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.
"You're from the East Coast. You should be used to this," said Sally, one of my race companions, as she watched me shivering in my thin running pants and shirt.
Pasadena Rock n Roll half marathon. My first race of the year. My second race ever.
Sally had picked me up at my house at 5:15 and we got our third companion, Suzanne, right after. By the time we got to the Rose Bowl at 6 a.m. it was still dark as night. We found a parking spot about 20 feet in front of the porta-potty row and the three of us alternately huddled in the car, seat heaters on high, and stood in line for the bathroom as the sky turned from black to deep blue to pre-dawn pastels.
Maybe there is something to the "your blood gets thinner out here" thing I'd heard when I first moved to LA six years ago, or maybe I've just gone soft. Either way, I was damn cold on Sunday morning as we waited for the race to kick off. I wore my thin Lululemon running pants (black with a yellow stripe, for you fashionistas out there) and my favorite running shirt (long sleeved, but the wicking material makes it great in any temp between 45 and 70). The forecast was for sunny blue skies, lows in the 40s and a high at noon of 70. I had figured it would be around 60 when I crossed the finish line at 9:30.
In many ways, my experience for this race was different from the half marathon I ran in October. Back in the fall I was scared and excited enough that I tried to do everything "right". I had trained well and felt really strong by race week. In the days leading up to the race, I ate well and got plenty of sleep. My boyfriend came with me and took care of the driving/parking logistics which, for me, can be a prime anxiety-inducing project.
The main difference between then and now was the prep. I hadn't trained as well for this race. I did a 12-mile training run two weeks ago, but right now I'm just not *as* strong as I was in the fall. My weekly mileage hasn't hit 25 yet, and I haven't run 100 miles in a single month since October. Just considering my lower mileage, I knew I'd run this race a little slower. Also, the course for the Pasadena Rock n Roll is much hillier than the Los Angeles race was in October. I actually like hills, and was looking forward to the pretty scenery, but I knew they'd slow me down a little. I ran the fall race in 1:58:01. I suppose there's a little spark inside me that wants to keep getting faster, but I went into this one hoping I would clock in under 2:05:00.
Despite going in feeling a little defeated about my anticipated timing, I was excited about the event. It felt like an adventure to carpool down to the race with Sally and Suzanne. They are inspiring to me - both have run a gazillion half-marathons and a few fulls, and have a great attitude about them all. We run at different paces so I hung around with them until it was time to find our corrals and then made a plan to meet up at the beer garden afterwards. I ate a Chocolate #9 and took a last sip of water and then shivered over to Corral 3 where I found a place to stand near the Elvis posse.
The Star Spangled Banner started at 7:20, then the first corral went out at 7:30. I crossed the start line at 7:32 and tried to find my own pace among the runners. Pasadena was a lovely course. Beautiful craftsman houses, canopied tree branches over the street. Curving hills. Shady and quiet with just the pitter patter of running feet, sounding like rain drops on the asphalt under the clear blue sky.
There weren't a lot of spectators out for the first part, but it was so inspiring around mile 3 to see two runners holding hands - one of them with Down Syndrome. I lost my Elvis posse pretty early and only saw them once again on a switchback later on. I saw two guys in No Meat Athlete "Runs on Plants" shirts and spent a mile thinking about making some veggie-fueled running shirts. I'd love to see more people out there on the course showing the world how strong we can be on a plant-based diet. The DJs and bands out on this course were really energizing -- much better than the LA rock n roll race. Yes, I did sing along to LMFAO's "Sexy And You Know It" around mile 4. And in mile 5, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed "Who Let The Dogs Out". Mile 6 had the best band - a Taiko drum band - and I ran to the thundering beats for as long as I could hear them.
When running for two hours, every little out-of-the-ordinary thing feels like an adventure. I grabbed water at each station, usually more for the entertainment of trying to drink it than for real thirst. Drinking from a paper cup. Blowing my nose. Eating a Honey Stinger chew (pink lemonade are the best). These were some of the highlights of my morning, until mile 11 when I started to regret digging into the second package of Honey Stingers. Miles 10, 11, and 12 were the hardest. I'd been trucking along okay for the whole time until around that point, and my pace got really slow. Runners began passing me left and right. Although I'd begun the race about a minute before the 2:00 pacer's corral, she and her 2:00 comrades sailed past me around mile 11. I felt a little sick, but I couldn't pinpoint where -- was it my stomach? Or was I just tired? My feet were dragging. I wanted the race to end and I still had another mile or two left. I felt defeated about the 2:00 pacer, and was sure my finishing time was going to be later than I'd hoped.
And then, around mile 12.5-ish, I looked to the left and saw my friend Kelsey with her newborn baby standing alongside the course waving. I looked back at them twice, and somehow that little baby transferred the energy I needed right to me. I looked ahead and could see what I thought was the final bend of the course. I picked up my pace. As I got closer, crowds of people lined the race for the first time since the start. When I caught a glimpse of the finish line I felt another surge of energy through my body. Without thinking, my legs stretched out before me and I sprinted as fast as I could. I felt strong. I felt like an Amazon Goddess. I lifted my arms as I crossed the line in victory. Yes, I actually did do that, just like last time. I'm a little bit of a dork.
As I made my way through the finish line support, I gathered every water, pretzel, Jamba juice, banana, and Gatorade I could carry. I heard the congratulatory text message bings from my boyfriend, my brother, and my dad's wife. One Gatorade bottle and one bag of pretzels later, with shoes off and jacket (reclaimed from Gear check) on, I met up with Sally and Suzanne at the beer garden. Far East Movement played on the main stage as we stretched in the sun and drank a beer.
I did it in 2 hours. Well, 2 hours and 45 seconds. I'm convinced Kelsey's baby shaved at least 15 seconds off my time.
Crossed start line at 07:32:35
5k (3.1 mile): 28:46
10k (6.2 mile): 56:51
10 mile: 01:30:37
finish line (13.1 mile): 2:00:45
After the celebrations of December and then the ironic timelessness of New Years, I anticipated that today's run would be tough. It's beautifully sunny, not cold at all, but it indeed felt like Sunday's 8-miler around Griffith Park had been a year ago. Well, it was last year - but it was only three days ago. Today's was the first run of 2013 and I feel as out of shape as my sedentary cat at home. I debated throughout the first three miles if I should bother with the last two, but the memory of Sunday's 8-miler pulled me through. Today I needed the inspiration of my own accomplishments. Around mile three, I got my mind on this blog. That's the way it often works for me - thoughts of writing always pull me through. Finally, my head got out of the challenge of the run and into the excitement of starting this blog.
I stumbled into this running life a year ago, and suddenly running and writing became, to me, very linked. On my runs I usually focus on whatever writing project I've been working on that day. Right now I've got several in mind for this year - two books that I'm too shy to talk about just yet, and several personal essays that I'm shaping now for hopeful publication. We shall see. I have two other blogs on other topics - Love Them Apples and The List of 100 Things. Meanwhile, here I am, introducing my newest blog, The Written Run.
The Written Run will be an exploration, and an archive. I'm curious to see what comes up in these posts as I recall my thoughts and experiences during my runs and as I mark my running progress through the year. Inspired by my List of 100 Things, running became a regular part of my life last January. Since then, it's about a 4-6 days a week venture, and since June or July, between 25-37 miles a week. I ran my first half marathon (Los Angeles Rock 'n Roll Half) in October in 1:58:01, bettering my goal of 2 hours by 2 minutes (minus the one second to steal a kiss from my man around mile 5). A week later, I was sidelined by an injury that kept me fairly sedentary in November. December was, well, December - not the easiest time of year to get back on a derailed track. It's January now, and I've mapped out my training for the next six weeks. My first major running point this year is on February 17 - the Pasadena Rock n' Roll Half Marathon.
First, by way of introduction, some grounding details:
I'm a Southerner by birth, Yankee by socialization, a Californian by choice. I was a child of the '70s to parents who were probably not far enough out of their own childhood to properly parent, but my brother and I are somehow working through our issues. He lives in NYC and I live in LA so we don't see each other nearly enough. Our parents each set up separate homes in their own corners of the country. You could say that we've all staked out our own territory. I like to think that we each are creating the lives we most want.
I am a writer, a musician, a vegan chef, and a yoga teacher. I juggle my creative passions and interests in well-being around my day job in the entertainment industry. It usually works pretty well. I run during my weekday lunch hours, spin or take a yoga class at night, run longer distances on Sunday and celebrate life with my man and my stepdaughters on the weekends. The girls are in elementary and middle school and are sweet, snarky, and super fun. My man is my dearest love. I count my blessings every day.
FIRST RUN OF 2013:
January 2, 2013.
Los Angeles, CA.
Temperature in the mid-60's.
average pace: 8:44 per mile