Scarlett’s Letter December 17, 2013

I’ve been a rebel without a cause for a while now. I’ll always be a bit of a rebel, but, today, I think I found a cause!

I’ve always been very involved in things I truly believe in. Scouting, for example. I was once a Girl Scout and loved every moment of it. I loved the friendships, the potential to earn and achieve, both as a group and independently, and the opportunity for adventures and exploration in nature. I had great leaders, so we actually had opportunities for adventures and exploration in nature, not just arts and crafts. And, probably from the time I first opened my Brownie Girl Scout Handbook in the first grade, I knew, someday, I wanted to be a Scout Leader. And I was. I was both a Girl Scout leader and a Boy Scout leader, for well over a decade, for both organizations, and just like my experience as a young girl, I loved every minute of being a leader, too. I truly feel like I had an impact, and, perhaps, made some small difference in a number of young lives. And it was fun.

The kids are grown and have moved away and are all far beyond scout age. I too have moved away and, yes, while I could still lead, I finally hung up my patch adorned red wool jacket a few years ago when work and travel and attending anything at all regularly became more than I could manage.

I miss having a cause.

I ran today, six miles. I’ve managed to shave a whole minute per mile off my average time since the marathon a couple of weeks ago. Oh, sure, I was capable of a bit more speed before the marathon, but I was being very conservative, making every attempt to avoid injury before the race. Training was about “time on my feet” and “staying on program”. Marathon completed, now I can push some limits. Running, now, is less about “time on my feet” and a whole lot more about “time in my head”.

The best book I’ve never read, recently, was “Younger Next Year for Women” by Henry Lodge and Chris Crowley (and, yes, there is a mens version, the original, actually). I enjoyed every word, on Audible. I have the printed version, digitally, on my Kindle, but have only managed the audiobook, thus far. It is truly a fantastic book and really great narration in the Audible version. It is both informative and totally enjoyable. I highly, highly recommend it. Within the volumes of very well researched, documented and supported advice was the first rule; exercise every day, for an hour a day, six days a week, for the rest of your life. Several of those days, per week, should include aerobic exercise, strenuous enough that you can speak, barely, but you can’t sing. They actually include far more precise measures of knowing whether you’re in your aerobic zone, or not. I achieve this level of exertion on the cardio equipment at the gym, and nearly so, yesterday, in spin class. And, by the way, it was Chris Crowley’s own account of his first spin experience, at the age of 70, that bolstered my courage enough to finally go. Running, however, the way I’ve been running, and even during the marathon, with the exception of those mysterious hills that appeared in my former hometown that I really don’t remember, I could’ve sung the whole time. I did in fact hold several lengthy mid-race conversations.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!
Highly recommended book. The Audible version is fantastic!

At my “new” running pace, I’ll not be singing, nor will I be saying much. It feels really good to pant a little during my one minute walk break, which occurs after every five minutes of running. My average pace during pre-marathon training was 11:07 minutes per mile. During the marathon I ran 12:02, but there were many more miles and a few porta-potty breaks, with long lines, that contributed to that time. My plan, though, was to run the race at an average pace of 12:00, so I guess I was “on plan”. My new average pace, this week, has been about 10:14. And, like I said, it feels pretty good. I’m not sure I could sustain it for more than the six-mile loop I guess I’d call my regular route. We shall see.

As to having a regular route; running in Napa has been very different than my experiences running in Sacramento, where this whole undertaking began a couple of years ago. In Sacramento, there is the gem of the city, the American River Parkway, miles and miles and miles of paved and meticulously maintained multi-use trail for runners, walkers, cyclists and even equestrians. It is the prize of the community and separates Sacramento from many other urban areas, as, in my opinion, a world-class city. Napa has a little bit of trail here and a little bit of trail there, separated by busy streets with unaware motorists, many of whom are tourists, many of whom have been wine-tasting. Running the streets of Napa, especially on a weekend, is akin to urban guerilla survival boot camp drills. I’d be terrified to cycle, and, in fact, routinely run, respectfully, past a couple of different roadside shrines to fallen cyclists. And then, there are crosswalks. There is nothing quite like watching your running watch displaying a pace of 18:55 while waiting for the green walk signal to appear. I’ve taken to strategically dashing between cars, both stopped and moving, rather than wait for the walk signal. Clearly, Napa, a world-class city in its own right, could use multi-use walking/running/cycling trail. And I’d be more than cool with equestrians, too. Fifty miles of trail would be about right, if you ask me.

I ran a couple of errands, today, on my way to run. Almost as difficult as finding a good and reasonably safe running route is finding a good and reasonably priced dry cleaner. There is one a mile or so away, next to my favorite pizza place and coffee shop. They are convenient, obviously, the people are nice and the prices reasonable enough, and they’ve done a good job, but, they don’t take credit cards. I have to remember to go get cash before I go get my dry-cleaning, which I never seem to be able to do. There is a bank in the same little shopping center, which I’ve resorted to every time I’ve picked up my laundry, but, it isn’t my bank, so I incur an ATM fee, so in the end, my dry cleaning ends up costing me way more. I Yelped dry cleaners and found one with rave reviews, across town, that takes every form of plastic imaginable. Location makes little difference to me, Napa is a “ten-minute” town. You can get anywhere within ten minutes within the city limits. I dropped my black coat there on my way to run, and they’re even going to sew a button back on for me! Cool!

As I turned out of the parking lot of the dry cleaner and headed in the direction of the park I park my car at for my regular running route, I pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my head. It was a lovely December day in Napa, sunny and about sixty-five degrees.  I was in shirtsleeves and a ponytail. It occurred to me that I’d forgotten my hat. I had sunscreen on, so I was protected, but I don’t yet have a nice pair of sports sunglasses. I have really cute gas station sunglasses with bling on the sides that barely suffice for driving into the rising or setting sun. They are miserable for running in every respect; they are heavy and bounce on the bridge of my nose, they have considerable glare, causing me to squint enough to make my head ache, and they are large lensed, sort of wrapped, and block the heat in so I have sort of an “eye sauna” going before the first mile. I’d spotted a little running store, near Massage Envy, when I parked for my two-hour massage the other night. It was on my way to the park, so I thought I’d pop in and buy a hat. True, a hat would cost more than driving home and getting the one I already had, but, well, whatever, they had pink and purple. My hat at home is gray. I pulled into the lot and parked near “Athletic Feat” and walked in. I was greeted and treated. The hats were shown to me and a friendly conversation ensued. During our exchange, I was enticed to join in on the “Resolution Run” on New Years Day, at 10:00 AM, a very polite hour to start a race given the likely activities the preceding evening. Proceeds are to benefit the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Say what? The Napa Valley Wine Trail! A planned forty-four mile, contiguous trail, dedicated to walkers/runners/cyclists. Well, damn! There we go! A cause I am happy to support in any way I can! I’ll be running 10k New Years Day no matter what happens the night before! Even if I crawl the entire route! Even if I sign up and pay and sleep through it! Right? And I will promote this cause in any way I can imagine! Give me a shovel and a pick, I am ready to dig me some trail!

I do, I want to help with this trail, however I can. I had a dream the other night and I remember some little bit of it. I was somewhere, talking to someone, about something and I volunteered to some large undertaking, on the spot. I’ve always been a little volunteer-happy, and, yes, I do tend to overcommit, from time to time. I don’t currently volunteer for ANYTHING, and this has been eating at my psyche a bit lately. I could almost feel the words form on my lips, just like in in my dream, “I want to help.” But, I refrained. For now. I need to reorganize a few things in my current, overcommitted life to free up some time for other, deserving overcommitments.

The only other excitement today occurred when the doorbell rang. I was upstairs, having just finished vacuuming for Mom. I peeked out the front window and, parked at the curb, by the mailbox, my car. Not my little Meep that I currently drive, the car I ordered from Tesla. I didn’t actually order it, I did dream of it, though. It was red, of course, and looked oh so good in front of the house. I think Meep whimpered a little. The doorbell rang again, Mom was in the garage. My mind was working, “who, what, why, how, etc.” I took a picture, of course, to post to Facebook with a snarky comment. The only thing I could come up with, why there would be a Tesla in front of my house, the occupants, apparently, anxious to speak with someone residing here; I test drove a Tesla Model S P85 a couple of months ago. While I may intend to buy one, someday, in my very vivid dreams, I am not currently, realistically, in the market for one. And I didn’t buy a Lotto ticket for tonight’s big jackpot, either. I’ve received a few polite, and really, non-threatening emails and phone calls since the test drive, so, I thought, perhaps, the sales folks were in the area and thought they’d just pop by to see if I had $100,000 laying around. I mean, they brought the right color and everything! Mom and I met in the hallway and whispered, deciding not to answer the door. I returned to my post by the upstairs window, and, by this time, the car was just pulling away.

A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!
A gift? For me? Thanks secret pal, long-lost rich uncle or benevolent stranger!

I ran downstairs and opened the front door to see if there might be an envelope with keys and instructions to pick up my prize for some contest I’d entered and forgotten about. Nope. A canister of cookies from the First Presbyterian Church of Napa. Mom’s church. The one she’s been to a dozen times in fifty years. She’s been munching on homemade cookies, made by the church youth group, all day long. I think she’s even skipping dinner. I’m wondering just how much money she’s been sending the church every year that they deliver cookies to elderly members in a Tesla! Interestingly, I saw the very same car (yes, I memorized the license plate, it’s what I do) at Round Table Pizza later, when I went to the running store.

So, tonight, when I turn out the light and doze off to sleep, I will have happy little dreams of driving my red Tesla Model S P85 and a sprinting at a sustained and enviable speed along a beautiful running trail through the lovely Napa Valley. Good night! Sweet dreams!

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