In the mornings, I'd arise, feed the kitties (literally, they have cats), then go to work. I'd put in the required number of hours, doing a job I enjoy very little (but sadly, am pretty accomplished at doing). Then, in the late afternoon, I'd drive over to the river, change in my car, and hit trails. The solo runs last week were some of the best I've done in some time. Running late in the day is not something I normally do. I found it a bit difficult to get started. Then it was hard to warm up. Breathing in the heat was a bit labored. But all in all, I found that perseverance paid off. I messed around with different paces. I wore minimal shoes one day (Merrill Barefoot), just for the heck of it. On my final run I decided to take off at a pace I didn't think I could sustain. Each time I felt more tired, I pushed harder and increased my pace. And, at some point, it all went away. All the exhaustion, the pain, the doubt faded into a background fuzz like tv tuned to nothing. I had headphones on, but couldn't tell you if I was listening to NPR or my own playlist. Everything just went away as I ran.
When I looked at my watch at the end of the run, I had knocked 6-7 minutes off of my regular time for the distance. It was near a race pace, with no taper preceding the run, but rather runs each day of the same distance.
Over the weekend, I thought I'd head out to Clinton and click off a few miles on the more technical trails. When I arrived at the trail head, there was a canopy set up. It was full of food and water for people running 40 miles for the 40th birthday of a woman I know only though running, named Gen-no. She and a bunch a friends (most of whom I know) had set off earlier to get a jump on the day. I took off on the same loop but in the opposite direction, figuring that I'd run into them. It was a beautiful day. There were deer everywhere. I see so many deer that I normally don't comment on them, but yesterday was special in terms of proximity to, and number of the animals. I had no issues with breathing, pace, or form. I listened to NPR and cruised along. About 3 miles into my run I did come across the group. My buddy, Coleen (who had celebrated her own birthday, coincidentally, the day before), Gen-no, Alex Beecher, a couple of other guy I recognized, and then Gary all passed by as I sang Happy Birthday (I, obviously, was going too slowly if I could belt out a tune). Gary asked if I would turn around and join them, but I demurred. I had been having such a lovely week of running, and other than when doing runs over 20 miles, I prefer to run alone. I finished an uneventful 10 miles in good time, and was glad that I wasn't trying for forty. Late in the day I did get word that most of my buddies had completed the birthday run. I feel fortunate to know such committed people. That type of running takes a mental as well as a physical strength that people who don't do it probably can't understand. As much as I run, I still try to get my mind around a feat like that as well.
The pool next to my house was set up for long course over the weekend. It is such a treat when they do that. You can just go, and not have to turn every 25 meters. So, seeing that, I couldn't resist. And, after a 2/3 mile swim last night, I once again headed out to the River Trails this morning. I got up early, and hit the trails early in order to beat the predicted storms for late morning and this afternoon. As it turned out, I was the first person on the trails. And, while not as bad as Clinton in the a.m., I was responsible for clearing about half the trail of spider webs... with my face. In the twilight-ish light (wrong time of day, but that is what it felt like), the trails are a bit creepy. Whenever I'm out there alone with darkness descending, I always think about the mountain lion that my optometrists wife swears she saw nearby. She had been on a triathlon training run, and had seen a big cat trailing her. It kind of freaked her out. And years later, the story still freaks me out a little as well. About 4 miles into the run I was finally passed by a cyclist going the other way. And after that, I saw 3 or 4 more as I made my way back. Their presence took away the heeby jeebies, and also cleared the trail ahead of spiders - nice.
So, as I ran this morning, I thought more about what I should do. Most people hit mid-life and buy a Porsche (or something). I've hit mid-life, and want to get rid of everything, move to the desert, and read, write, and run. I feel the need to down-size. I want to strengthen the friendships and relationships (particularly running and writing) that matter. I want to create a type of job that I enjoy (and I think I can do that). And I want more peace and beauty in my life. I'm tired of worrying about quantity; wealth accumulation and risk-avoiding longevity. I'd rather have quality. Maybe I've needed a few seasons of discontent in order to define what really matters. Maybe I won't do anything about the way I feel. But maybe I will. And that is what will get me out of bed.