Fortune Favors the Befriended

Here's to great ride partners. Like Hobbes, whose response to a half-mile 6% climb is: "Wow! Yeah! Great way to end a ride!" And like Jammer, whom I've seen try to sneak up and chase down N. on a hill, just for grins. (He saw her coming and rocketed off, and she still chased. She'd try it again, I'm sure of it.) And like Stitch, to whom a casual semi-hilly 20 miles seemed a perfectly logical way to test how well her recent impromptu spine-and-head remodeling has healed.

Hobbes, Jammer, and Stitch feeling good post-ride

Jammer and I started the day together at the Shoal Creek Wilderness Run, a five-mile cross-country run with a few stretches of woodsy trails, a couple of creek crossings, and a fat juicy hill at the end.

Should you do Shoal Creek next year? If you like running on grass, you'll have a blast. Volunteers, many of them earnest 13-year-old badge-spattered Scouts, stood posted at every tricky obstacle and every turn. A handsome and well-turned man waited hand out to catch us as we leaped up from the creek onto a slick, grassy overhang. And all the volunteers cheered until the last back-of-packers came through. (How would I know that? Well.) Between two and three hundred people ran this year, including a not-insignificant number of 45 to 60 somethings, a passel of kids running with parents, and at least three young women in Jenn Shelton braids and bandanna headbands. Post-run goodies top-notch, run support flawless. Before and after the run, we toured the Shoal Creek Village of relocated 19th-century farm and town structures. We chatted up the period-costumed women who were weaving bobbin lace.

How was my run? Let's see. Five miles is a bit beyond what I'd normally go out and run (though not for much longer, I think), and since I have no sense of pace on trails, I assumed I'd walk part of the course. I didn't assume I'd overheat. Because come on, who ever heard of heat stress in NOVEMBER, for crying out loud. But symptoms unmistakable. The light sweat, the hot skin, the nausea. So I walked. A lot.

And yes, I was well hydrated. Heat stress is an old friend, ever since I was a scrawny little kid. Bummer, because though I run better in the cold, I like hot weather best. My muscles suck up all my good O2 and don't leave enough cooling blood for the skin. My blood runs from the sunshine. In the sun, it's like the temperature goes up twenty degrees. Hit the shade, and it's like I have new legs and lungs. I run fine in the heat, in the shade. So I dunno. If you all have advice out there, let me know.

There were miles of sunny stretches on grass today. Also my form was a right mess, my feet were getting spanked by ill-chosen shoes, and I needlessly spent some energy on frustration in a long bottleneck behind tentative runners on the wonderful, leaf-slopped, leap-and-hammer trail section. But did I mention yet that it was a gorgeous day, G-O-R-GEOUS, over 70 and sunny with a balmy light breeze, in November? With lots of color yet on the trees? You just don't get days like this. You can't waste them picking at imperfections. You walk off your nausea and remember that it gives you leisure to look around at the scenery.

If you can't be fast or strong, might as well be good company. I ran with some lovely people far behind the pack, and we joked and were infectiously bubbly together. And I got the volunteers at the top and bottom of the Fat Juicy Hill to laugh, I think at sheer unreasonable exuberance. I was just so happy to see shaded pavement instead of sunny grass or gravel that when I made the ninety degree turn and saw the hill (danger signs are posted on the grade) that I yelled out, Oh Baby, YEAH! and took off up it. Running that crazy hill felt as good as the whole rest of the run.

And up ahead was Jammer, also doing a run/walk and having a great time. With a big mud tattoo up her leg from a slip-n-slide crossing, she ran strong and finished strong on the last gravel climb that followed the Fat Juicy Hill. We both finished somewhere close to an hour five. Let's go run more trails, Jammer.

Jammer and Stitch and I are part of a pack of women who rode together through the summer. They were building up for the MS 150. Jammer likes to lead up hills, and Stitch never, ever, ever gives up.

We tried to get the pack together for today's "OH SWEET FREAKING ZEUS, THIS WEATHER!" ride, but most folks were traveling; one was entangled in a house-painting project; another had a wonky wheel under repair. So Jammer and Stitch and their MS 150 pal Hobbes and I met this afternoon for the casual semi-hilly 20. (Jammer and I had both had naps. Like five year olds who can't rip through a kindergarten day without falling down and sleeping.) Hobbes, in addition to having unflappably buoyant spirits, wore a fantastic Primal Wear jersey featuring a bike-chain Kokopelli. I was mesmerized.

In a welcome, unexpected lack of car traffic, we spun around the west-side roads at a steady, non-blistering pace, enjoying the gorgeous day and the company, everybody working but nobody struggling.

No — and I'm not talking about the weather — you just don't get days like this. Here's to ride partners, run comrades, good routes, and to the kind of day you don't often get after age twelve or so.

Here's to good fortune.