Long Runs are Better When You're Not Alone

Today marked the end of my "real" training for the Santa Barbara Marathon.  The event is on December 6th, 3 weeks away, but for all intents and purposes my training is done.  Time for a 3 week tapering off period as I rest my body up for the race. 

Today's long fun of roughly 20 miles took me from the Starbucks on Reino Road to Pacific Coast Highway via Sycamore Canyon.  I've been training for the marathon for 29 weeks now and believe it or not, today was the first time in those 7 months that I did a training run with another human being!

My good friend Dave is 56 years old and one of the top age group distance runners in Southern California.  He is tougher than nails and an inspiration.  Dave has done nearly 50 marathons through the years with an average, not best, but AVERAGE time of 2 hours, 52 minutes, an unbelievably outstanding statistic.  Dave is a rock.

You would not know Dave is 56 by looking at him. Dave and I used to run together all the time as we both live locally here in the Conejo Valley. But six years ago with the addition of kids into my life, my training took a nosedive and I opted to train on my own.  But we still talk all the time.

Just so happens that Dave also signed up for the Santa Barbara Marathon because he wanted to be part of this inaugural event (race director Rusty Snow recently indicated there are over 2,000 marathon entrants, which is outstanding). 

In recent months, Dave developed a case of plantar fasciitis, a condition where the bottom of the foot/heel becomes irritated and swolen.  It often takes months and months to gain relief from the problem.  That didn't get Dave down.  He is DEDICATED and took to pool running, diligently straping a floatation device to himself and running in the pool for an hour at a time.  (I could never do this unless perhaps a TV could be floating in the pool in front of me.)

So after months of pool running and a month until the marathon, Dave started back on the roads again. He asked me if I wanted to run long with him today in preparation for the marathon and I said SURE!

So we started off from Starbucks at 6:30 am.  It was windy and cold so we both wore an extra layer.  Within a mile I took my layer off as the wind didn't seem that cold. Dave followed suit a mile later.  About half the course is paved, from Starbucks up Reino Road, turning right on Potero Road, then left onto Big Sycamore Canyon Road, which winds its way down Sycamore Canyon towards the beach.

Dave and I both chatty types, which is a nice trait to have on a long run.  We hadn't run together for a while so we had lots to talk about.  It certainly make the run go a lot more quickly when you run with a buddy!  I've done the run myself many a time and while I always enjoyed it, it was a lot more fun today. 

We resolved NOT to run too hard or fast as we both are coming off injuries and illnesses that have hampered our training.  All we wanted to do today was run a nice, slow, easy 20 miles and we accomplished that goal.  At times we had to remind each other to slow down. 

We found the temperature to be quite bipolar running down Sycamore.  We both wore gloves and I took mine off 3 miles into the run.  But every mile or so we would hit a real cold patch, only to find a warm sauna-ish stretch moments later.  It was kind of bizarre how quickly and extreme the temp changes were in the canyon.  Towards the bottom of Sycamore Canyon, 2-3 miles from the ocean, it stayed pretty cool, to the point I had to put my gloves back on.

Dave and I have an understanding that when one of us needs to stop (restroom, water stop, etc.), we stick together.  I'm a Type A that has to continue movement, running circles, as Dave does his thing.  Dave is more low key and has no problem stopping to stretch in the middle of a run.  We've run together enough to know each other's style and work with it. No need for explanation.

So on the return trip we made our way up the tough 800 foot climb and at the top knew that we were on the final leg of our latest marathon journey.  Two more miles to Starbucks and we paced ourselves in, congratulating each other on getting it done.

In our "younger" days we'd hang out for a bit at Starbucks and savor the camaraderie. Today we both had to quickly drive off for family activities. I sat in my seat and attempted to lift my left leg to take the emergency brake off.  Damn was that tough.  I hard to literally pull my leg upward with my hands.  Those darn hamstrings were sore, but in a good way.

Thanks Dave. You helped me through my first 20 miler for 9 weeks. You're a good man and a good friend.  And a damn good runner.