I've been in Lake Tahoe for almost a week now, running every single day, except the one day I biked around the lake. It's weird when you run somewhere else, especially more than a couple times. It's like you have to create a routine that you'll never use again.
In a town that's known for hiking, mountain biking, and all things outdoors, you would think it would be easy to go trail running. Nope. Pretty hard, in fact. At least, from my perspective. I've always believed that one of the greatest things about running is that you can do it right out your front door, whenever you want. You don't have to drive somewhere. You don't have to fit it into a schedule (other than your own). You don't need anyone else, or any equipment. You can just go. It's very liberating that way. And for that reason, I consider it very silly to drive somewhere to run. Why don't you just, uh, *clear throat* run there? Or at least bike there?
So based on where I was staying, it was hard to find trails sometimes. I wound up having to do a lot of my running on the narrow shoulder of the busiest highway in town. It wasn't until I only had two days left to go that I found a pleasant section of trail, only about a mile long, that fit in nicely with a reasonably-long loop I could do (which still totaled 13.5 miles, any shorter and I'd have to leave the trail out).
Running on that trail was the best part of training all week. Sometimes you don't realize what you're missing until you see it, and other times you don't realize what you have until it's gone. I've mentioned before that I think Shoreline Park in Mountain View, only two miles from my apartment and essentially across the street from my work, is a great place for training runs. I guess I hadn't realized how spoiled I had gotten. Every day this week that I ran, I was constantly bordering on infuriation from the noise of the traffic. I don't think most people realize how loud and obnoxious cars are, because they only time they're around them, they're in one, with the windows up and music playing.
Finally away from the din of the city (and it's sad you can say that even about a town of 21,000), I was in my element once again. The loose dirt felt good underneath my non-trail shoes, and even fighting up a hill at a slower place, I was feeling better than I would on any pavement. I looked around at the trees in every direction. Stillness. Quiet. Just me, alone. Much better.
At one point, I crested a hill where the trail turned out towards the valley, almost in the direction of the lake. I was more or less pointed directly at the city of South Lake Tahoe. I stopped for a moment to take in the view. To the right, the lake, and farther back, the mountains. Through the trees surrounding town and in it, you could hardly see a speck of human activity. That's the way it should be. But even up on the side of this hill, away from everything, you could still hear a constant buzzing of traffic. That honestly got me a little depressed. To think that a small isolated town, one that makes significant efforts not to disturb its environment, is still blaring its presence across a huge, wide valley. For whatever reason, I burst into song from atop the vista. Robert Earl Keen makes a lot of things better.
Most of my runs have been in the neighborhood of half-marathon distance this week, a little longer than my average training run. Didn't do hill repeats this week, though. But the most significant thing (I think) about this week is the elevation. The lake sits at about 6,200 feet. About 1,000 feet higher than Denver. And almost every race I do is essentially at sea level. I haven't noticed the altitude affecting me, or at least, I've never felt dizzy or out of breath. But I've been slower, so maybe it's been having a small effect. What I'm really hoping for is that I'll notice the reverse effect when I come down from the mountains. Here's hoping.