Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting strength through Andrew

I am always striving to get myself into shape. One thing I would like to accomplish is to run in a marathon, or at least a 5K. This is my 50th year; I will turn 51 in November, so I am feeling the pressure to get myself going on this goal.

So I started jogging at little about a month ago, just short stretches of 1 to 3 minutes at a time. I entered myself in a 5K Run / Walk event that is just 3 weeks away now. I don't really think my body is up for it, so I am taking it really slow. I walk during the major portions of my workouts and keep the jogging part to a minimum. Last week my pace for a 3 mile workout was 51 minutes one day, 48 the next; 16-17 minutes per mile average on the school track. I also mapped out a 3-mile walk around the neighborhood, and there is a boardwalk where I run that says the loop is 1-mile around. I did three loops in 33 minutes today--I don't think I was particularly fast, I just think the loop is less than 1 mile.

I have marked off my route on the boardwalk into halves. I walk half the loop and try to jog the second half. I vary the direction I go so sometimes I am walking through the lower, twisting part of the path and jogging along the top, straighter stretch. Then I will walk the straight part and jog the twisty part, which has a long downhill stretch that really helps buoy me along.

Today I walked to the boardwalk, which is about a half-mile from my house, so I was nice and warmed up by the time I reach the walk. I decided to go up the straight part first at a jog. I went about one minute and felt tired, so I walked a few paces for about 15 seconds, then resumed the jogging pace. I repeated this for three minutes until I reached the halfway marker at the highest point on the boardwalk.

Wow! I am tired today, I thought. That's not a good sign! I need to be getting better and stronger.

I turned around and headed back down the straight at a jog, intent on keeping going until I reach the starting point again. After about a minute, I walked a few paces and thought of Andrew. I often think of him when I am on this walk for some reason; I really feel his presence when I am out here looking over the Estuary. So I thought of him and asked him to help me find the strength to do this thing, this running thing.

I resumed my jog and it felt good--I felt energized and made my way down the boardwalk. I noted that my chest did not feel tight and I wasn't out of breath. My legs weren't hurting or tiring so much as I mentally thought about walking again, but I just willed my legs to keep moving at the jogging pace, one step after another. I got to the start point and turned to go down through the twisty path that meandered through the trees, slowing to a brisk walk.

I kept the quick walking pace all the way to the top of the loop at the halfway point, checking my stopwatch for time: 9:30 for the loop. That's a pretty fast pace for me; the loop has to be shorter than one mile. I rested at the top for about one minute, turned, and headed back down the twisty part at a fast jog. I gained momentum as I went along. Because I was feeling strong, I pushed myself to go as fast as was comfortable. Moving through the turns, I was running, actually running! It felt great! Thank you, Andrew, for running along with me, giving me strength! I feel you with me!

I checked my watch and was coming up on two minutes and I was almost to the point where I usually stopped to walk. Just a little farther...then, whoa! Turning a corner, I saw an elderly man who had moved over to the side and was protecting his little doggy from me, the approaching runner!

I screeched to a walk and said a quick "Hi" as I went past them. Since it killed my momentum, I didn't resume the jog...I was almost to my stopping spot. Had I kept the pace I would have reached it in way less time than three minutes; probably more like 2:20. That would have been my fastest time!

I continued a brisk walk all the way along the straight to the high point, then went another time around, finishing three loops in 33 minutes. I felt really good about that pace and the energy I felt while doing it. It had to be Andrew!

Since I was now technically finished with my workout, I had time to sit and rest. There was a little side path that took off the boardwalk at the high point that I had been meaning to explore, so I figured this was as good a time as any since I had no other agenda for the day. I turned down the path, expecting it to end shortly as there was a sign posted about a restoration area for the plants.

However, the trail turned and headed down the hill, deeper into the forest. Cool, I thought, an actual trail without the boardwalk. I liked it! It felt more natural, somehow. Soon the trail came to a ledge above the roadway and followed along for about 50 feet. Then it turned in again, toward some stands of oak. There were steps built into the trail, so I knew it was an established path.

Pretty soon I came to another oak grove and saw an entrance. The trees had grown in a sort of circle, creating sort of a little room underneath the trees. I entered, thinking how magical it all felt. I half expected to see Andrew sitting in there, waiting for me. It was kind of eerie in a non-scary way, because I was really looking around and sort of felt him there.

I have no idea if Andrew had ever been there, but he had lived in Los Osos for a year and explored the area. He liked to hike and bike and often went up to Montana de Oro. One day he told me about going on a run through the scrub brush area leading up to the MDO park. He said he ran for miles, kind of getting lost, but he kept running for a long time. He finally came out by the road and made his way down the hill and back to his house, but he was exhausted.

Anyway, knowing that story, I always feel like he might have been there some time and I sense a connection to him here in the Elfin Forest. I really felt him in that grove. It was cool.

As I often do, I took out my cell phone and used the camera to take several pictures. I upload them to my Facebook photo albums, one of which is about the Elfin Forest. So when I got back to the boardwalk, I sat on a bench and uploaded 20 photos I had just taken of the trail. When I got home and was editing the captions, I came to the ones of the grove and was started to see an image that resembled a human form. Looking closer, its a tree trunk, but the lighting gives it the abstract impression of a form. I think it was Andrew. I think he was with me today, encouraging me and giving me strength to reach my fitness goal.