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January 24, 2008

Trail (and Tri) Tag

(Kind of an alliterative title, huh? It was an accident, I promise.)

OK, it’s about time I get around to doing this, so it’s not weighing on my conscience anymore.

Here’s the tag Mark sent me:

1. My most memorable moment on the trails in 2007.
2. The best new trail I discovered in 2007.
3. My best performance of 2007.
4. I don't know how I previously survived without...
5. The person I would most like to meet on the trails in 2008.
6. The race I am most excited about for 2008.

And just to keep things interesting, I’ve giving myself an additional challenge …

7. Keep it all under 1000 words. Ready … Go!

Most Memorable Moment: One morning, a friend and I took off on one of those “We know there’s a trail there, but we have no idea where it goes” exploratory runs, starting before sunrise on a Sunday morning. We ended up running for almost two hours through a beautiful wilderness area that borders a dam on the upper reaches of the Carmel River.

On our way back, we inadvertently crossed the property line of two angry dogs – one German Shepherd and one Rottweiler mix – who charged at us, baring their teeth and barking like crazy. We froze in our tracks, and had a brief staredown with the dogs, but they weren’t settling down at all, and I knew it was going to end badly for us.

That’s when the dogs’ owner came out of his trailer wearing nothing but flip-flops, boxers, and a bathrobe.

Thankfully, he called off the dogs, and only gave us a mild lecture about being on private property before pointing us in the direction of civilization and politely recommending that we leave – which we did, gladly (and with the dogs growling and snarling at us all the way). And before you ask: no, we never went back. But it sure was a beautiful run.

Incidentally, that also doubles as my “Most memorable conversation with a redneck standing outside in his underwear” for 2007 … in case you were wondering.

Best New Trail: Instead of singling out one specific trail, I’m going the gestalt route on this one, and extolling the collective. That’s because the best “new trail” experience I’ve had this winter is visiting all of my familiar trails under the cover of darkness.

Most years, I spend countless mornings running on trails for nine months - but after the time changes and the winter sun starts rising later, I log most of my miles on roads until the spring. This year, I felt more reluctant than ever to leave the trails behind, and had a light-bulb moment of sorts, realizing that I didn’t have to return to the roads – especially since I don’t have a spring marathon on the calendar. So I decided to stock up on some lights, and just kept hitting the trails.

Running the trails in the dark makes you appreciate them in a different manner. Think of it this way: let’s say you had a co-worker who, for years and years, you only saw during the day, whose friendship you enjoyed and whom you flirted with a lot with before finally asking her out. Then she shows up for your first date wearing knee-high boots and a little black dress – and you realize that she’s way more interesting, enticing, and potentially dangerous after the sun goes down.

That’s sort of how it feels when you see your favorite trails in the dark for the first time. Then after multiple early mornings together – just like spending several late nights with your date – you develop a more intimate familiarity with something you used to know only superficially. There’s a whole new set of rules to be learned. As far as the trails are concerned, thoughts like “Whoa - I didn’t realize that rock was there”, or “That root was a lot higher than I thought” seem to come up quite frequently lately. I’ve taken some lumps, but overall I’m really happy with the decision to advance the relationship.

(In a related story – I’ve tripped and fallen on the trails more often this year than ever before. But that’s probably a different post altogether.)

Best Performance: I’m assuming this should be something related to racing - which is a shame, because some of the things I celebrate the most have nothing to do with athletics. For example, I really enjoyed the night I secretly took pictures of Rob Lowe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Andy Baldwin, and Carl Lewis, and I’m especially proud of the way I’ve learned to use the triple-speed advance function on our TiVo and land within one second of the program resuming after commercial breaks.

Since I have to pick an athletic endeavor … there’s no question it would be Vineman. Doing an ironman was – to use a phrase du jour – on my bucket list for many years, and in 2007 I finally got to cross it off. But trust me, I tell just as many people about that TiVo thing as I do the ironman (and strangely, they're sometimes equally impressed by both).

I Don’t Know How I Previously Survived Without: eBay! This shouldn’t surprise anyone who read my blog last month. If you didn’t, here are a couple of CliffsNotes: 1) I couldn’t afford to be a triathlete or ultrarunner without buying my gear there, and 2) I haven’t paid retail price for a pair of shoes in over three years. Enough said.

Person I’d Most Like to Meet: the obvious answer is to list all the bloggers I hope to meet at any of my upcoming races – and while that’s true, it feels like taking the easy way out of this question.

Because you know who I’m really hoping to meet most of all? Whoever the guy is who gives out the finishers’ belt buckles at Western States. I want to shake his hand at the awards ceremony at Placer High School as he’s giving me a buckle of my own.

On that note …

Race I’m Most Excited About: Come on now. I don’t even have to say it, right? I didn’t think so.

That’s a good thing, because I’m close to my word limit - which means it’s time to stop.


Taryn 1/24/08, 6:48 AM  

I loved your analogy between dating a new woman and traversing a hilly trail...

And congrats on finally mastering fast forward X 3! Woot! Someone's failure to do so can be a big bone of contention in our household ;)

21stCenturyMom 1/24/08, 9:15 AM  

I'm a little disappointed with the quality of your best conversation with a redneck in his underwear. Hopefully this year will be better!

Trails in the dark? Oh my.

And WS-100 - YES!

jen 1/24/08, 9:42 AM  

Great post. You'll have to do this again at the end of 2008- you've got a big year ahead of you, even compared to an awesome 2007!

momo 1/24/08, 10:40 AM  

just make sure you don't give that finisher belt guy a hug, ya know? although if anything could cause you to be a hugger, finishing that crazy thing might just be it... :-)

i'm pretty excited about that race, too, and i'm not even doing it!!

Anne 1/24/08, 1:17 PM  

Wow, I never knew Carmel even *had* rednecks, let alone rabid Rottweilers. Time to bring back Clint Eastwood to clean up the town.

olga 1/24/08, 3:05 PM  

You should have specifyied you're meeting that dude with SILVER buckle in hands!

Backofpack 1/24/08, 3:55 PM  

Seems like the roots and rocks just jump out in the lamp light - maybe it throws off depth perception. Sure makes me nervous! I like to run a route in the dark, then again as it gets light. It's like a whole new run!

robtherunner 1/24/08, 5:12 PM  

I have no doubt you will get to meet that guy who will hand you your Silver Buckle as Olga pointed out. Yes, we have high expectations of you.

rick 1/24/08, 6:03 PM  

You should meet that guy at WS and I hope he has a silver buckle for you. You'll also get that buckle with and in front of your peers which is pretty darn special.

P.S. I'll see you at Mt. Diablo 50.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 1/24/08, 11:32 PM  

Thanks, Don, for answering. Great stuff as always.

You've inspired me to go cheat on my wife on the trails near my house some night.

RunBubbaRun 1/25/08, 3:27 AM  

Nice post. I like the night running thoughts. I haven't had the courage to trail run at night yet. But who can say no to
knee-high boots.

Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) 1/25/08, 11:29 AM  

BTW, since it's of dubious moral character to ask someone to finish a responsibility when you haven't finished your own, I finally finished my own tag questions.

It's funny how you and I both connect flirty women with trail running, bro.

triguyjt 1/26/08, 6:46 AM  

loved the post...
veery tough 08 on tape for you..
western states 100?? you are my hero..good luck with that. what an awesome event that is...so I have read and seen.
Maybe before I'm 60, I will get there...
I'm coiming back Donald...thanks

Addy 1/27/08, 8:45 AM  

Very nice! Running at night is great, but I've learned that if I'm not in a large group, I can pretty easily psych myself out :P But you do make it sound pretty enticing!

You've also reminded me that I have a tag I need to fulfill as well! Hmm....I should probably get on that... :)

Darrell 2/2/08, 10:42 PM  

Much to my chagrin I too give up my trails each winter (end result is a very bad mood that last until DST takes over again) in favor of road runs. Next year I'll consider a light and I'll look for it on ebay.

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