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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Moving Forward

Martinez and the Sacramento River Delta from the top of Mt. Wanda

A small retaining wall parallels the uphill side of the Mt. Wanda trail near Franklin Canyon Rd. An uneven assortment of rail road ties forms an abrupt set of steps leading from the sparse gravel parking lot up to the head of the main trail. Sufficiently warm and sweating, I had been looking for a good spot to drop my long sleeve jersey, now soaked and clinging to my sleeveless base layer, and the split branches of a miserable little tree peeking from behind the wall seemed perfect to guard the sweat-soaked shirt as I ascended for a round trip run to the top of Mt. Wanda.

John Muir, whose historically preserved home sits just across the highway, named this mountain after his daughter. With the dramatic prominence of Mt. Diablo within sight and the intimate knowledge he had of the Sierra Nevadas, I am perplexed at Muir's defining of this particular rise with the prefix "Mountain." The ascent is not easy, but neither is it particularly daunting.

Having abandoned the shirt and repositioned my cap, I began the steep climb on a muddy, rutted trail. The original plan for today was to cover a total of 11 miles on my systematic return from a debilitating shin splint. In mapping this route on Friday night, it somehow seemed reasonable to extend it to 13 miles. But now 7 miles into the run and climbing with relative ease, ambition began to gnaw at the edges of common sense. I added a loop at the top of the hill, not an original element of the route, and then detoured again to the summit for another quarter mile. By the end of the run, I would succumb to 2 more detours and cover 14.5 miles.

The descent of Wanda was quick, but controlled, as I can't afford another injury this close to race day. The ease of descending, the glimpses of the horizon through leafless trees, and the fresh rain-washed air lulled my mind into meandering. I had soon advanced to the end of my run and was planning the balance of my day based on that ever present mental checklist. High on the list was the bunk beds I needed to get started on before July and the arrival of the new baby.

Then the pain, a tightening in my chest, a hint of a tear mingling with the perspiration. The bunk bed isn't needed any more. Such a random thought had led back to the pain. But don't all of my thoughts eventually end up there right now?

Just 24 hours earlier in a hospital practically visible from the summit, my wife and I had cradled a tiny, lifeless form, no larger than my hand, our latest angel. Glorietta Janice was an unexpected addition to the upcoming summer events, and an even more unexpected absence.

When I jogged out of the neighborhood an hour prior, I had left my wife and 2 daughters at home to make waffles and give the house its daily thrashing. It was time for my weekend run, so I ran. I also ran in hopes of dulling cognition, or maybe to sharpen it - I'm not sure. Now as I ran I remembered what a miracle my girls are and looked forward to being back with them.

I stooped over the wall and retrieved the black lump of wet fabric and tied it like a sash around my neck and under one arm. The miles were racing past now, as if the world were rotating beneath me and I, merely lifting my feet, was standing still. I thought about the 2 lovely girls romping around and driving their mother nuts at home, and then about the 3 beautiful children waiting for me on the other side, and realized how spectacularly blessed I am.

The whole run lasted just over 2 hours but felt like minutes. An 8-year-old mop of blonde hair met me with the typical post run disdain and distance, but nevertheless condescended to tote my cap and shirt between 2 fingers back to the laundry room while I dispatched most of the mud. A 2-year-old fist began beating against the window through the blinds, and the little person it belonged to, perched atop the toy chest, giggled shyly each time I glanced her way.

I spent the whole day with them - and the next.