Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rain lets me run fast

I had a fun weekend "at home," a distinction that included traveling to San Francisco to visit my friend Monika. Monika and I were good friends in college. We even lived in the same house for more than a year. We've only gotten together a couple of times since I moved here, one of the sad truths of busy lives and the way social networking has replaced face time. But it is fun to get together with an old friend and interact as though the last decade never happened. Monika still remembers me as the naive Utah girl who embarked on daylong slickrock canyoneering adventures wearing jeans and Sketchers. I remember her as the funny Slovakian who was one of the only friends willing to join my more harebrained adventure ideas, such as climbing Mount Timpanogos in the middle of the night. We treat each other as though we were still the same vivacious 20-somethings, and it's fun.

Monika invited me to breakfast on Saturday morning and asked if I wanted to join her and her friends who were visiting from North Carolina for "this bluegrass festival." I pictured a small gathering in Golden Gate Park where I could lounge in a camp chair and chat with my friends. I honestly had no knowledge or concept of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a massive annual music festival that draws upwards of 750,000 people over three days. I didn't have any idea that I'd be pressed into a crowd near the stage during a Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard duo, or that I'd be dancing on the periphery during a Broke Social Scene set (one of my favorite indie rock bands), or giving up all hope and plopping down near several sketchy-looking men who launched into random, screaming rants during Gillian Welch. I used to be a big live music fan but realized some years back that I actually don't like feeling trapped by swarming masses of humanity. Now I've apparently fallen so far off the bandwagon that I wasn't even aware this huge free music festival was happening this weekend. It was a treat to experience, but exhausting. Monika would ply me for tips on how I could "run all day" and I would insist that ultrarunning was easier and less harrowing than waiting in line for the port-a-potty, which, between the four of us, we spent most of the day doing anyway.

Then we waited in line for the train. I saw the line of festival-goers at the train stop and asked my friends to consider walking home. They protested that Monika's house was "across town," which I knew in urban-speak basically meant five or six miles. The crowd grew and I tried begging, to no avail. We ended up waiting nearly an hour to be wedged in a train so full of bodies that I could feel two different strangers' breath on my neck, then had to catch a connector train that was similarly crowded and slow. It took us more than two hours to travel "across town." There are a lot of aspects of San Francisco that I appreciate. I like the cables strung over buildings like a crackling spider web. I like eating Guatemalan food at a heavily decorated storefront in the Mission district and almost feeling like I'd traveled to central America. But I'm glad I live farther away from the crowds, closer to more sweeping trails and even some small mountains, in the burbs — or, as the city people I met on Saturday put it, "Oh, wow, way down there" as though I lived in Mexico and not Los Altos. I guess if you're used to spending two hours using public transportation for a five-mile commute, then Los Altos would seem impossibly far.

Today it rained for the first time in a few months, a long-awaited weather event that I was thrilled about. I only had time for an hour-long run before dark, so I headed to Rancho, thinking I would do my usual five-mile loop. But I was running so strong up the PG&E trail that I decided to continue up to the top, a seriously steep four-mile climb, then launched down the other side of the ridge as rain pelted down. The trail was deliciously sticky, covered in a thick moon-dust paste that clung to my shoes, but it was worth it. I felt like I was running on the moon, light and fast without worrying whether my feet were going to slide into gravity's gravel purgatory after every step. At one point I looked down at my GPS and saw "holy cow sub-seven-minute mile!" so I picked up the pace even more. I still made it back before dark, just barely, having run nearly twice as far as I'd planned to run.

I missed the rain more than I realized.


  1. It's so great to connect with friends you haven't seen in awhile! On another note, I also had an interesting trail run the other day. It has been very rainy in Central PA and all of our rivers and creeks are high. I went running on one of my normal trails and it was ridiculously flooded! Water up to my waist where there normally isn't any! I think that is why I love trail running so much though, things are always changing on the trail and that keeps me engaged and entertained.

  2. I felt smothered and stressed just reading this post. Glad you ended in a run that went well. And the rain too. I remember once thinking a ride planned with you would be canceled because of rain. When polled you were just as excited to go riding then ever. You do like rain ... glad you revisited it.

  3. I'm so with you! I had the exact same train vs. walking experience at the Olympics in Vancouver. People would rather queue up for 45 minutes than walk for half that time. I am not cut out for city life.

  4. Nice. I am so jealous. Broken Social Scene was playing there and I soo wanted to go. Did you catch them?

  5. Yeap, I love rain rides, as long as the lightning is not chasing me...

  6. Hey Jill, just saw your book at Hearthside Books in the Nugget Mall, Juneau!! So awesome!!


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