31 December, 2007

Unexpected Snow In The Mountains: It Ain't Running...

This is something I wrote to the North Texas Trail Runners list. John Morelock is a member of NTTR who lives in the Pacific Northwest but stays connected to the Texas crowd. http://www.nttr.org/.......

Though I've been living with my family in Madrid since last May, I’ve continued to follow the invitations to meet for runs, race results, etc. I even made it back for the Cactus Rose 100, which was one of the most enjoyable ultras I have ever done. And I don’t think “enjoyable ultra” is an oxymoron :-)

But I've particularly enjoyed John Morelock’s postings. Though I've never met him, and may well never meet him, earlier this week I thought of his attitude about running and he saved the day.

First the background: Madrid has been an unexpected joy for daily running. We live half a block from El Parque del Retiro and a 15 minute run from Casa de Campo, which is then about 10+ miles around in trees and hills. I can easily put together a 20-miler with minimal traffic in the heart of a major European capital with 4 million people! An even bigger surprise is that a 90 minute train ride away and I'm in the mountains at 3700’ and an hour later up to almost 6000 feet. With a little work and more time, I can reach about 7000. and when I get to the train station in Cercedilla, the trail literally is right off the end of the platform. Sweet.

I went up this past Thursday for a long run. I was feeling a little christamased out and needed a break and a long run. I was out the door at 6am and was planning to be running when it started getting light at 8am. The train ride was mostly in the dark so it was a big surprise as I started hiking up the mountain and I realized the tops of the mountains were covered in snow. Just gorgeous with the sun coming up behind them, me in the pine trees and not a soul around. Sweeter.

When I got to the dirt road I was planning on running, I found it covered in six inches or so of snow over top of an icy, ankle twisting base. That’s when I realized that my plans for a long run were out the window. And then I got irked. I had made a big effort to make this day happen and now I wasn’t going to get much more than a hike. I stomped along for another 30 minutes or so, grumbling and self-righteous. At that point, I looked up at the snow covered peaks backed by a cobalt blue sky and I thought of John Morelock and his insight into the heart of running and being out on the trail. Here I was in a beautiful situation and I was complaining? Only because of my expectations (certain number of miles in a certain time) was this not a glorious experience to be relished. I thought of his posts about the weather and the internal conversations of an ultra runner. And then the day, at least the one inside my head, changed.

So I happily missed the 10:30 train home and took a little longer way back to enjoy the views from the other side of the valley. I got back down out of the snow, and on a long slow downhill, and ran my legs off. I made the 11:30 train with five minutes to spare and a great day behind me.

I got on the train, which was full of people clearly not in the same exalted frame of mind, saw the snowy mountains dwindle down into the lower altitudes of Madrid and once again counted my blessings.