Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas (Running) Story

Almost every holiday memory begins with a run...

It is Christmas eve and the sun is shining through the open window along with a cool breeze.  There is no snow and no need to blast the noisy heater.  My feet are bare and I am wearing a cotton t-shirt and an old pair of shorts as I relax on the couch.  One year of living in San Diego and I am still amazed at the warmth of Christmas eve.  I hesitate before coming out from under the covers in anticipation of cold air.  I expect the icy cool bathroom tiles to shock my naked feet, but they don't.  All is warm.  I sit with a cup of hot coffee in my hand, steaming into my face as an open book lay on my lap.  Relaxed and at peace with myself and everything around me.  

Eventually, Angela makes her way home from training her clients and picking up last minute gifts.  This is my signal to finally change out of the clothes I've been in all day.  I pull my hair back into a  low bun and use a few gold bobby pins to hold back the crazy hairs with a mind of their own.  I slip on my bright white, new running shoes.   I don't like the whiteness of them, I'd prefer a little dirt around the edges.  We head out to the end of our road where it meets Florida Street along the canyon trails.  We warm up for a mile and a half or so before we start the taxing repeats that will eventually turn our legs into wobbly noodles. 

View of Florida Street from "Our" Trails

The time comes for our first fast mile and off we go.  Somehow I manage to stay a few feet ahead of Ang.  It seems that my legs are working entirely on their own.  They don't even need me to tell them to speed it up.  My inner drill sergeant doesn't speak quite yet.  We are on an incline and my lungs are letting me know.  I push in an effort to finish sooner.  "Stop!" she yells and I turn the brakes on.  We jog at a snail's pace and get ourselves together.  First mile, not too bad.  The next mile is a slight decline.  That should be nice. 

And it was.  Two down, Two more to go.  Off we go for the third repeat, up the incline once again.  This time around my legs feel shaky.  I am regretting my late night run on the treadmill the night before.  This is my fourth day of running in a row, something I have tried to avoid after my overuse injuries.  I realize I am making excuses and push harder.  The inner drill sergeant is talking now.  Angela keeps turning to check on me.  This frustrates me.  I yell at her to stop looking at me; it makes me self-conscious and reminds me that I am behind her.  The incline feels like a mountain this time around.  Another mile done and my legs come to a screeching halt.  My head feels fuzzy.  I have the same feeling as when I stand up too fast.  I like this feeling.  A natural high, but short lived.

We recover before our fourth mile-repeat as the sun sets.  The last mile is always the best.  I can see an imaginary finish line ahead.  The signal that the hard work is almost over and a cool down is ahead waiting for me.   This time Ang has to stop and tie her shoe so I go on without her.  I am enjoying this last fast bit as I hear footsteps somewhere nearby.  Assuming it is Ang, I continue.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a man on the opposite side of the road.  I look to my left and sure enough he is running slightly faster than me. 

Suddenly it becomes a two-person foot race, except, he never got the memo.  I kick it up a notch and hit the gas.  I move faster.  We are neck and neck.  If I see him inch ahead I push even harder.  I see the mile mark in sight and I use the remainder of the gas in my tank.  I think he is trying to beat me!  Maybe he did get the memo.  He veers onto a path and I finish, feeling victorious.  In my little game I won.  I beat the man with the long legs and the runner's body.  He was the gazelle and I looked like the old rickety man as I slowed to a tired jog.  Done.  Complete.  Now relax. 

We jogged back home with satisfaction.  The weak feeling in my legs after a fast run actually makes me feel stronger.  I love speed workouts!  They are not only more fun but they go by much faster than most runs.  That cloud nine feeling passed over me, as it does after many of my runs. 

I need to be pushed.  I was lucky to have Ang to chase after and the random runner on the side of the road.  Innocent man didn't even know he was part of my little mind game.  If we don't push ourselves out of our comfort zone we don't get any faster.  I choose the challenge over the easy road.  It feels so much better at the end.
After a total of eight miles, we continute the night with a meal of steamed rice, veggies and curry tofu piled high in our white bowls.  We opened gifts, laughed and enjoyed soft holiday music.  This was our Christmas, even if it was only the 24th and just the two of us.  Love and peace filled our home along with an overdose of gratitude for the gifts received.  It's hard to believe I once dreaded and abhorred the holiday season.  My, how times (and people) change. 

**Sorry for writing such a long post about one measly workout.  Running, especially fast, feels euphoric at times and I want to relive it by writing about it.  Do you ever feel the same?