On top of a ridge above San Luis Obispo I found myself reliving a scene from the Lion King. Remember when Simba is running away from the hyenas? He finally escapes by jumping in a patch of prickly, thorn-like bushes that the hyenas won’t dare jump into. Then the hyena that always gets picked on(I can’t remember his name) gets pushed into the brush and has to limp home, pulling thorns out of his butt.
Now I wasn’t chasing any real lions on my run today(sorry if I got you excited with the title) but in my “chase” of trying to make it to the top of a ridge, I found myself totally surrounded by what I like to call “death bushes”.
Let’s back up a couple hours, to the start of this run. I was told by a “friend” *cough* Cody *cough* that if I were to start in a particular park in SLO, I’d be able to run through the back of it and up far enough to reach the grade above the school, where I could do various loops and make the run however long I had time for. I wanted a long afternoon on my feet, so I headed out with the intention of reaching the final grade and having a good run on a new trail, not realizing that my source of information was totally wrong.
My first introduction to El Chorro Regional Park was very thorough. I diligently scoured every trail, possible trail, fence, tree, blade of grass, scary sign(see picture), and hill that this park had to offer. There was no trail that would lead me up to the ridge where I wanted to go. I could see a trail waaaay off in the distance that looked like it could possibly be the one but I would have to a. climb over and through several barbed wire and hotwire fences, b. pass through what looked to be(according to the signs) a minefield, and c. sneak past the watchtower of the men’s colony next door in a way that wouldn’t make me look like an escaped convict. Hmmm…I was a little stuck but I wasn’t ready to give up. I was
wearing my new Nathan hydration pack that Cody gave me for my birthday, which was easily holding 2 liters of water, 2 odwalla bars, 5 gels, a camera, and a cell phone. I was ready for an adventure and I wasn’t about to let a few speed bumps hold me back. Yet…
I managed to get outside of the park and into a cow pasture. I hadn’t passed a no trespassing sign yet: all was good! I managed to find a pretty cool creek with a two-track trail following alongside, so I headed up the canyon for a ways to see where it went. It was going in the general direction of where I had originally wanted to go but by this point it didn’t really matter- I was out for a day of exploring. I could go anywhere! After crossing paths with a few lizards and soaking up the beautiful scenery for a while, the trail started to dwindle and then totally disappeared. I was able to follow a deer path down underneath some branches to get right in the creek. A mini waterfall made me pause for a minute before I headed up the bank on the opposite side. When I made it out of the brush and into an open meadow, I was renewed with the goal of reaching the top where I had originally wanted to go.
I can sometimes have the problem of focusing too hard on the next hill or the next spot where I want to go and not thinking about how I might get back. In my mind, I saw myself reaching the top, playing around, and then heading back on the trail I was originally supposed to be on where I could prance easily back to the car. This intense focus seemed to distract me from the fact that I was going up an incredibly steep, loose-rock hill and making my way into thicker and thicker brush. No worries, I thought, when I finally did look down to see how badly my bare legs were taking the rough vegetation, I would find a way up and around all this and be home free.
When I reached a ridge(not the final ridge that I was attempting to reach, just a smaller one on the path to the larger one) I tried all of my different options. I went to the left. That side just dropped off really abruptly- probably not the best way. Let’s try going back down the opposite side! That way was a sharp tangle of dead manzanita trees that looked almost impassible. Ok, all hope wasn’t yet lost. I started to the right and was even able to manage some sort of reasonable path for a while.
But then the death bushes took over. Each time I sucessfully crawled under one particularly menacing bush, another one would be starring me down, waiting to fight. Fine. I let the bushes win. This time. I was forced to make my way back down the hill on the same path I had come up from. Between a little bit of sliding, leaping and bush grabbing, I was able to make my way back to the creek without too many issues.
I used the rest of my time on the way back to reflect on what I want to get out of running.
Cody and I have already been talking about lately how we want to get away from the focus of specific miles and specific practice. Obviously, we’ll still need to spend a lot of time on our feet if we ever want to reach our goal of 100 miles, but it would be nice to stay excited about running all the way through training. Running shouldn’t have to be a chore- we’re doing this for fun, after all! It was really nice to be able to easily stray from what my original plan was today. To let myself explore, have fun, and really enjoy running for what it’s meant to be.