Sunday, March 6, 2011

When running feels like flying

I went for a run this morning at one of my favorite places. The place is Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. Rancho, as its known in the running/hiking community around the bay area, is a large open space area in the hills near Los Altos, CA. There are miles and miles of trails, meadows, trees, open spaces, dear, turkeys, quail, bunnies, birds, bobcats and mountain lions (and I haven't even talked about the farm!).

One of my favorite runs there is going "up and over". We start at the bathrooms near a parking lot, run up Rogue Valley trail which does a slow climb through more open space, goes past a wet season pond, along side a creek to the hairpin. From the hairpin you run up what we call 1 mile hill. Its about a 500ft climb in a mile. Get to the top and run the ridge for a bit, then you go down Upper Wildcat Canyon trail. This is where it gets really fun.

Upper Wildcat Canyon trail runs through, get this, Wildcat Canyon... yeah, amazing. The canyon is full of trees and another creek, the trail is a narrow single track that hugs the canyon edge and crosses back and forth across the creek on little wooden bridges. The air is always cooler than the ridge line and the trees are either beautiful green or have dropped orange and yellow leaves to carpet the path. This picture is of one of the bridges from the website of Alan Dean. I hope Alan doesn't mind me using this picture, but its perfect.

This is the great part... the angle of the trail is a perfect downhill that lets you get up some really good speed with very little effort. Just lean forward and let gravity do the work... the faster you go the lighter you have to be on your feet. On a really good day, like today, the air is cool, the ground firm but not hard, traction is good.

Then its like flying... I can hear the wind of my own passing, I dance from step to step, light on my feet, the ground rushes below me and rocks and branches flash into and out of my view. Its exhilarating.. and I feel primal and whole. On a *really* good day, like today, everything just clicks and it feels like flying.

I've always said that it feels like flying when the run is like that. Even long before I ever sat in a small plane, much less flew on my own. But now that I've flown, it really does feel like flying. Or maybe flying feels like running down that path?

More specifically, the part of flying that most closely matches the run is a great landing. I've had a good share of great landings. In a great landing, the ground rushes up and below me. The wind rushes by and, in a great landing, its a fine dance of small and light adjustments to the wind and the air as it moves past me. I don't even feel like there's a plane and me. All I feel is me and wind and adjustments for what the wind does.

I haven't had many great landings recently... but, I think this run was a good reminder for me of what its like and what I need to do. The other thing my CFI always talks about... never stop flying, don't let it touch the ground. That's like the run too... you certainly don't want to touch the ground suddenly in the run. That would hurt. The only way to do that run is keep light on the feet and always adjust.

I'm very glad I'm a runner.

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