Sunday, July 24, 2011

A few miles in Point Reyes

After a last-minute trip to Yosemite was cancelled just as quickly as it had been planned, the friend who had invited me mentioned he might like to spend the day in Point Reyes instead.  I quickly jumped on board, as I knew of a great spot near Bolinas that was a little out of the way.  I was able to plan an 11 mile loop for myself and a more relaxed 8 mile out-and-back for my friends that would take them past a lake and to some gorgeous waterfalls into the pacific ocean.  We left a little later than planned, but thanks to a nice cozy fog, traffic into the headlands wasn't bad and when we finally arrived the parking lot at the trail head was full but not packed.  We planned to meet back at the car at a specific time and parted ways.  The same overcast weather that helped us over the bridge made for a perfect-temperature day.  The first 2 miles in are on a busy coastal trail and I had to pass through some large hiking groups, I greeted a group of three gals as I passed and overheard one of them saying "oh my god, did you see her legs?" and that felt pretty darn good.  As I turned off of the main trail, it became instantly apparent that I was going to have to battle some serious plant growth, they may have been maintained once in the spring, but definitely not since then.  Most of the plants in the trail were harmless grasses, but I hit a bit of stinging nettle with my left palm and right thumb.  The pain took a few strides to set in and was pretty terrible.  I was concerned that it might get worse as the toxins absorbed, but the trail was finally clearing up and I didn't want to venture back through the overgrowth that I had just battled through.  Luckily the pain subsided a bit as I kept moving.  I hit a bit more nettle on both the front and back of my right calf but it wasn't nearly as bad.  I saw a few large banana slugs (of which I have an extreme pathological fear) and did my best to keep moving without having a nervous breakdown, while laughing at myself for having possibly the silliest mental illness on the planet.  I almost lost a shoe in some mud and gave the puddle a pretty stern talking to.  One of the pleasures of being in the woods alone is that you can let out all your frustrations and fears into the air freely.  Well about ten paces later I was spit out into an intersection and there was a hiker who had clearly heard my entire tirade against the "filthy, shoe stealing mud".  Although I smiled through my chagrin, I was happy to have brought a smile to his face.  I turned and headed down the ridge trail, which was not near or on a ridge at all, but through some beautiful, mossy firs that were surrounded by a thick mist.  As the elevation declined the trail became more and more overgrown again and I was concerned that I might have lost it at a few points, but hollered with joy when I made it back to the road for a short mile back to where we had parked.  At the car I realized I still had at least half an hour to wait for the boys and figured it would probably be longer, because they would have a hard time tearing themselves away from the stellar beach.  So, I decided to ditch my fanny pack and just carry a water bottle and jog in to meet them.  My run quickly turned from 11 to 14 miles, but I felt great.  I ran into the guys and we hiked back to the car together and stopped at the lake to sit down for a bit, if it were a bit warmer we would've swam as well and taken advantage of a kick-ass rope swing.  We kicked off our shoes and hiked the last third of a mile barefoot.  At the car we noshed on fruit, bread and cheese and decided to venture a little further north to poke around a bit and ended up at a small beach on Tomales bay.  The shallows were full of dead jellyfish that were pretty cool to poke at.  A local swimmer splashed ashore and told us that he occasionally runs into large swarms of the milky-colored moon jellies, but they don't sting.  We slowly made it back down to the city, singing along to some Brazilian tunes that we didn't all quite understand.  We had nachos and 'ritos in the mission and shared a pot of tea before they headed back down to the valley.
I was surprised at how easily I covered 17 miles and am not experiencing much soreness.  The stinging nettle welts are slightly irritated but hardly noticeable and I think if I make it back to those untamed "ridge" trails I'll just wear long tights next time.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Coming to terms with urban banality

It has now been nine months since I moved to San Francisco to start my adult life.  Whatever that means.  It's not that I wasn't an adult before, my college experiences definitely changed me, but by the time I graduated I had already become well able to bathe regularly, clean an oven and file taxes on time every year.
Lately, though, It has come to my attention that a traditional "grownup" lifestyle is basically a trap.  Now, when considering taking off on an adventure there's a lease or mortgage, 403(b) and furniture that's not from Ikea to be considered.  It's easy to claim that material things have no importance in life, but seriously, they do.  Selling off and giving away all of your possessions and traveling to a foreign country is fun, I've done it.  However, I know that eventually I will want to come home, or at least have a home to come to.  This involves replacing all that crap you got rid of in the first place and it can be a big fat pain in the neck.  I think I slept on a leaky air mattress on the floor for the first four months after moving here and let me tell you, it was not fun.  
That being said, I have finally gotten into a comfort zone within my home, there are chairs to sit on, plants to water and usually food to eat.  And only now do I realize that I'm stuck and I have possibly been ignoring my own priorities all along.  Living in the city means that my monthly transportation cost rarely exceeds $100.  But it also means that it's tough to get out into the wilderness.  There is one coastal trail that wraps around the edge of the peninsula, but otherwise running trails requires leaving the city which can easily entail an hour or more of public transportation and then several miles of pavement before even getting to a trail head.  Not having a car also means carrying water, snacks, phone and transit pass at all times as well as trying to predict weather conditions before getting dressed.  San Fransicans can attest that weather can vary drastically from one neighborhood to the next, let alone across the bay.  Little by little I am growing accustomed to meeting my own needs in this way, but it can be frustrating to have to sink so much additional time on trivial things and training for a big trail race can feel more like a chore than a joy.  
To counter this I have gotten in the habit of always running to peaks on weekdays when I don't have the time to get out of town.  Getting up to the top of Bernal Hill, Twin Peaks or Telegraph Hill offers a satisfying challenge, I get to run on rocks and dirt for a bit and the views are often exhilarating enough to remind me of why I call myself a trail runner in the first place.  
So slowly I have been adapting and refocusing on what is most important to me.  Most importantly, I have been able to find my peace and joy in running again.  I know that as I build strength those pavement miles will seem like small hat compared to the time I am able to spend on the trail and this motivates me.  I have accepted that I have to get out there and try new things, even if it means taking a bus through bayview to get to San Bruno Mountain in running shorts with an ugly water belt.