DOOR TO THE SHORE RUN
THE PLAN: <------------------------
9 A.M. - I'll leave our house alone, run over the Cahuenga pass into Hollywood, take a right somewhere like Sunset or Santa Monica Blvd, run for a while, then take a left somewhere, towards the ocean.
NOON - I'll get to the Santa Monica Pier around noon, kiss Darby and Es, and run right into the water on the north side of the pier to cool my legs and celebrate.
1 P.M. - We will head to Cafe Gratitude for lunch.
DOOR TO THE SHORE RUN
THE BACKGROUND: <-------------------
In August of 2006, after driving across the country playing shows with my band for months on end, I stood at the edge of the Pacific for the first time. It was El Matador State Beach in Malibu. The sun had set, the moon had risen. I'd never seen the Pacific Ocean before, and it was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. While my ex-husband (the drummer) and the bass player pulled out their phones to text people back home, I just stood in the moonlight, letting the tide fill my ears, and breathed in the salty air. Touring life was hard for me, but in that moment I felt an overwhelming, complete joy.
That night at El Matador I had no idea that a few months later I would move to L.A., quit touring, eventually divorce from my ex, become a yoga teacher, meet and fall crazy in love with my sweet n' sexy Darby, become a parent to two full-grown kids, and all the other stuff that has come to shape my blessed life.
Sometime around last June I got this nugget of a crazy idea that, despite having only ever run 8 miles max, I would like to run to the ocean. Remember that List of 100 Things to Do? I added "Run to the beach" at #100. Living in the valley it can seem so far away, but I felt a yearning to cover that distance and know that all I needed was the power of my body to get me to the western edge of the country.
Around that same time I met a runner who confidently told me that if I had already run 8 miles, I could surely run a half-marathon. 13.1 miles. It sounded impossible, but I realized that if I trained for the L.A. half-marathon in October 2012, I would be on track to run to the beach by the last week of December. I signed up for the half to keep me honest in my training.
During this time, as I have been racking up miles, I have been working on my writing as well. The two -- running and writing -- have been linked, and I believed that if I could accomplish the impossible (running to the beach from my house) then I could accomplish other impossible things (publishing my writing, writing a book). Impossible is a state of mind. Accomplishing both of these things seemed, well, Impossible.
And strangely, quietly, in the back corner of my mind, possibly Possible.
Running has been my meditation on achieving my hopes, for showing up for myself, for not letting hardship derail my dreams, for getting to the finish line even when the going gets really tough.
Planning to run from my front door to the shore has been a practice for setting my sights on something beyond my current ability. Since leaving the touring life of being a band on the road, I've been timid about looking too far down the road. Running from the Door to the Shore is a sight I set beyond what I could see. It's been a practice of having faith in myself. Committing to an idea. Becoming something new. Tapping into some kind of inner super hero. Trusting that I could grow beyond what I'd ever thought possible.
The half marathon in October went really well, but the following week I developed an over-use injury in my foot that sidelined all my physical activities for a few weeks. The doctor ordered me to stop running, spinning, walking, and practicing yoga completely for two weeks to allow my foot to heal. I was derailed by enthusiasm. This has happened before.
It's pretty impressive (read: dismaying) how quickly the body softens from inactivity. Over November and December, I rested. I went to holiday parties. I baked a million pies. And then, after Thanksgiving, slowly began building up my miles again. On New Years I recommitted. On January 2 I started training again. I struggled to even do an 6 mile run. For all of January I kept going out, but every run I felt heavy and sluggish, as if I hadn't put in all those miles for the first ten months of 2012. I wrote about it on this blog. I kept track of my miles. I wondered if I'd ever again feel that inner superhero I channeled at the October half-marathon.
Finally, by mid-February, I built up to half-marathon distance again. In retrospect, I'm glad I'd signed up for the race, but it was tough. The six weeks of training kicked my butt. The race itself was so hard, I almost felt defeated. I bonked out at around mile 9 and when I saw the 2-hour pacer group fly by me -- they had started the race after me by a few corrals -- I nearly stopped right there. I was disappointed in myself before I even got to the finish line. I wanted to lay down on the side of the road at mile 10, but I had no savior who could come and get me so I kept going. At mile 12 (ish) I saw a friend and her new baby cheering me on from the sideline, and somehow found a last surge of energy. I picked up the pace a little -- at least, it felt like it -- and when I saw the balloons, I sprinted to the finish line, arms up in the air as if I was the first-place winner. Which of course I wasn't. But I'd finished.
The next week I set out to increase my miles again.
At the beginning of April I ran my third half-marathon. By then I had increased to 14.6 miles, so I thought the 13.1 miles would be no-problem. I was wrong. Again, around mile 10 I started to bonk out. This time I had been running with the 2-hour pacer the whole time, and when I slowed at mile 10 and she sailed past, my heart sank. I don't know why I wanted to clock in under 2-hours, but I did. I really did. I begged my feet to move. I said things to myself like, "Keep it up, buttercup!" I bargained with myself. I pleaded. And then I found an extra store of energy at around 12.5 miles. With less than half a mile left, I picked up the pace. Again, when I saw the finish line, I sprinted towards it. I came in .5 seconds under the 2 hour mark.
And then the week after, I ran 15 miles.
Last weekend I did my first17-mile run - my furthest ever.
Which brings me to now. Five days till my beach run. I am ready. My body and mind are trained. Here we go now -- DOOR TO THE SHORE. Saturday 4/27/13.
Another 5.5 miler today. Straight into 15 mph wind for about half. That brings my week's mileage here in Los Angeles to 11 since the Boston Marathon bombing. I just kept my head down and ran, and ran, and ran, trying to figure out what exactly it is I have been looking for as I've been reading essay after essay about the Monday's events.
The only times since Monday that my inner-agitation has ceased has been when I'm out running or at the yoga studio, teaching or practicing. The constant monitoring of media has made me feel like I'm a little boat on a big ocean, tossing around at every weather change. I've been trying to understand how everyone there experienced it -- the runners who finished, the runners who didn't, the spectators waiting for friends and family, the families of the injured and deceased, the experts, the reporters, the runners and writers who weren't there in person but, like so many, were there in spirit.
My sweet n' sexy man reminded me this morning that had I been running that race, he would have been waiting at the finish line for me, just like he does here in California. I shook that thought away. "No, I wouldn't have gotten to the finish line for another 20 minutes or more. It's not just place, but time."
He was right, actually, but I couldn't bear to think it.
The fact is, I would love to run the Boston race one day. I've wanted to since long before I considered myself a runner, long before I even knew it was so many distance-runners' dream race. I've wanted to since 2003 when I ran the last two miles of the Boston Marathon in my biker boots and a cowboy hat, drunk as a skunk on the margaritas I'd been downing with friends since the morning as we waited for my running roommate to pass us on the course.
As I ran today I tried to quiet all the stories. The wind in my face was loud, louder than my thoughts, and I let it fill my ears.
This Saturday, two hours before sunrise, my boyfriend and I will purchase round trip tickets for an early morning train ride to the Hollywood/Highland station three stops away. The first train leaves the North Hollywood station at 4:31 am, and we'll be on it. Despite the weather forecast for Saturday highs around 72, Los Angeles' dry air holds no heat in the dark hours. We will arrive at our destination by 5, shivering against the pre-dawn chill. As usual, I'll have second and third thoughts about what I decided to wear when I was laying out my clothes in the warmth of our house the night before. Is it better to be too-cold early or too-hot later? This is an internal debate I will consider throughout the morning as the sun rises over my 13.1 mile race route.
In the early morning dark, the Hollywood streets will flood with lights. The normally busy intersection will be empty of tourists. In their stead will be the nervous excitement humming with over 7000 runners and their companions. Fifty minutes later, under a lightening sky still thirty minutes from sunrise, a local diva will sing the Star Spangled Banner. My boyfriend and I will kiss goodbye. He will take my jacket and water bottle while snapping a few "before" shots. A fog horn will sound at 6 am for the first corral, and then 3 or 4 minutes later for my assigned corral. As I cross the start line I will think, "Settle in. You'll be running for two hours. Enjoy it."
It's funny to think of settling in to run, but for most of us, a half marathon is not something we can rush through. This will be my third half-marathon in the past six months. Between the races and the training runs, I know that at these distances I've got to maintain a steady, sustainable endurance. The excitement at the start line makes it tempting to race off at top speed when the fog horn sounds. Even without the costume that many will wear for the Hollywood Half, I'll feel like a superhero when the crowd cheers us off, but the excitement tapers a quarter mile down the road and then there's another 12.75 miles to go. As I cross over the start line into the rest of the race I'll forget about the destination - the finish line - in favor of enjoying the slow-motion trip around the city. My only task is to run, and as daunting as the distance is, my body knows how to do it. Run, and stay positive. Until we're back on Hollywood Boulevard and the finish line comes into view, I will settle in to the waking of Tinseltown, the rising sun, and the surround-sound pitter patter of running shoes on the pavement.With the finish line 13.1 miles away, a run this long is not something to wish away. It is something to savor.
UPDATE: I finished the Hollywood Half in 1:59:59.9