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.