On April 27, 2013, after running three half-marathon races in six months and countless training runs, before my first full marathon, I ran the run of my heart. The one that had been in my mind's eye for almost a year. The one that I had been working for.
From my front door to the Pacific Ocean.
I called it "The Door To The Shore". My sweetheart was endlessly supportive of my vision. It seemed impossible when I first thought of it. Even though at that point the most I had ever run was eight miles (once), I didn't care how long of a run it was, I just wanted to get to the ocean. As it turns out, the route was 18 miles. I ran it solo in three hours. My friend Susan caught some photos of me along the way, and then my sweetheart caught some more. When I got to the pier, I ran the last bit with my boyfriend and his youngest daughter. Together we ran straight down the pier, their flipflops falling off as my running shoes padded along the weathered boardwalk. We ran down the steps (stairs!! after18 miles!!), and onto the hot sand. At the edge of the water were smiling friends holding out their hands to take my fuel belt and shoes as I ran right in, laughing with immense, authentic childlike joy.
There's a mountain range between the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles proper, and Angelenos always ask my route. It was:
My front door > through NoHo to Universal City > Cahuenga > over the pass into Hollywood > past the Grauman Chinese Theater > Sunset Blvd > Doheny > Carmelita > Santa Monica Blvd > a little zigzag > Idaho > Colorado > right onto the Santa Monica Pier > past Bubba Gump's > down the steps > into the water
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.
Nothing like the blues to get you in planning mode. I'm still on my doctor-ordered two weeks rest so that my foot will heal from a stress strain on the metatarsal area. This has been particularly challenging as I've been off ALL foot-related activity, which means no running, no yoga, no spin. It's been years since I've been this sedentary - actually, I think the last time was when I was on tour with my band and we had to drive hours a day to get from gig to gig. As it turns out, I'm not well-suited to the dirty (folk)rocker life. Being on the road was depressing, and after the tour ended (Fall 2006) I've been committed to moving my body. (And I've never toured again.)
During the first week of healing, I was pretty patient (and fairly impressed with myself). Then came Day 10. My mood went south. Fast. No running (or even walking as exercise) meant a lot less sunshine. And of course no exercise endorphins. Besides that, I have no idea how to eat for this kind of sedentary life. I've given up trying to figure it out, and just hope two weeks is all the rest this foot will need.
When I'm feeling down, yoga and running are the things that bring me back up, and to be honest, this week has been hard for other reasons as well. Of all the weeks, this is the one for yoga and running. One of our sweet kitty cats passed away Friday morning. Since last Sunday we've been taking care of him, sitting on the bathroom floor brushing his fur and watching him quietly transition out of this world. Yesterday morning I left for work, and Darby held Scooter through his last breaths. He's buried now in our backyard, and today we stood with our girls at his grave. It started raining yesterday, of course, and still is, which suits our moods just fine.
So, to while away my time for the last few non-running days, I'm plotting #100. This is one of the big ones. As I wrote the other day, it feels impossible that my body will carry me 18 miles to the beach. But it can, and it will.
#29 - run for 25 minutes straight.
I've come a long way since #29. Literally. 663 miles, in fact. Friday, January 27 was the first day I started using the sportypal app to keep track. At the beginning of January I couldn't run the 25 minutes. By Friday January 27 I was running 45 minutes. Now, I've gone for 2 hours.
#100 - run from our home to the beach
This will be my longest run so far, on Dec 30, from our home in Toluca Woods to the end of the pier at Venice Beach. I can run 13 miles in 2 hours. This will be an 18 mile run. 18.2, actually. It should take around 2 hours and 40 minutes, if I don't stop along the way. Since I'll need to refill water a few times, though, I think it'll take me closer to 3 hours.
I've gone back and forth between the Santa Monica and Venice Beach piers, and have finally settled on Venice Beach. There's something about the Venice Beach pier that draws me lately. It's less touristy. Lots of fishermen. I have photos of me and my brother down there from a years ago when he came out to LA to visit. Darby and I held hands for the first time as we walked down it on one of our first dates. Later, my first holiday week with his daughters, we all went down to the beach and I have pictures of the girls rolling around in the sand on a moody December day.
Also, I'm particularly interested in mapping out the route and deciding on a date because I've decided to do this as a fundraiser for a charity. I'm still trying to decide on which one. I love animals, and we could do something in Scooter's memory for an animal shelter or Farm Sanctuary. Or, Darby and I recently performed with one of our bands at a fundraising event for Valley Cares Family Justice Center, which provides support and services for victims of domestic violence. Or, perhaps an environmental cause like Heal The Bay, a local organization working to protect and heal the Southern California coastal waters and watersheds.
I'll be considering and researching more about these options in the next few days, but meanwhile I wanted to have a plan for the run so that I can focus my energy on the fundraiser, on my recovery, and on the training with which I'll soon be back on track.
Marking my calendar. December 30. 18.2 miles. From my house to the Venice Beach Pier.
Meanwhile, today is Saturday. A rainy, fireplace-y, pizza and movie kind of Saturday. On Monday I will be off my two weeks rest, and plan to run a short 2.5 miles. THANK GOODNESS!
By the way, speaking of having the blue, it would be a shame to not clue you in to the antics going on here while I've been writing this post: blue hair dye.
A numbers check:
There are 6 weeks left to 2012. I've crossed 55 items off my list. There are 3 items that are a little ambiguous - I can cross them off, but technically they aren't *quite* done. There are 2 items that I am fully committed to completing, and another 10 that are most likely going to get done during the holiday season. There are 25 that I'm pretty sure won't be done this year. Hmmm... that doesn't add up to 100. Well, who's counting anyway.
These are two of the main ones going on right now:
#98 Embark on a new writing project
#100 Run from our home to the Santa Monica Pier
#98 has been an adventure in itself. This blog satisfied me when I wasn't sure what the writing project should be, and it helped me find direction. I'll write about that adventure later.
#100 is the one that has me a bit nervous.
Up till a week and a half ago, I felt like I was on a good track (no pun intended) for my training.
#100 is the culmination of this whole year of running, and while I can articulate the ways that running has helped me in other areas of my life, for right now I want to stick with the actual act of running.
It was Halloween week, and I crossed the finish line at the Los Angeles Rock n Roll Half Marathon in 1:58:01. It was my first race, and the third time I'd run thirteen miles. I had wanted to complete it in under two hours. That day I was successful in every way I wanted to be. I felt like I could've run another two miles. I was an Amazon Goddess Warrior and I could do anything.
And then week later, I bailed midway through a nine miler. I had a strong pain that had been nagging for attention for a few days, and at mile 5.5 it would not let me go on. Metatarsal stress fracture? I whipped out my phone to google it, and then called Darby to pick me up. By the end of the day I could barely walk.
The x-rays came back with no fracture (although I've heard MRIs are better indicators of fractures). My doctor is a long-distance runner too, and she said she experienced the same pain -- right under the shoes laces -- after her first 14-miler. Two weeks rest, she ordered, from everything. No running, and none of the other active stuff that I do - vinyasa yoga, spin, biking.
For the past week and a half I've been boo-hooing about lack of sunshine, lack of heart-pumping adrenaline, lack of movement. Lack. These past two days have been the worst so far. I desperately want my foot to be healed, and while it is better, I know in my heart that it needs more time. That said, I'm holding my foot to the two-week timeframe my doc ordered. Two weeks. It better be healed.
Meanwhile, here's the longer-term picture of what I'm grappling with: In six weeks I plan to run my first-ever 18 miler. From my home to the Santa Monica Pier. This is a spiritual journey as much as anything. I am an East Coast girl, running to the Pacific Ocean. My own body is going to carry me over the Hollywood Hills, and I am going to know that this is because of my own determination and my commitment to myself and this practice. I need this sense of accomplishment, because it is tied, metaphorically, to other things in my life that I want to accomplish.
Six weeks. Eighteen miles. I have still only run 13 miles max. I'm still on "rest". I'm nervous that when I go for my first recovery run on Monday (in four days) that I will find myself still not healed. Besides all the unhelpful neurotic mind-chatter (I haven't exercised in 11 days - "I'm out of shape", "I've gained weight", "I won't be able to run ever again"), I also have the less-neurotic (but still not helpful) chatter that goes something like this:
-- I would like to use this 18 miler as a fundraiser for a local charitable cause.
-- If I've never run 18 miles, how do I know I can do it?
-- If I can't do it, I will fail in the fundraiser, in my list, and in my expectations.
Today, to help me work through this, I've created a training schedule. Assuming that my foot will be healed after two weeks rest, this is my plan:
Week 1 - 18 miles (50%): Mon, Tues: 2.5. Thur: 4. Fri: 3. Sat: 6
Week 2 - 27 miles (75%): Mon - Thurs: 5. Sun: 7
Week 3 - 30 miles (less than usual): Mon, Tues: 5. Wed, Thurs: 2.5. Sat: 15 (!!!)
Week 4 - 30 mile: still deciding how to work the recovery/training this week.
Week 5 - 31 miles: Mon - Fri: 5, Sun: 6
Week 6 - the week of the 18-miler. still deciding what day, but there won't be a lot of miles leading up to it, and there will just be recovery runs after. It will be, after all, Christmas week. And happy new year!
Based on my half-marathon pace, it will take me around three hours or so to run 18 miles. I already have friends who have offered to support me in the run, providing food and drink along the way, and emotional support leading up to the day.
This is why this 18-miler is so important to me: is it impossible.
More to the point: it is a once-impossible thing that is now (I hope) entirely possible. The mere fact of making this impossible thing possible alters every other impossible thing in my life: raising $1800 for a local charity. Writing and publishing a book. Recording another album. I love my life in so many ways, but I am still yearning to put some of the other pieces in place.
Three hours of running. Three hours of meditating on the vision of making the impossible possible. And at the end of the three hours, I will have done it. Darby's sweet face will be there at the end, standing on the Santa Monica Pier, on the edge of the continent, to greet me with love and (hopefully) a delicious meal.