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Mountain? Conquered.



After heading to the HackerDojo this morning to help with setting up for a small event being held today, I hurried home to meet up with Kris for a run at Fremont Older. The hills there are more brutal than the hills near Lake San Antonio, so make a good training ground. The downside of the run is that it's one mile up, one mile down, which is considerably more down than the actual trail.

I was lamenting about this to Jonathan, oh, the hill is so hard, when he commented "You enjoy it. You must. Otherwise you wouldn't bother."

I shut up.

I shut up, but I immediately thought of George and (another) Chris from college, who told me of a time they went skiing. George looked up to the top of a mountain they were skiing, where the only way down (besides the lift) was a double black diamond run, and commented, "I would like to have done that run." Chris, being the more experienced and adventurous skier, immediately said, sure, let's go, and off they went. The way down was fraught with peril, full of tumbles and spills for George, not so much for Chris.

Eventually, they made it to the bottom of the hill, alive and uninjured. George, at the bottom, exclaimed something to the effect of "I can't believe we did that, that was crazy, what were we thinking, what were you thinking, I can't believe you talked me into that!" Chris responded with, "But, you said you wanted to ski that run."

To which George responded, "No, I said I would like to have DONE that run, not that I wanted to DO that run," a thought I, too, have had many times over the course of the years since hearing that story. Many times there are adventures I would like to have had, not that I actually want to put forth the effort to do them.

Heading over to the park, as we were all laughing and joking about things, I sat in the backseat, Blue licking my ear, Shadow asking for attention behind me, Andy and Kris chatting about random things, thinking about Jonathan's words. Do I really enjoy the running part? Do I really like when my legs are aching and my lungs are burning and I have no idea why I thought this was a good idea? The beginning is great, but the middle is so hard, and the only reason I keep going is because I need to finish. Really, do I like the process?

Sure, I like the end result. I like being able to play ultimate well. I like not worrying about being tired. I like how my legs look when I'm in shape. I like how my arms move. I like the soreness two days after a hard workout. Yet all of these are after the workout, the effects of the workout, not the workout itself.

I kept thinking this, until a third of the way up the hill, when I hit my groove, and realized how awesome the human body is, how incredibly joyful moving is. That my legs could move this way, propel me up the hill, is amazing. Sure, that hill is hard, and my muscles are crying out, but there's still that joy of movement from childhood where your body just goes and you don't worry about how fast you are or who is in front of you or catching up to you. It was a wonderful feeling of appreciation for just how wonderful it feels to be alive and able to move.

And I realized that, yes, Jonathan was right.


The first run up the hill was hard, but Andy caught up to me quickly enough. I am always the first in line for the port-a-john at the bottom of the hill so that I can have that extra five minutes or so up the hill before the two of them start running. Andy slowed down a little bit to put on his earphones as I ran with Blue, but he was soon off and running.


I made it to the top of the mountain before Kris caught up to me, which pleased me.

On my way back down the mountain, I was on an under 20 minute pace, a great time considering last time I ran this hill I was running 25 minute round trips. Just over half way down, however, as I was about to pass a biker, I realized he was walking his bike. I asked on my way by, "Are you okay?"

He was slow to answer, and was holding his arm awkwardly. He had scrapes down his side and blood over his eye. "Yeah, I'm okay."



After asking permission, I took his bike from him and started walking down the hill with it, talking to him as we went. He seemed coherent, which was good. A trail volunteer stopped us and asked again if the biker was okay. The biker claimed that, yes, he was, and we continued down the mountain. On the walk, I found out his car wasn't in the top parking lot where we parked, but at the bottom of the hill, two miles away. We continued to chat until we reached the parking lot, at which point I asked again how far away his car was. When he explained again, I asked if he could walk himself. He said that he'd prefer a ride down, which worked out okay, as hiker had just finished his walk, had an empty bike rack (his wife biked), and could take him.

My 20 minute pace became a 27 minute pace, but I didn't mind so much. Back up the hill I went, Andy having passed me on the way down and heading back up again.

About half way up the mountain for my second run, still feeling good, I stopped to talk to Andy's dad, who was sitting next to the trail volunteer who had stopped the biker and me earlier. The volunteer expressed concern about the crashed biker, at which point I mentioned that the crashed biker was coherent; had promised me he was going to call someone at home to tell them he was on his way, to make sure he made it; had another hiker driving him down in a car; had pupils that constricted when he went into light; and didn't have dilated pupils. The volunteer looked at me stunned. "Are you an EMT?"

Richard commented immediately, "You certainly asked the right questions."

I chuckled, and said no, took Blue and continued up the mountain. Kris caught up to me, so we chatted for a bit. He slowed his pace to mine, as I increased my pace a bit to help him out, and we charged up to the top of the mountain again.

Part of me wonders just how hard this mountain is compared to the real race mountain. This hill has 400 feet of elevation difference in less than a mile, with the cumulative gain being more. Is that a lot? There a couple of really steep hills, and a downhill in the middle, and the really really brutal hill at the very top. Still.


Down we went again, this time dragging Blue as he started to lag. The dog was confused when we were heading down and Andy passed us going the other direction going up for his third run up the mountain, but I kept Blue going. I had hoped to run down the hill at my run-down-the-hill speed, but Blue held me back. I wasn't sure if I was running fast enough for Kris, but he commented that, well, actually, I run down the hills faster than he feels comfortable running.

Yay me!

Kris was originally going to run up the hill three times. He decided, however, to run up only two times when he was at the top of the hill, but changed his mind to go up half way again. I'm pretty sure I had hit my runner's high, because I wanted to run back up, and so followed him back up the hill for the third time. To my great amusement, I passed a family of four for the fifth time as I started up the mountain again. I had passed them and said hello each time I went up and down the mountain, so I know they recognized my passings. The look on the adults' faces was awesome.

My knee started tweaking on the third run up the hill, so I adjusted my gait a bit. Kris commented later that the hill blasts his quads and calves, which surprised me because my hamstrings are blasted running up the hill, but my calves and quads are unaffected. I need to test different gaits again, to see if I can adjust mine sufficiently so that I can use my quads and calves enough to give my hamstrings a rest on the uphills, then switch back to give my quads and calves a rest.

In the end, I ran the hill two and a half times, feeling good pretty much the whole way. Yay, returning fitness!

At the end, Andy I continued our science experiment and rubbed yet another batch of poison oak on our shoulders to test my claim of immunity. Let's see if this one does anything.



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