Pretty much every October we head up the Sonoma coast, about as far as you can get before it becomes the Mendocino coast, for a long weekend at Sea Ranch. It's a spectacular corner of the world, where high sandstone bluffs meet the cold north Pacific, redwoods loom on the mountains just beyond the meadows, and rich white people go to retire. Sometimes, not-exactly-rich white people go there to vacation. Tim's brother Dan had picked out a little gem of a rental house overlooking the ocean and the golf course, or, as the deer like to think of it, the 24 hour all-you-can-eat vegetation buffet. There was a hot tub on a private patio, and another deck open to the sweeping view. Schweet.
Sea Ranch is the scene of some of my most treasured athletic memories. The trails along the bluffs and through the meadows are perfectly arranged for running, undulating gently for miles, soft and springy underfoot, offering some of the most amazing views you could ever hope for. And the air! Fresh off thousands of miles of open ocean, it seems to have more oxygen than regular air and invites you to run with every gust of sea breeze.
In my fitter days I ran miles and miles along those trails, and many of those runs felt like dream runs, good dreams where I bound along with ridiculous ease and strength, not those other running dreams where I'm trying to run but I'm stuck. I ran here with a whole posse of friends (and Elwood the dog) on the morning of my wedding. Did wonders for my nerves. I did long training runs for significant races; I did short, medium, and long runs preparing insignificant races and just for fun.
One of the chapters I should have written in Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete would have been "Don't Compare." I guess we can extrapolate from Chapter 32, "Be Noncompetitive," which is about the pitfalls of being competitive with others, to the pitfalls of being competitive with your former self. Fortunately, I knew well that there was no way I could hope to compete with my triathletic self of five years ago. So I wasn't tempted to lace up the Asics and try to do some epic eight-miler or anything. I just wanted to do some brisk walking.
Sea Ranch was also the scene of one of my most memorably unathletic moments, two years ago during the baffling onset of Boo-boo Kitty Syndrome. We had all ventured out for an easy walk down to Gualala Point, and on the way back, I could hardly lift my legs to put one foot in front of the other. I felt ill and exhausted, falling further and further behind the group, who ambled along without apparent effort. I dragged myself back up to the house and promptly fell asleep for an hour. Michelle, who has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and has suffered quite a bit with it, observed that I just wasn't right. No matter how out of shape I might be (and Michelle has known me in shape and way, way out of shape), I wouldn't drag my ass around like that. It was one of many low points.
So being back at this familiar, beloved spot, feeling reasonably full of energy and able to walk kind of fast for an hour along the headlands, laughing at the wind poofing up Tim's jacket -- that felt like a pretty decent accomplishment. And being able to go out for another 40 minutes or so the next day, jogging a few steps here and there, enjoying some localized soreness in my ankles from the uneven terrain rather than a full-body ache? Bonus.
I still haven't made it to the pool at Sea Ranch (or anywhere else for that matter), and I did pretty much eat my body weight in salty snacks and cheese over the weekend, but as we know, exercise is one thing, and diet is another thing altogether (Chapter 33, "Don't Make the Donut the Reward").