October 30, 2012

Running through the list

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I sort of have a bucket list of things I want to try to do and see before I leave San Diego. Some items are things I never got around to doing, but most are things I just want to experience another time while I can.

Over the past couple of months, I took advantage of the Residents Free Tuesday program for the museums at Balboa Park. Each Tuesday, certain museums are free for San Diego County residents. The highlights of the tour were the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Art, and the Museum of Man.

The last one I made it to was the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. Just like the Science Center in Seattle, it is an especially fun place for kids. Lots of levers to throw and buttons to push, but also great learning opportunities for adults and kids alike. One cool exhibit did a great job of encapsulating the hard to describe concept of chaos. After you spin the center dial, the three pendulums spin independently, but their motion influences the others in weird ways. They speed up, slow down, and even reverse directions in unpredictable ways.

Each weekend I tried to visit another of the San Diego places on the list - Coronado Island, Seaport Village, Old Town, Dog Beach, the Sunday Market - places I had been before, but wanted to soak in one more time. I tried to add in new places as well, but it is amazing how quickly the weekends have flown by. Plans for riding my bike from Oceanside to San Diego may fall by the wayside, but I did fit in a ride up Mt. Soledad. There were some incredibly steep sections where I was standing on the pedals in granny gear, but the view was well worth the effort.

Though I wanted to see so many things before I head out of town, the list is really just a structure to spend more time with friends. Kristy and I have spent most weekends together, checking things off the list. Last weekend we made it up to the mountain town of Julian for a fall foliage tour, a little bit of hiking, some wine tasting, and enjoying some of Julian's famous cider and apple pie.

Sean and I have been working through the San Diego brewery map for the past year or so, and we are closing in on finishing the tour. I have learned so much about beer (which hopefully has translated into better homebrew), but again the tour has been more about spending an afternoon with a friend.

One of the things on the list that has been hard to fit in is a long run with Sean. We have now become each other's sounding board when it comes to brewing and writing, but it all began with running. We have towed the same start line at many marathons and 5ks, and I wanted to go for one more long run together while travel times are still short. But try as we might, we couldn't coordinate a weekend where our schedules and training lined up.

So in true Drunken Promise form, after celebrating his son Keaton's birthday on Sunday, I signed up to run a marathon with Sean next weekend. He had been planning to run with a good friend to help him finish his first marathon, but Steve had to pull out due to injury. Marci had already signed up to run it on her own, but now all three of us will be running the marathon together. Since I was already preparing for one next month, I am more or less prepared, but this marathon will be more about miles with friends than a race against the clock.

The past month has flown by, and looking on to November, it is only going to get busier. Of course I have to fit in all the regular details of moving as well, so every spare moment is filling up. Just trying to run with it.

October 22, 2012

Eyes on the horizon

For the past few months, I have been back to running on a regular basis. As much as I enjoy running, it is easier to get out if I am training for a race. For a variety of reasons, it was difficult to commit to a particular race this time around, but I had a vague target of running a marathon before the year was over.

When I was running in Washington, I almost always ran in the evenings. As more of a night owl, it was just a better time for me physically. My body was warmed up, my mind was clear, and it was a great way to drop off any work frustration before I brought it home. For the past three years in San Diego, I have had to transition to running in the morning to beat the heat. For most of the year, if I didn't get out the door early, the sun would take more out of me than the miles.

And, I've actually gotten used to running in the morning. Still not the best time of day for me, but running seems to change that for the better. However, one benefit to our brief period of fall temperatures is being able to run in the afternoon and evening again. This past weekend I ran a 12 miler in misty rain, something that gave me some Washington flashbacks.

The previous weekend, I couldn't get out for my long run until after four o'clock. I had to get 18 miles in, and sundown was only two hours away. Not only was I getting to run in the evening, but I would end up running in the dark.

Every time I run around the bay, I pass by vacation rentals and hotels filled with out of town guests enjoying the sunshine. Seeing them sitting on their patios relaxing with a beer makes me a bit jealous at times, but it reminds me to appreciate that I get to run here all the time. I ran by these folks again on Saturday, but I also ran by five different weddings on my first 12 mile loop. White chairs on sand, flowered arbors framing the couples and the ocean backdrop. What a beautiful place to start your new life together, even with runners like me passing through their field of vision.

The weddings of course set my mind on a different path. What I've lost, what might have been, what the future might look like. How beautiful my own wedding day was, and how I didn't appreciate what I had until it slipped away. After finishing the loop around Mission Bay, the sun was now getting low on the horizon. I stopped at my truck to refuel, threw on a reflective vest, reversed course and made my way around the west side of the bay again.

The air was cooler, and the paths were starting to clear. Most everyone was heading inside, but there were a few of us chasing darkness. The chairs on the sand were now empty, the celebrations having moved on, but flowers still decorated the aisle they had walked down.

It is easy to get lost in your thoughts when running for hours at a time, and even easier to endlessly stare at the pavement in front of you. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to raise your head to see all you are passing by. Recently, I have been looking around more, taking in what I can, while I can. This particular Saturday was something else though. The shift to running in the evening would have been enough to cast everything in a different light, but it really felt like there was more there, there.

Without a clearly defined target, my training hasn't been as disciplined as in the past. I knew I wasn't shooting for a personal best this time around, and the plan was just to enjoy the experience of race day. Things are starting to take shape, and the challenge is going to be tougher than planned. Time is also getting short down here, with my move day just three weeks away. Every time I pass by something now, I wonder if it is the last time for a while. It is starting to sink in, and I know it is going to get tougher.

I didn't have a camera with me, but as the sun went down, I remembered that my iPod could shoot video. So I stopped running, and stopped to appreciate it.

October 17, 2012

Quiet change of season

What passes for fall arrived last week. Unfortunately, fall does not come forth in a burst of colorfully changing leaves. Though there are trees that go bare in the winter, they are more unusual in the land of palm trees, and the leaves don't seem to go through the cycle of colors before falling to the ground. Fall comes in more quietly down here, and was really just signaled by a break in the heat.

After a month of temperatures that flirted and cracked triple digits, and nights spent sleeping on top of the covers with a fan blowing, there was suddenly a bit of chill in the air. Windows that were opened first thing in the morning to provide a little AC-less breeze were now closed, and blinds that shuttered the baking sun were now thrown open to let it in.

I was jolted awake the first fan-less morning. I had apparently turned up the volume on the alarm to compensate for the background whirring of the fan, and the loud music had me reflexively slapping at the alarm clock. I managed to hit the snooze button without remembering exactly where it was. As I rolled over, cursing the jarring start to the day, I realized I hadn't hit the snooze button in a very long time.

I never wake refreshed, and mornings are a struggle of frustration (how is it possible to feel worse than I did before getting some sleep!). Growing up, and for much of my adult life, the snooze bar was used heavily. Each push of the button gave me an extra ten minutes of sleep. Where I have to read for an hour in the evening just to get to sleep, in the morning I had no difficulty slipping into unconsciousness in repeated ten minute blocks. Each time I hit the snooze, I would be giving up something from my morning. "Bam - I don't need a full breakfast. I can grab and go. Smack - I can probably get to work without stopping for gas. Slap - I can get by without a shower and shave. Crack - aw hell, I'm late."

My clock was also set five or ten minutes fast to give me a bit of cushion, but even in my groggy stupor, I could do the math to figure out the real time. At some point, I realized how ridiculous this was. Yes, I was falling back asleep each time, but why not trade that for thirty minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I set my alarm clock to the correct time, and stopped using the snooze bar. Getting out of bed wasn't suddenly easier, but I did stop feeling foolish and lazy at the start of each day. Plus, I only had to hear the alarm once instead of four times.

For the past few years, I have been waking up before the alarm most mornings. For a while, it was Sierra's clicking nails as she paced the hardwood floors for her breakfast. It was frustrating to be robbed of the sleep I so desperately desired. Depending how early she was, sometimes I could make her lie down and go back to bed, but usually once she was up and around, so was I.

Now I am starting to wake on my own. She is usually awake before I am, but now stays in bed, resting her sore legs until she is sure I am up and ready to feed her. Though I am still very tired each morning, I have lost the ability to fall back asleep. Every time I roll over and see that I am awake a half hour early, I feel robbed, though now it is my own body doing the stealing.

For the past week or two, I have been getting up earlier than normal, before sunrise during the week. After feeding Sierra, we both walk outside so she can take care of business. The air is that perfect level of autumn briskness. Cool enough to clear out the sleepy cobwebs, but not so cold that I need to throw on a jacket.

It was back in the 80's again this week, so our break from the heat was short lived. The days may feel like summer again, but for a few quiet hours each morning, autumn show its cool face.

October 11, 2012

Thursday night adventures

As if there weren't enough reasons to go for a run. How about some prizes and a free beer?

Every second Thursday of the month, the local Road Runner Sports holds something they call an "Adventure Run". I finally checked it out in August, and ran my second one this evening. And it was a blast.

When I showed up the first time back in August, I really didn't know what to expect. The website said that you run to some checkpoints and gather raffle tickets. I figured that there would be 30 or 40 runners there, and that we would all just take off on some pre-determined route. When I pulled up a half hour before the start, the parking lot was full, and there were probably close to 200 runners milling about. They pointed me to a local ball field for overflow parking, and I had to hustle to get to the start line and get signed in.

Not only were there far more runners than I expected, the parking lot had been turned into a running expo with multiple booths and an emcee on the mike. I just followed the crowd and listened to the directions over the loudspeaker to figure out what I had signed up for. The Adventure Run is basically a scavenger hunt for runners. After getting everyone signed in and ready, right at 6:00 they unfurl a map the size of a cargo van, and the game is on. The map is marked with lettered stops, and it is up to you to figure out the best path to try to hit them all.

They hand you a pen, paper and a plastic baggie at check in. I spent a good five minutes taking furious notes on where the stops were, and then writing out rough turn-by-turn directions. The parking lot was nearly empty by the time I set out. You have an hour to complete your mission, and the clock was ticking. Time to get running.

At each stop, they hand you a matching set of two raffle tickets. You stuff them in the sandwich baggie and head on to the next stop. At some of the stops, there is a physical challenge that will earn you extra tickets. There were push ups, burpies, obstacle courses, and even a dare to jump into a hotel pool (fully clothed). It was pretty hot back in August, but I was already behind after getting lost and running an extra mile, so I didn't have the time to strip off the electronics and cool off.

You race back to the store by 7:00, and separate your matching tickets, throwing one in the raffle bin. If you sign up in advance so they can get a head count, they give you a ticket for a free beer. As the parking lot felt like a race expo when we started, now it felt like a finish line festival with a beer garden. One of my favorite breweries, Deschutes, provides the beer each month, and I traded my ticket for a cold Mirror Pond Ale. I found a curb to sit on and spread out my tickets for the raffle.

I looked around at the other runner's spread of tickets, and my little stash paled in comparison. I had run some extra miles, and missed two of the stops, but compared to them it felt like I had been running in place. One way to earn more tickets is to buy the Adventure Run t-shirt. If you wear it during the run, you get twice as many tickets at each stop. What I also found out tonight was that all those booths at the start hand out raffle tickets as well, to encourage everyone to check them out. I picked up tickets from about half of the booths tonight, so my stash wasn't quite as embarrassing.

Tonight the sun went down twenty minutes after we set out, so by the time we finished, we were running in the dark. There were lots of headlamps and phone-flashlights out in the beer garden so we could read our tickets.

So not only is it a fun scavenger hunt, with a free beer waiting for you at the finish, but they give away lots of good prizes. I was surprised at how long the raffle went on. Mixed in with goodies like packs of nutrition bars and energy gels, they were giving away running watches, $150 toward shoes, and gift certificates to local restaurants. A couple of times they stopped reading tickets, and just started throwing stuff into the crowd. Pretty fun and crazy.

Tonight I ended up winning a gift certificate for a night's stay at a local hotel. The prize came in an insulated bag good for carrying a lunch to the beach, filled with hotel paraphernalia including a pair of fuzzy slippers. Not sure how or when I will use a stay in a San Diego hotel, but it was kind of fun to win.

I think there is one more Adventure Run in November before they shut down for the winter, but they fire back up in the spring. So if you want to put a little fun in your run, check out their website to see if there is a run in your area. It is a fun, free event, and one more reason to love this running thing.