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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MY HEART FINDS A NEW BEAT

With an impending hand surgery in my near future, I realized I would still be able run afterwards since working out and surfing would be put on hold for the next 3 months.  After surgery and almost a month layoff of doing nothing due to a nasty chest cold that left me walking to the end of the block and back, I wondered if I could ever run those 3.25 miles again and not feel fatigued.  Well persistence paid off and I finally made it to that 3.25 mile mark again and slightly beyond just as we were heading to Scorpion Bay in mid March for 4 ½  months of camping, surfing and yes, running.  With my new trail running shoes packed and ready to be used we were off.

Scorpion Bay is the perfect place to run and surf because on most mornings the wind is in the wrong direction for a good clean surf but great for a morning run followed by a nice long surf session.  Slowly I began running every dirt trail I could find leading to longer runs and mileage.

The time spent alone running had become a time to meditate while in motion.  The sound of my breath and pace was a lullaby all its own.  Every thought became clearer and my zest for life which was always unyielding turned more fulfilling with each step.

I wanted to learn everything I could about how to run proper so I began emailing a friend of mine, Stacey, an accomplished marathoner who lives in San Francisco and whom we also see in Northern Baja in the winter with her boyfriend Tobin and their dog Sadie. 

Stacey was thrilled with my new love for running and was and still is more then eager to pass along a lot of extremely valuable advice.  No question was to silly to ask and believe me I ask a lot of questions.  She even put together a runners care package that was waiting for me when we would arrive home in San Diego in late July.  What a great surprise!

By the middle of June my longest run was now at 17.50 miles.  I wanted to go beyond that before leaving in mid July and before the weather became to hot for me to run any long distance.  Then one day during the last week of June I would run my farthest distance up to that time, 20.50 miles!

The past 5 days were filled with constant surf and early morning winds that gave us flawless perfect waves to surf.  I managed to fit my runs in between sessions but I kept wondering when the morning would arrive for my big run.  Then on day 6 the morning was magic!  Clouds, fog and onshore winds would greet me!  Yay!  Everything I was hoping for, I was in heaven.  It was exciting and I just couldn’t wait to run my dream goal of 20 miles.  I knew the weather conditions would change for the better later for another great day of surfing but right now was my time to run. 

I had my route down.  As I prepared I ate a banana and half of an energy bar.  I saved the other half in a baggie for later on during the run.  I grabbed 3 12oz bottles of Gatorade, laced up my shoes, kissed Glen and off I went.  At the 5 mile mark I stashed one of the bottles of Gatorade knowing I would need it for those last miles home.  At the time I didn’t have the proper equipment like a bottle palm holder and electrolyte packets which I would later learn is essential for any distance running.  So I carried my Gatorade bottles in each hand and stuffed the energy bar in the side of my shorts.

At mile 10 I was hungry so I ate my slightly melted energy bar and drank some more Gatorade as I trotted along.  The weather was nice and cool and now the fog had started to lift but I still had clouds and a nice breeze.  My route took me thru the desert to the ocean and over to an area where there are sand dunes.  All I could hear was my breathing and the pounding of the waves breaking.  I was now at my turn around point and I was still feeling strong and having so much fun.  I thought, hum, another 10 miles to go and I feel so good.  Cool.

At around mile 15 I made a wrong turn without noticing and ended up running a ½ mile out of my way thru ankle deep soft dirt.  This was a mess.  The detour did bring me back to my original route so onward I went.  I was still feeling good, dirty and sweaty but good until I noticed there was no longer a breeze and the sun was beginning to break thru the clouds!  Oh No!  The last thing I wanted was the sun beating down on me.  But that was not to be.  Mile 17 and now I had full sun and one bottle of liquid left.  I was now getting tired and thirsty for water and the Gatorade was just to sweet.  This must be that “runners wall” I’ve read about I thought as I kept running but now I was moving pretty slowly.  I didn’t want to stop and I didn’t want to walk, all I wanted was to make it back to camp and see Glen.  There was only one way back to camp and that was by the route I came up with so there were no short cuts back so the only way was forward.  Eventually I started feeling better and the sun didn’t seem so bad.

I started thinking about Glen and wondering if he was out surfing, surely the waves were good now.  This kept me company while I kept on.  Finally I made it to the light house that overlooks the point where we surf.  I glanced over as I ran by, perfect waves, a dozen in the water but no Glen.  Hum, maybe he already came in.  I only had a ½ mile to go and I was still feeling good.

As I ran up the path to camp there were my 2 dogs, Apollo and Taxi standing next to Glen who was banging a pot and blowing a whistle cheering me into the “finish line” he had made complete with a tape and a sign that read; FINISH LINE!  I was so overjoyed.  I leaned into his arms smiling and crying while my two dogs wagged their tails and licked my legs as if saying, “welcome home mommy, good run?”


I looked at my watch, I had run 20.50 miles in just under 4 hours and I felt so good, stiff but good.  I couldn’t believe I had done it.  I felt so proud.  I was full of energy and here was my wonderful husband waiting for me.  This is a man who will surf all day long and he hadn’t even surfed today at all, he said this was my day and he wasn’t going to miss it.  I am truly blessed.

While I stretched outside eating a banana and drinking water, Glen made me some scrambled eggs.  When I walked into our rig for my feast he had fully decorated the entire place with red streamers and even made me the most touching card.  I couldn’t stop the tears.

After a great breakfast we suited up and went surfing.  I wondered as I paddled out into overhead perfect surf if I would even be able to stand up on my board.  Much to my surprise and delight I paddled right into the most perfect wave and felt an enormous amount of pride and love.  I wanted to run farther today than I had ever run and I did it.  I accomplished something I had set my mind to do.

After 2 hours of non stop surfing my legs finally said no more.  I told Glen I was done and went in. On the walk back to camp or shall I say hobble back, I was actually slightly bent over as if looking for something as I moved, I smiled to myself and thought, I am a runner.

HOLY CRAP, EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE! - 1974

On another trip Bill and I and our friends were camped at a spot in Northern Baja.  Towards evening we had just eaten dinner and we were getting ready to have a fire.  My log cabin tent was in between the truck of one friend and the camper van of the other friend in a slight u shape to give us a little shelter from the wind. 

In those days they still made lighter fluid that was highly flammable, the kind that would easily follow back up the stream of lighter fluid and back to the can of fluid.  If you weren’t careful the whole could thing could blow up on you.  that’s why now days it is much safer to use. 

Well this particular time we had been sipping a few beers and tequila so my reactions were just a little slower.  Actually not so unusual in those days, I think we did the same thing every night.  Anyways we had the paper and wood stacked and ready to be lit.  We tired getting the campfire going with the paper but it was taking what I thought was a little too long so in my brilliant state of mind I decided to squirt some lighter fluid on it to get it going faster.  Well it got going alright.  I gave it a good ole’ hose job and the fire ran up the stream of lighter fluid and headed right towards the full can I was holding!  I yelled, “Holly Crap!” and jerked the can away from the upcoming flame.  But at the same time I was so shocked that I was still squeezing the can as I was swinging the can away from the flame, and the lighter fluid sprayed from one truck to my tent to the other van and before a blink of an eye, all these were on fire!  I was able to toss the can from the flame but it had followed the first stream.  Everyone was in frantic action and got the flames out with dirt and my tent had just a few torched marks on it.  We all got a pretty good chuckle out of that one.  Luckily we all moved quick and it was not serious.  I never pulled that stunt again.

FRIENDS AND SHIT EATING DOGS

There was a time early in the days of traveling to Baja that I would venture down with my friend Bill Minard and usually some other friends also.  We would do short 2 or 3 day trips.  Most of us had jibs to get back to, so the short journeys were fine.

This one trip Bill and I were traveling together in my 63’ Rambler Station Wagon  with an automatic transmission that was slipping under pressure in drive so whenever we came to a hill I would have to shit into low to make it up any hill.  We never had any problem with it.  At the time my left arm was in a cast so I drove one armed.  I couldn’t surf so Bill was the designated surfer and I would use his camera to take surf shots.  We had 2 couples tag along with us.  Our first spot we were looking for was a left and we had heard it was supposed to be pretty good.  Bill is a goofy footer so he wanted to see if this place could be found.  We were down about 180 miles and we found what might be the place.  Bill and the other 2 guys went out.  I was able to get a few good shots of Bill and one ha actually used in an ad he ran in the surf mags for his surfboards that he shaped.  Later that day we moved down the coast  a few miles and made camp at a place that we were familiar with. 

When it was time for a nature call it seemed as though these two dogs would come out from
nowhere and as soon as the nature call was over with,  the two dogs were on it like a fast food take out.  It was pretty hideous to see these two starving dogs enjoy our last meals with such welcoming appetites. 

At night by the campfire we were all sitting around and one of the guys got so shit faced he fell into the fire and his girlfriend started screaming to do something which we were already moving to get him out and nothing happened to him anyway, he wasn’t in the fire but a few seconds.  His girlfriend put him in the van and then came back out to sit by the fire.  Well a few minutes later those two shit eating dogs came around while we were passing around some snacks.  The next thing we knew the dogs were in the girls lap, kissing and licking her on the face and we just couldn’t believe it.  She was making the cute kissy kissy dog sounds and giggling!  Apparently she hadn’t made a nature call yet otherwise she wouldn’t have let those dogs kiss and lick her face.  We didn’t tell her where the dogs had their last meal.  We just humored ourselves and watched.  We knew where those tongues had been.   YUK!!  It was pretty though.  Bill and I still crack up when we talk about it.


THERE IS SOMEONE HERE WAITING FOR YOU

There was one time when I was at a gas station filling up on gas, cleaning my windows, checking the oil, water and the air in my tires, a full pit stop for my truck. Rocky is usually pretty patient but I guess this time maybe he must have seen something or smelled something, whatever it was he jumped out of the truck without me knowing it.  After I paid my bill and got back in my truck and took off I didn’t check for rocky because he never jumped out before this time.  I left the station and about 15 minutes later I realized Rocky wasn’t in the back of the truck, my heart sank just then.  Had he jumped out while I was driving?  Then I said to myself he must have jumped out at the gas station, I hope!  When I pulled into the station the attendant yelled out, “there is someone waiting for you!” and pointed to the pump I had used and there was Rocky sitting patiently waiting for me to return.  He spotted me and started wagging his tail as I pulled along side he jumped in.  I got out and gave him a pat on the head and told him I was sorry, it wouldn’t happen again and we were off on the road once again.

ROCKY IN BONE HEAVEN

For years and years once a month, myself, Rocky and a few good friends would frequent a steak house that was one of our favorite places to eat.  It was an ole barn style building.  Driving up we could see the smoke rising as they cooked the steaks on a barbeque pit style kitchen with mesquite wood.  Then as you get close, the smell of mesquite cooked steaks was everywhere in the air.  It was country style dining on benches with the menu written on a paper bag.  At that time there was the cowgirl steak, the cowboy steak, ranch style beans and a salad or better known on the menu as, buttons and boughs.  That was it.  And on every inch of the walls and ceilings were ties hanging from the people who wore the tires.  The waitresses would cut them off if you wore one in the place.  Each waitress had a country name, (not really theirs), and each eating area had its own name like Coyote Flats, Gold Nugget or Bighorn Gulch.  The names of the tables and the order that was ready was announced on a speaker so it sounded just like someplace back in time around the gold rush days. The paper bags that the menu was on had a plastic bag in it for leftovers or bones and I always asked the waitress if she had any more bones for my dog and they would always bring me a small box of bones, so Rocky was loving it when we came here.

I would always leave Rocky out front where there was a small grassy area and some old western antiques and he would lay there until I came out.  He would always be anxiously waiting for some bones.  Rocky was by now fully filled out to about 110 pounds with a beautiful fur coat.  He was such a handsome looking dog that I had been asked by a few people if I would be interested in studding him out for pups  I would say that I am sure he would like that but he is shooting blanks.  So he was such a good looking dog that someone would love to take him home with them but not even a bag of good country style steak bones could break his loyalty to me so I never had to worry.  This one particular night when we were done and coming out the door of the steak house I had to laugh when I saw Rocky lying in the middle of a large stack of steak bones just as happy as any dog could be.  Seemed as though quite a few people had a soft spot for Rocky as they passed by and pitched him a bone or 2.  He was definitely in bone heaven.

THOSE BIG BROWN EYES OF ROCKY

When I found Rocky he was about a year and 3 months old.  I was walking down the long line of chain link cages that held many a hopeful set of eyes and sad and wishful looks for a new and happy home.  Then I came to the face that left me without a doubt that this pup would be my new friend in my life.  He was already naked Rocky so I left his name the same, it fit him well.  He was sitting by the gate with his big sad brown eyes as he watched me approach the gate.  I stood and looked at him and he looked back at me.  He was a beautiful black Labrador with slightly longer hair on his tail.  The look on his face I couldn’t resist.  I had been looking for a Lab and not just any Lab for many are hyper and I wanted a  mellow dog.  Rocky was definitely mellow.  I knelt down beside him and touched the chain link gate and he just leaned against my hand and looked at me.  I said to him, “Rocky how would you like to come live with me?”  He just continued to look at me with those big brown eyes and then a little flop flop with the tip of his tail on the cold hard concrete floor.  I told him, “don’t worry pal, I will be back in a few minutes and your coming to live with me.” 

When all was said and done I had paid the $25 fee for him and while we were walking out the door, the guy said “He is one lucky boy, he had until tomorrow and we were gonna have to put him to sleep.” 

I lived just up the street from the pound so we walked home the 3 blocks and we were just barely  made it, having to stop a few time for Rocky to rest.  I was looking for a mellow dog but this was a little to mellow especially for a dog being only  a year and 3 months old.  By the time we got to my house he was fully out of gas.   I thought maybe he was just hungry and weak from being in that jail house for dogs on death row.  So for the next couple of days I tried to feed him high quality dog food but he wasn’t that hungry and still real sluggish.  So I decided to take him in to the vet and see what they could figure out what was up with him.  The tests came back with worms, mites, rickets, malnutrition and probably not eating because of a broken heart but he had definitely been mistreated health wise.  So I got the medications to help with his problems and fed him red meat everyday for 2 months.  At first he could barley make it 30 or 40 yards before getting to tired, then gradually after a few weeks he could  make it around the block and then I started out gradually taking him on short slow trots next to my bike.  After 6 months of this he finally became a healthy happy energetic dog.  He could then run with me alongside the bike for hours, chase rabbits and coyotes when we hiked through the back country.

Over the 13 years that rocky was with me, he was my loyal companion.  I was never without him.  He went everywhere with me.  He was so loyal I remember one party in particular I went to.  Rocky was out in the front yard, these were the days when there were no leash laws being enforced so dogs ran free.  This house had no fenced yard so Rocky was free to roam if he wanted which he never did, he always waited for me no matter where.  The party went on into the late hours and I was fairly saturated.  We had walked to the party and when I left I went out the back door and wobbled home about a mile away.  In the morning when I woke up I realized that rocky wasn’t with at home, then I figured I had forgotten him at the party.  I walked back to where the party was but before I got there I could see Rocky on the front lawn still patiently waiting for me to come out the front door.  I felt it wouldn’t be right to walk up to him and say Hey Rocky, I came back to get you after forgetting you last night.  So I walked up the alley to the back of the house, went in the back door and came out the front  door so he wouldn’t know that I had forgotten him and said, “ok rocky, lets go home.”