Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Old Horse Keeps Trottin'

"Do not lose hold of your dreams, or aspirations. For if you do, you may still exist, but cease to live."
- Henry David Thoreau

Throughout my many years of running, I've run short, I've run very long, I've run on flat, I've run on very steep mountains, I've run roads, I've run trails, I've run from one point to another point 26.2 miles away, and I've run 1000 laps around a 142 foot circular track. For the past 33 years, I just plain love to run. Maybe sometimes I overdid it, but if I had to do it all over again, I'd probably try to figure out how I could do more. They say you don't get old until dreams start to be replaced by regrets, and over the past few years, injuries are pushing me gradually over that fence. I used to be able to plan several marathons or ultras a year and know I was in shape to do them. Marathons became training runs for ultras. Ultras became "short ultras" or "long ultras". I could do a marathon on Saturday and come back with my marathon training class and do a 20 miler with them the next day. I loved the feeling it left in my legs and in my head.

Still, although I feel like I can time my runs with an sundial lately, what I get from running outweighs the struggles. I'm now an old horse runnin' along! The good news is that I am still runnin'. I have run many miles over the years getting close to three times the circumference of the earth, and for somebody who hated running in my teens, that's quite a surprise, but I miss the Superman feeling I had. Life became my Kryptonite, daggum it!

But, I still am a runner, and I still get out there and do the absolute best I can. A few weeks ago, I went with my very good friend (My long-lost brother) Moha to run at the Ruffner Mountain Trail. We had never been there before, and OH MY GOD, it was the hilliest, hardest, rockiest trail I had tried to run on in years. I swore we would never come back there again...HaHaHa!! Before we left the park, we talked about the absurdity that there was going to be a trail half-marathon out there in about 4 weeks time. Ok, I'm sure you can already see the rusty wheels turning. It was like "No, no, don't let that thought seep into my brain!!". The clincher was when Moha (or it might have been me...I really don't remember) mentioned that there was another trail half-marathon THE VERY DAY AFTER at Oak Mountain!! There it was. The fire that burned all those years ago never has gone out and the challenge of doing this double was cast. Oh, we gave the obligatory "That would be stupid" argument, but we both knew it was fruitless to deny the inevitable.

So, last Saturday, Moha & I lined up at the start of the Ruffner Mt High Crusher Ridge 21k. We have run together for many, many years and many, many miles and although he is a better runner than I am, he swore he would go every step with me. And that he did. We laughed, swore, fell, swore some more, and late in the day we came across the finish line. It took almost three and a half hours which should almost be embarrassing, but I felt pumped to have finished not only my longest trail run in probably a year, but to have done it on a course that tried it's hardest to do me in. This course has 2800' of elevation over the 13.1 miles and that's tough no matter what level trail runner you are. Plus, for a reason I guess only I can understand, knowing I had another run in the morning brought back some of the old spark that I used to define myself back when.

So, on Sunday, there were the "lost brothers" again, this time at the Xterra Oak Mt. Trail Half Marathon. Surprisingly, my ankles weren't balking at me too much from the previous day's adventure, maybe because I can successfully divorce my mind from my ankles and they had no idea what was about to happen. Now, Oak Mt is a where I do just about all of my trail running, so I knew it wasn't going to be as punishing as yesterday, about half the total elevation gain, but there were still a couple of whoppers when it came to the hills...that's one reason God invented walking!! Plus, there was a new section that I hadn't ever run on that was 4-5 miles of steady up and down (aptly called the "Jekell & Hyde" Trail). That completely took the starch out of my legs and my ankles were well aware of the deciet I had tried to pull on them. Moha once again stayed every step with me, and we finally came across the finish line in what felt like Tuesday, but was actually only 3:17. I've been telling everyone I did a Negative Split with the two runs!! The Ruffner course was difficult to run hard on, and the Oak Mt course was just flat difficult to finish. I embraced the feeling of my legs hurting because I had made them perform doing a tough job and not hurting just because...well...they hurt. My inner self enjoyed what I had done, because it just doesn't happen too often anymore.

An old horse doesn't race at Churchill Downs anymore, and doesn't plow the fields. But, once in a while, he can still go to the Fair and give some kids a ride on his back and I'll bet he gets a kick out that.

I'll see you on the roads as long as I can - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

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