Chris, Thomas and I drove towards Palomar in the morning. Chris would drive to the top to do a short ride and wait with our running gear. Thomas and I, however, would take the long way - about 13 miles up the mountain at a steady grade.
Thomas and I set out to warm up among the citrus groves. The day was flawless. High sixties, blue skies, no clouds. We did a small loop of the only flats we could find. Along the way, we saw a sad snake that didn't make it across the road. In homage, I broke out into You're A Grand Old Snake sung to tune of Grand Old Flag. Thomas was a bit scared by my ability to break out into song but I said spend 7 years teaching children and you learn a few things.
Before we set out for the climb, I took the opportunity to eat. Thomas took the opportunity to complain about his lack of legs. Then we set out to climb. In parting, I told Thomas "remember, unlike the snake, you have legs." He laughed and took off. The climb was lonely today. Thomas was ahead and we set apart at our slow grinds.
I had two goals today - to climb entirely seated and to keep cadence above 70 rpms. Challenging when you climb for some 80 minutes straight. Climb, climb, climb. Several times along the way I thought about what this climb meant today. Today it was really a climb for my head. I knew my legs could do it. But the battle was just in my head - would my head be strong to not give this up. Today I climbed my own wall of resistance to overcome my doubts that maybe I couldn't do it again. Maybe I would have to stop along the way. When you climb alone you realize you are accountable to no one but yourself. You can stop. You can take a rest. You can back off. No one would know. But something inside of you has to say no. No stopping, no resting, no backing off just a constant grind in the seat. For over an hour overriding the part of yourself that says "stopping would be much more comfortable" versus the part of yourself that says "do not give up this discomfort today." Why? Because this is the discomfort that counts.
Climbing towards the top I couldn't wait to tackle the 45 minute run. My legs and chest were in a much better place than the last time I climbed and I couldn't wait to see how I would run. Finally the green roof of the store at top became visible and I knew I was close. At one point I started to think maybe I can't finish this but then I realized how silly that was. What would happen? I would stop? I would fall off my bike? Come on. I would finish it was just a matter of time. And one thing I have learned is that the time will pass, it always does.
Time passed. I reached the top. I stayed in my seat and I was so proud. I dismounted my bike and immediately there was so much pain from the seat that I wanted to cry. We got ready to run and when I realized at 5300 feet after 80 minutes of climbing that I forgot running shoes back at Brad's place - well, I did cry. I couldn't think of anything else to do. I wanted so badly to run on top of Palomar that I almost thought about doing it barefoot. The boys gave me hugs and though I felt foolish for being the crybaby of the group - that is really how bad I wanted the run today.
But it would have to wait. Until we arrived back at Brad's, got my shoes then Thomas and I went to Torrey Pines State Reserve. I had a plan. We were running today. We would not give this workout up. But first we would have to resettle the pain in our legs after the hour long drive back. I told Thomas we would do a few vultures (circle nervously in an inappropriate place) in the parking lot then climb Torrey Pines, descend it and then climb the hill inside of the park. Then we would take on the 45 minute run with the first 10 minutes up the hill.
Straight up the hill for 10 minutes pushing hard. Is there any other way? No, not if you are chasing Sherpa Thomas up the hill as he shouts at you to give it more and get up there. I tried. Or at least killed my legs trying. Every minute ticked away not quickly enough and I just wanted to die/stop/throw up/lay down/explode. But none of that happened. In fact around 8 minutes when the climb plateaued I decided I would sprint to catch Thomas' feet because - why not? What is the worst that would happen? I would explode? I took the chance and stayed on his feet until 10 minutes.
*I did not explode*
Then we hit a trail. It was twisty, curvy and all sand. Nothing like running sand trails fast after nearly barfing your heart out your mouth, climbing a mountain, driving home and then climbing again. I did everything I could to keep Thomas right ahead of me but he was very nimble. Part of me was frustrated for not being able to keep right with him but then part of me said you are chasing a man that used to run 4 minute miles, you are ok. The sand got deeper and I really thought my legs would just come right off but I kept telling myself to MAKE IT HURT because this is what it akes.
We emerge from the trail and I tell Thomas that I think I might die. He tells me it is time to do flats. That is not what I wanted to hear. We run the flats, turnaround and then I say this cannot get any worse so let's hit the trail again. Back into the sand. Chasing Thomas. He moves around corners with ease while I run into bushes and nearly trip over myself. Then it is time to descend the hill. Finally after 45 minutes we are done. I ask him what zone he was in today and he says after the first 10 minutes - Zone 1. I was pretty much in 4. All the way.
It was an epic day.
We are done and we are tired. There is much pain in our legs. Thomas has disowned his left quad, I have reported my left hamstring missing. Thomas said his legs left him at 4000 feet. I said my legs left me yesterday. Thomas wins the rolling race today by rolling his legs at least 10 times. I sat on top of the foam roller and quickly said 'no thanks.'
So we are doing what any tired athletes would do - eating cake. I have just scolded Thomas for leaving half of his cake in the plastic box. Do not do eat your cake half ass, boy. Have I not taught you anything today?
Tomorrow we spectate Chris at California 70.3. We'll ride up to Oceanside early to watch the race. I can't wait! It is also an easy day for us - just a ride and a run. And more cake!