Battle on the trail

Matt Leading the way in the wilderness

Matt Leading the way in the wilderness

Ah, Sycamore Canyon. A year ago I got to know the trails in this wild land north of Malibu. The area had just burned down then. Now we’re back with the Trailrunners Club. In the year that’s passed I remember nothing more than a couple of weak rain showers. The drought is brutal. And so it is that the canyon, the trails, the hillsides and fields still look brown and grey, barren and barely alive.

Still, this 12-mile loop is a great run. My new running friend Matt and I take off to lead the group — after the elusive (i.e. fast) Mike, of course. The early, steep climbs take a lot out of me. “Not my day”, I think, and then mumble out loud. Matt doesn’t say anything. What is there to say, really? He does kindly take the lead to set our pace. Up, and up, and up we go.

A tired Sunday morning warrior

A tired Sunday morning warrior

I love trails.

That said, sometimes it’s a battle. Of course we cannot control nature, but the loose sand, sharp rocks, crazy twists, hidden roots, unexpected dips, low branches and endless climbing are a formidable opponent. I ask myself: how can I ever win? I put my head down and focus. Do what I know how to do: lift my feet with a light step, move my arms, control the pace and my breathing. On the downhill I let gravity do 90% of the labor.

Suddenly we hit the fire road between the hills, back west toward the ocean. Steadily we cruise along for more than three miles, at a sweet 8-minute pace. Matt and I don’t talk much anymore. We’ve chatted about our travels, jobs, relationships. Now we just quietly run.

The battle has subsided; it turns out it was never a fight. Just a challenge, which we managed quite well on this gorgeous Sunday morning.

Post-run, feet in the Pacific

Post-run, feet in the Pacific

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