Sunday, December 29, 2013

Turkey, Stags, & Turnover: Adventures in Running-Holiday Edition

Now that I've returned to civilization from my annual family Christmas in the Texas Hill Country, my bags are all unpacked, my feet up, I figured it was time to update this thing.

This holiday season has brought some busy weeks in the office, getting my shopping done and putting up with some frigid-by-Texas standards cold early morning runs. While I love the constant action here in The Woodlands, I always look forward to getting away to my grandparents' ranch. My cell phone does not work upon entering the gate and the concrete and pine trees is replaced by hills, rivers, and oak trees. Perhaps its just the beauty of this place that makes me slow down (which is difficult to do), even if just for a short while. How could you not with views like this:

I am quite confident that the rest of my family thought I was nuts for heading out early on Christmas Eve morning for a 70 minute run in some chilly temps; however, I had been quietly looking forward to hitting the trails out there for several days. The scenery and wildlife didn't disappoint either. Those interested readers I will take on a short trip through some sweet runs last week.

I knew it was going to be fairly epic as I stepped outside a few minutes before a spectacular sunrise reflecting from the heavy frost and illuminating over the hills. As if I wasn't feeling awake and alive enough by the simple beauty, I saw a very large red stag looking right at me at the end of the driveway (think elk/giant deer thing for those not familiar) before bounding back over rest of the herd just down the hill.

Part of me was a bit unnerved-I mean those things have some serious antlers and weigh up to 500 pounds-but most of me was taken by how graceful such large animals can be. Besides, they seemed rather intimidated by my presence on a very easy run (the muscles don't do too well in 22 degree temps!). It was really cool just being out there enjoying being out in the open, no cars, just trees, obnoxiously large deer, and....obnoxiously loud wild turkeys. I mean there were turkeys everywhere! Part of me wished I had carried my camera, which I never do, and this was no exception.

Another thing for me about being in the outdoors is that it lets me let some of my inner kid out at usually spontaneous times; for example, while running along the river in the front section of the property, I couldn't resist throwing in some "strides" aka chasing a flock of turkeys! Why not? They can just fly away;)? Besides, sometimes running is just meant to be playful and enjoyed. I've been able to do this quite often this fall season, but this one really reflected that notion.

Post-run, of course we went into all the traditions that the family has done at least as long as I've been alive, and it was time to head back to the suburbs, at least the Austin-area for another day.

Christmas morning I had this weird compulsion to go do sort of a workout at a local high school before Mom got up (perfectly normal behavior, right?!). While the track was closed, there was a large area of practice fields that was sufficient for throwing together a short workout I tend to call the "gearbox". Basically it entails intervals of 3-4 minutes at paces determined by effort to just "go through the gears" to give me both confidence but a nice transition into some more (light) structure. After a warmup that felt easier than normal, I managed to easily hit the paces across just 5 harder intervals of 3 minutes. Each one I felt less afraid and more strong and in control.

While the exact paces are not important, how my technique and stride felt caught me off guard. I had gears again and was able to connect with my current potential and ability. All the patience and attention to detail with surfaces and strength work was apparent as all I needed to do to adjust the pace is a slight tweak in cadence. Mentally, this was big because I felt relaxed and in control of my effort vs. having to force anything. Another big mental takeaway from stepping outside the box is that I am running with less fear and more trust. "I don't know if I can do this" turned into "I am not afraid anymore". Who knows, maybe it was just the rediculousness of working out alone on Christmas morning-but it was fun.

I guess this was a little gift to myself, however small in scope. In a time that is generally quite stressful, I'll remember this year that its the simple things like family, doing what makes me happy yet remembering to share it with and serve others as well.

Going back to fear-pushing past things I'm afraid of is something that I have made a lot of progress on in this past year and wish to continue this into the next. I plan on doing a different take on a "year in review" next week-hope you enjoyed my little trip across Central Texas.

Stay the course. You never know what you'll see out there.


L.A. Runner said...

Truth- I had to google stag. Yep, it's a male deer, for anyone else wondering.

So very glad you had a relaxing getaway. You def deserved it! I still want to visit that ranch one day, especially now that I'm a trail runner and all. ;)

Proud of you on the workout end of things. Any type of newness (or something you haven't done in awhile) can be scary, you know that. It's the fear of the unknown more than the actual task at hand that is scary, though. Looking forward to you rocking more and more workouts and races in the upcoming year. LOVE YA!

misszippy said...

This sounds like the loveliest of runs! Happy for you to be able to get it in. And glad you could stare down the deer!

Happy new year!

Raina R. said...

You really need to carry a camera on your runs! lol

I like the sounds of your gearbox workout. It must have been nice to reconnect with the feelings of everything clicking!

Glad to read you had a good Christmas! Hope your NYE is fantastic :)

Elizabeth said...

That sounds very refreshing and rejuvenating! I'm glad you got a change of scenery!