14 March 2011

A spectacular tumble in paradise

Week Eleven of marathon training passed largely in Southern California.

The day before departure, Kathryn and I ran 15 miles in the Morton Arboretum. Coach Rich introduced me to the Arboretum last winter, and there he paced me through my first hills. We ran in snow and rain. There last spring I did my last long training runs, alone; the last one - 21 miles - in full sunshine with the Arboretum just coming into bloom and flower. It was about time to introduce Kathryn to the Arboretum. And true to my own introduction, she got a long, hilly, rainy run in.

The next morning, Saturday, my Karen and I boarded a plane at 30 degrees and walked off four hours later in sunny LA, 60+ degrees. Spring break! Spring vacation! We were greeted by long time friends John and Kathy Josselyn, who gave us a great tour of their world and put us up in their lovely California home. Out their front windows there looms a high ridge, part of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. Sunday after church we took a long leisurely hike there (but not up to the ridge!), and I knew where I would be doing my easy Monday morning jog!

Saying nothing here about all the great places we were taken, the beauties of coastal California and the framing mountains, of Sunday morning worship, and brunch right on the rocky beach at Malibu. Delightful company, delightful sight seeing.

We were to have rain on Monday, so I was pretty sure my run would be on streets. It did rain, a slow, soaking rain, Sunday night. Monday dawned bright and clear, and I decided I would, after all, hit the trail in Wildwood. It is not a gravel trail; it is not crushed limestone. It really is, um, dirt. Which clung to the soles of my new Brooks shoes ... and so I guess aided the workout factor, as I had more weight to move along with each step. The hills were definitely "not Chicago" but also not overwhelming. And it was great to get in a run so utterly unlike what I would have at home on any given Monday morning.

Two days later, my Karen and I woke up in the Montecito Inn, Santa Monica. (Again, to say nothing here of our beautiful run out through Ojai and Solvang, etc.) This was to be a lighter week all around, according to the training plan; and uncertain, to honor the idea of vacationing together. So, with permission, I set out toward Butterfly Beach (a walk of maybe 5 minutes) for a prospective 40-45 minutes run.I have never run on sand, not run run anyway, and didn't think this would be the morning to begin. A possible destination - Stearns Wharf - was 3.5 miles from the hotel ... farther than my promised time allowed, longer than the training program required, and tantalizingly close ... and to get there off the beach would give me a pretty sizable hill. Off I took.

The hill route took me by the entrance to the Music Academy of the West (nice surprise, that) and the Santa Monica Cemetery, back down to beach level and a nice long running/cycling path parallel to the shoreline. At 20 minutes out, it looked like the Wharf might not extend the run too long. At 25 minutes, I promised myself I would turn around at 30 if I hadn't reached the Wharf. At 28 minutes, there I was, I walked a small circle at the street end of the pier, and headed back to the hotel.

There's this parking lot on the way. The path empties into it, and if the sidewalk were not under construction, one could take that around the lot. I approached the decision point - a public changing room bath house - scanning for options, slowing but not much. I entered the shade of the bath house ... and failed to notice the small change in surface height. A spectacular tumble! I went down on my left side, scraping the heels of both hands, my left calf, and rolling on my left shoulder.Of course someone was sitting right there to see it all. "Man, are you OK?" he asked? Yes, I think so, said I, getting up. "I usually do that on a bike, not on a run!" I told the guy, sitting there with his own bike. "You sure?" Yep, thanks. He sent me on the way with this cheery thought, "You know, you're not getting any younger!"

I was OK, and now I have the calf abrasions as a mark of this year's training. I got back to the hotel with a total run time of 56 minutes, a pace just over 8 minutes per mile (including the tumble!), and hotter than with any run so far in this training period.

To run in paradise, mid-way through this adventure, was sheer joy. Even if I had to pay for it with runners road rash, I wouldn't have missed it!

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