Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Already with the guilt

It's been a simple week so far: Work, arrange apartment, bike, run, late dinner, arrange apartment, upload more photos to the Shutterfly archive, sleep. Yesterday I didn't get out of the house until 7:30. I rode my Karate Monkey 10 miles up to the Ravine Trail, parked, and began running. I knew I'd be out after dark as it was and planned to only run for 20 minutes or so. I turned on my iPod and started up the trail, wheezing a bit as I rounded the steep switchbacks. On a steep grade, the simple act of running at all, even slowly, calls for surprisingly exhaustive bursts of energy. I gulped air but kept my motion fluid, floating along the edges of the pain cave as flickering sunlight and shadows put me deep in a meditative trance. I can't even say how it happened but, just like that, I was suddenly at the SnowBowl overlook, two and a half miles and 1,000 feet into the run. A little farther than I planned. Whoops.

But the run down felt great, the ride home even better, metabolizing an overabundance of endorphins as a blur of city lights streamed by. I felt a tinge of guilt about going longer and probably harder than I should have, but holy cow is BikeRun fun.

Today Dave and I set out for our weekly Wednesday night ride. We both agree that heat is the downfall of all things fun, and today was another scorcher, 90 degrees with smokey hints of barbecued forest in the air. We went in search of shade on the Deer Creek Sneak, a loop ride that's a healthy distance in its own right, but then we worked our way up the Crazy Canyon singletrack and plunged down The Gut of Mount Sentinel. Probably more than 2,000 feet of climbing in total, and 20+ miles. (I really need to start GPS-ing these rides, or at least purchase a working odometer once again.) I should also mention that I'm bike commuting daily on the fixie now. It's only about five miles total, but these things add up.

Anyway, it was a good ride, made great toward the end as we descended back into the valley with the smoke-filtered sunset casting eerie light across the hillside. Then we stopped for pizza, and lounged around The Bridge until well after dark, musing about winter and adventure. As I rode the empty bike path home, full and happy, that nagging thought came into my mind ... "Ugh. I didn't run yet today."

I know I don't need to run every day to get in shape for running. I know I shouldn't run every day to get in shape for running. But right now, when I am still very early in my resolve to do this, I really feel like I need to make a solid effort to add it to my routine - form a habit to prevent me from falling quickly off the wagon. And as long as I don't feel any negative physical effects from running, I feel like I should make a regular commitment.

I call this photo "The August Sun." Anyway, I had to make a quick phone call before it got to late, and by the time I set out it was 10 p.m. At least the pizza had time to digest. I cued up my iPod and turned on the red blinky I clipped to my bike jersey. Into the dark neighborhood streets, I listened to music and blinked against the sporadic flickering of street lights. With nothing to see and nothing to focus on but the movements of my own muscles, I again fell into a quiet, meditative state. This is one thing that really sets running apart for me - I'm not operating a machine, not dedicating intense focus to my movements or anticipating the obstacles ahead. I'm simply moving, body and mind focused only on itself, and it allows me to quickly reach that peaceful place that I sometimes spend hours seeking on a bike. I value that place. It's certainly not the only reason I ride, but it is, for me at least, one of the best reasons to run.

And before I knew it, my quads were on fire and my feet were pounding into the pavement. I was running fast again. Whoops. I slowed down and drank in all of the smells surrounding me, the stale dew, the smoke, the dusty sweetness of August weeds and cool air that ever-so-slightly hinted of autumn. I finished my wide loop in 28 minutes - probably about three miles. Short but consistent. For now, that's the goal.

And the unexpectedly serene trip around the neighborhood after dark? That's just a bonus.


  1. Do you ever worry about surprising a bear or mountain lion when your on your (quiet) runs?

  2. With all the biking, I think 3 runs a week would be plenty. Especially since our winter adventure will be more hiking than running based on the reports I've read... I'm so proud of you though for running at night after pizza and a long hard bike ride!

  3. The Ravine Trail to the Overlook is waaay further than 2.5 miles, probably more like 4 or 5. The trail sign is an artifact of when the trail had no switchbacks.

    After pizza I went home, showered, and went to sleep!

  4. Four or five miles? Wow, I must have really been in the zone. I blame Danni and her awesome mix CDs that I downloaded to my iPod. But that would explain why it was after 10 p.m. when I got home that night.

    I'm going to have to shorten the distance of my regular rides if I want to continue regular running. But not on Wednesdays. Or Thursdays.

  5. As far as surprising bears or mountain lions, I don't worry about it too much, especially in my mid-town neighborhood. But even on trails, such encounters are exceedingly rare.

  6. I heard 96(F) for today. Scorcher for sure. We just had a couple weeks worth of that plus dewpoints well in the 70's. We've finally cooled off.

    Take care in the heat. I don't like it, but it does make me dream of snow and the Pugsley which is nice :)

  7. Hi Jill,

    Mention of the (new) fixie prompted me to think that your list of MY BIKES is now seriously out of date. There's another chore to fit into your increasingly busy day!

    Don't thank me.


  8. Awesome that you're giving your running muscles some use! I've been loving running since I started in November, but make sure you continue to resist that urge to just keep going. The day you find you've been out for 4 hours loving every minute of it will probably be the day before you realize something is injured :-/

  9. Jill,

    I want to talk you into riding up steep hills mountain biking. Its not the speed---I was riding about the same speed as you were walking on tonight's Thursday night ride. But its part of the challenge of mountain biking to see what hills you can ride up. If I can do it, you can do it.


  10. Thanks, Alden. I understand what you mean. All along I've had this philosophy that if I can walk as fast as I can ride, with much less energy expediture, why should I ride? My mountain biking experiences have always been connected to some kind of endurance effort, which for me has always been about self-preservation and energy conservation. Thus, I have no guilt about stepping around obstacles I don't think I can ride, and I stop and walk up hills long before I redline. I honestly didn't realize how much I've been holding myself back until I started riding regularly with others (very recently, as in this past May, in Anchorage.)

    This would actually make a good blog post discussion - challenge in an effort to become better versus conservation for the long haul. But, honestly, this evening I was feeling to run down to push myself. I blame a persistent, low-level bonk and all the running this week.

  11. You don't really know how to give yourself a break, do you? It'll be there in the morning.

  12. You seem to be totally adapted to the new environment and going strong, just have in mind that recovery is as important as the effort, to forget that is to drive yourself against the wall. I wont ask you about the writing anymore but will be waiting for the "Great Divide" book, you promised... :-) take care

  13. Enjoy Missoula, Jill. I haven't visited your blog in quite some time and was surprised to see the change in venue. My wife and I lived in Missoula before we began traveling two years ago. We miss Montana, but hope to return again. In the meanwhile, I'll just keep reading.

  14. A few years ago I did come upon a mountain lion while riding in the Missoula area. I was about to crest a small hill and as I got closer I saw something tannish brown about fifty yards up the trail. Still pedaling I started looking closely. I saw the tail and started following it to the head. The cat was staring at me. At first I had a oh sh*t moment. I froze, wished I had my camera with me, and then slowly backed away out of sight.

    And about a month ago while leaving the Rattlesnake area a black bear came bounding across the road near the trail head. I'd say the bears and cats are out there but it's pretty unlikely you'll see them. Having grown up in Montana and lived in Idaho I can count the number of sightings I've had on one hand.

    Your pictures are making me want to go back home for a weekend. I like it there in the fall.


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