet turning over at the appropriate rate. You can perhaps imagine the disorientation I felt when without warning, I was hit from behind. Not only was I hit from behind, but I was hit hard. I was hit hard between my legs, in a place where nobody wants to be hit hard. After nearly toppling me, it was almost comical to see the big furry wet Rottweiler mixed doggies jumping up on my chest to try and get a bit of attention. It is a good thing for all parties involved that I am a dog lover.
I stopped running and pulled out my headphones long enough to scold the dogs to “go home”. Confident that they were headed back the direction from which they came, I plugged back in to my gnarly tunes and headed up the road…. Once again, wham! Hit from the side, I almost went down. “GO HOME” I yelled, “GO HOME”. I turned and continued on my way. As I crested the last rise of my hill climb, I turned and noticed that the biggest of the two dogs was now pacing me and running alongside. Sigh. What am I going to do with this dog? “GO HOME!!!!” I had an additional mile to run alongside the old highway, and the beautiful dog shadowed me for the entire route. I began to feel responsible for the dog. As I ran, concerned for its safety, I started to formulate a plan to put the dog in my car and drive it back up to the top of the hill and try to find where it belonged. Of course, the doggy was not wearing a collar… maybe I could keep it. Sigh. I arrived back at the main highway and with traffic zooming by at 60 miles per hour, I was quite concerned for the welfare of my shadow.
As I ran across the highway, still worried about the dog, I scanned the horizon. He must have run across at the same time I did, for he was right there running on the hillside above the road. As I rounded the final corner of my route, leaving the highway for the quiet streets of my sleepy little town, it appeared that I had lost my shadow to the parking lot of the nursing home on the hill above town.
In retrospect, the distraction of the dog, was probably a good thing. I have been plagued with episodic knee pain following the trail run last Saturday. There were probably only 5 minutes during today’s run where I felt the crushing weight of the knee grinding against itself, but the knee pains made me think that perhaps it was a blessing that I had not been able to go out on the 14 mile trail run this morning. As I followed my well worn route home, I found myself wanting to walk during my last half mile. I persevered and even though I reverted to my “old man shuffle”, no walking was done on this day.
In retrospect, the instant I felt that old familiar stickiness in the knee joint, I probably should have walked. Another bit of wisdom imparted to me by the “running man” is that a strong run is a safe run. It is when you are fatigued and your form falters that you will open yourself up to injury. Which intellectually makes a lot of sense, unfortunately when I am in the throes of my ever so stubborn will, I just want to keep pressing on.
With the knee pain I have been experiencing this week, I would be lying if I said that I was not feeling apprehensive about running. I don’t know why I have it in my head that I want to be a runner. In light of the condition of my knees, it makes absolutely no sense, and yet, it is in my heart of hearts. I want it so desperately. Even though I have decided not to run in the 25K trail race this year (which is the baby of ultra runs), as I am clearly not yet ready, I want it. I think about it every day. It fills my thoughts during the day and my dreams at night. I want to run a long trail race. I will start with a 25K, but that is not where I want to stop. I have such a heart stopping desire to run. It fills me, and gives me the impetus to keep moving in a forward direction.
So, is it smart to want this? Probably not. But just because a goal doesn’t seem reasonable or attainable, has never kept me from trying to get there myself. I don’t know why I want it so bad. I don’t know why it makes every cell in my body buzz with anticipation, but I know that I want it. If I let rationality get in the way of my irrational dreams, I never would have become a mountain climber. I never would have competed in triathlons, and I definitely never would have walked the 2658 miles from Canada to Mexico along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Crazy as it seems for a middle aged woman with bad knees, I am inspired, I am motivated, and today, I am running.