Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hunting for mojo

Since I came back to California a week and a half ago, I've been on the prowl for my mojo. It's been a stealth hunt, stalking from a distance so as to not terrify the little guy into darting off a cliff. Pennsylvania and the Laurel Highlands left their mark. I found myself becoming terribly winded just walking up the stairs of my apartment building, and difficulty breathing at night led me to wonder if I was figthing a respiratory infection. Needless to say it wasn't a heavy week of training. I backed off considerably. I think I only did two trail runs last week, one four miles and the other nine. (Despite promises to myself to keep track of all of my training ahead of PTL, I temporarily lost my GPS watch in a drop bag that disappeared during the Bryce 100 and I didn't even bother to write anything down, so now I have no idea what my numbers have been for the past four weeks.)

Physically, my running isn't in all that bad of shape right now. On Monday I accidentally locked myself out of my house with just a water bottle, a cell phone, and $7 in cash. Since there was little else I could do until Beat got home, I extended my planned six-mile run into a climby from-home loop I call the "Big PG&E," which has about 2,300 feet of climbing and comes in at exactly 13.1 miles. My half-marathon "PR" is 2:04, and I was able to wrap up this trail run in 2:21 without pushing any boundaries.

I could say it went well — no leg pain, no more breathing trouble, happy feet, nothing out of the ordinary. Still, I wasn't quite feeling it. What can I say? Bryce Canyon beat me down. Ever since that race, I have felt a growing sense of terror about Petite Trotte a Leon, to the point where I'm starting to have PTL-specific nightmares. All of these nightmares involve a brilliant lightning storm and heavy rain on a high mountain ridge, and my two teammates and I are separated on opposite ledges with a huge chasm between us. Then I wake up in a cold sweat. To be honest, I haven't had nightmares about an event I haven't yet participated in since before the 2008 Iditarod. I'd almost forgotten how having this degree of pre-race jitters feels, but it's kind of awful. I'm not sure how I'm going to stave off panic as the race gets closer — and I think it's affecting how I feel about running in general. But while I struggle to capture my badly wounded running mojo, I've found relief in what has become a darker corner of my outdoor hobbies — road biking.

I'm loving road biking right now. Ah, the effortless descents. The steady red-line heart rate of a hard climb. The smooth, flowing lines and leg-pumping flats. I go through phases with road biking; generally a few weeks of loving it until I get mentally worn down by run-ins with traffic, or distracted by deeper outdoor adventures. But right now, it's perfect, it's pressure-free, and it's just what I need.

Today I rode a favorite loop — up Steven's Creek Canyon to Highway 9, along Skyline, down Page Mill, back with a wicked tailwind on Foothill. It's 32 miles with 3,300 feet of climbing, and covers a lot of scenic ground in a mere two hours and 15 minutes. As I was coasting down Page Mill, I came up behind a coyote who was just sauntering down the road, pausing briefly to sniff the grass before continuing on. Even as I pedaled up beside it, Coyote paid me little regard. "Hey Coyote," I said, "How's it going?" I thought it would run away once I started talking to it, but Coyote don't care. Coyote don't give a @$%.

Yeah, Coyote and I are good friends. I pulled out my camera and we rode/strode side by side for the better part of a quarter mile before Coyote's ears perked up and it stopped in its tracks. I stopped too and that's when I heard rusting in the grass. Coyote didn't waste another second; it pounced into the shoulder and chased whatever was rustling (probably a rabbit) behind the trees and out of sight. Ah, well. It was a fun friendship while it lasted.