Now that my normal pre-work running routine has been scrapped, I've had to come up with a new one. Shoreline Park, where I do most of my running, is still within running distance of my apartment, so it hasn't been that much of a change. I still go running there, I just start and finish all my runs from my apartment instead of my office. And I wake up whenever I want.
For months, almost since I moved here, I'd heard about The Dish, some hiking trail on the side of a hill over by Stanford. Apparently it's a paved path that makes a three-mile loop, and I'd heard the hill is brutal. Well, I heard that from a guy who told me he gets winded just walking one loop. So I wasn't sure what to think about it. I'd ridden Invictus past the place several times, so I knew where the gate was, but you can't see much of the path from the road.
Finally, in one of my last few weeks here, I thought I'd give it a go. Something to do before I leave. I put on my running shoes and rode Freebird over there, locked her up, and took on The Dish, intending to do three loops.
My goodness, that first hill...kinda caught me off guard. Somehow, I didn't expect it to go on for a full mile, so I burned up the first quarter-mile, only to be greeted by more hill. And around every corner, more, and more, until I was already tired only eight minutes into a run.
"Perhaps," I thought to myself, "I should calm down a little bit."
After that first hill, though, it's really not too bad. Rollers throughout, no flat sections whatsoever, but nothing you can't handle. The scenery was downright gorgeous, a look over Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay to the east, and the beautiful hills of the peninsula to the west. It was a bright, clear day, a little warm, but not too much. This was gonna be a good run.
I came down and around the other side of the loop, finding myself in more rollers at the bottom. Somehow, I missed both the drinking fountain and one of the entrances on the way, not that I intended to use them this time, but I did later on. I saw some sort of gate that looked like a private entrance instead, like it was coming out of someone's backyard. I kept running past and found myself at the turnoff to go back down to the entrance where I started. I headed down, wanting to get every last hill outta this run that I could.
I turned right this time instead of left. I was doing "washing machine" loops, the kind where you alternate clockwise and counter-clockwise. Keeps things interesting, and lets you see the landscape in a different way. This time, I started off with some rollers near the bottom, and the hill to the top was a lot more gradual. When I passed the "private" entrance again, I realized it was actually a gate that leads into an alley in a neighborhood. It was the second entrance I was looking for.
Just before the big hill, I found the drinking fountain. You have to split off from the trail and go down into this crescent-shaped path, obscured from the main path by a row of trees. Honestly, it reminded me of a pit on a race track. 4.5 miles into the run, I stopped for a few gulps and kept going.
Dealing with a less-steep hill, and now well into the run, I was feeling pretty good. It usually takes me a mile or so to get going, and when that first mile is a hill, it can do a number on me. I was feeling better now than when I started. I looked at my watch. Slow pace for normal, but depending on how many hills I'm really dealing with, I'm potentially doing pretty well! I picked up the pace ever so slightly. Let's see what I'm made of.
It took some effort to stay in control coming down the steep hill. This time, I went to the gate that leads to the alley and let myself through, just to run down to street level and come back up. Not skipping any hills. I headed up that first hill, the monstrous one I'd aggressively attacked the first time around, with a little more patience this time. Even though I was running slower, it didn't seem to go on nearly as long. Mental preparation can make a lot of things seem easier.
When I got to the top of the hill, I took another look at my watch and saw that my average pace was 7:02. The competitive side in me came out. I can get that under 7:00! I only had about 2.5 miles to go, all rollers or downhill. There was no reason I couldn't shed a few seconds per mile and squeak my average under 7:00. I took off.
Possibly the hardest part of that last few miles was actually the downhill. I hadn't fully run through it until now, but wanting to take full advantage, I went for it this time. Man, I'm just not built to sustain that gait. I kept thinking I was gonna trip.
By the time I reached the bottom, with only one mile of rollers to go, I was at an average pace of 6:56. Knowing I still had to bike 12 miles home, I allowed myself to stop at the drinking fountain again, but only for 20 seconds. I counted them off in my head as I gulped from the pitifully weak fountain as fast as I could.
I tore up the last 3/4 mile, including another sprint down that first hill, finishing with an average pace of 6:52. Now that's getting it done. Later, I looked at the GPS data and saw that my 11 miles had 1,600 feet of climbing. That's about on par with a few of the harder Coastal Trail Runs, and that's saying something. To think that I did it at a pace like that...!
Overall, it was a great run. Tough miles, but that's what makes you better. I only wish I'd started going hear a long time ago. I'm trying to imagine grinding through a 20-mile long training run here. How tough that would make you! Love the place, love the course, love the scenery, only wish it was unpaved.