Running back to the beach: One year later!

I’ve just returned from my annual January getaway in Santa Barbara, California, for Fielding Graduate University‘s national Winter Session. I’ve made a point of attending Winter Session throughout the years I worked on my PhD as well as after I graduated in 2009 (I only missed 2011 when Kurt was in the middle of chemotherapy and unable to travel). I can no longer imagine not being in Santa Barbara for one lovely week in January, soaking up the sunshine before returning north for the long, slow wait for spring.

Now that I’m an alumna, I no longer have to attend seminars, so I make the most of the opportunity to be active in the sun. Last year I ran barefoot on the beach — and as I planned for and dreamed about this year’s trip, it was running on the beach that most captured my imagination. I couldn’t wait!

As luck would have it, I arrived in southern California in the midst of a record-setting cold spell. On my first afternoon run I faced a brisk, cold wind. It was so cold that I decided to keep my shoes on and run on the semi-soft sand several feet above the surf line. There was actually sand blowing on the beach! The haziness in this photo isn’t camera shake — that’s blowing sand.

I ran about four and a half miles, mostly on grass and packed sand, and was delighted with my easy, comfortable pace of just over 10:00 minutes per mile — about a minute and a half faster per mile than I’d run a year ago!

Two days later I was ready to go out and do it again. It was still cold and breezy, but the brutal wind had abated. I stopped a few times for photos — who could resist views like these?

But at last, after four shod miles, it was time for the main event — take those shoes off and dance in the surf!

A year ago I ran carefully, slowly — but with immense joy! — and stopped quickly when my calves screamed “STOP NOW!” The next day I was extremely sore.

And this year? I ran carefully, not so slowly — and with immense joy! — felt great, could have run for several more miles but didn’t want to overdo it because I had big plans for dancing that night. One delightful barefoot mile was enough.

So then I danced for hours, felt great, and woke up the next morning feeling strong and not a bit the worse for wear. No soreness at all.

Trail running has changed my life!

I’m not bothered by uneven ground. I feel like I have a firm yet flexible base of muscle that simply takes things in stride (literally). The difference from a year ago is astounding. It almost makes me think that one of these days, I might have the guts to run on solid ground in shoes that are a bit less structured than my trusty Asics 2170s.

Or maybe I’ll just go run some more trails — wild, steep, and free in a beautiful place like this one. As soon as the snow melts!

Posted on January 14, 2013, in Running and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Such beautiful photos!
    I can only image how great it felt, knowing you were running faster and having an easier go of it than you did just last year. You rock, Lori!

  2. You know, I resisted the urge to accuse you of bringing this cold weather with you. The cold mysteriously arrived just about the same time as you did! Hmmmm. šŸ™‚ Fabulous photos, and really good to hear that your running was so much stronger than in the past. That would feel so good!

    • Debra, if I had brought MY weather with me, it would have been drizzling — so I refuse to take the blame!
      Even though it was cold, I completely appreciated seeing and feeling the sun. YOUR current weather may feel like winter to you, but it felt wonderful to me! Enjoy it!

  3. Nice photos, keep on running in 2013 Lori and see what you can achieve this year!

    • Pete, thanks. Your encouragement has been an inspiration to me. You must be getting very excited about your upcoming race in Mexico, yes?

      • Lori, yes getting very excited as I fly out in 5 weeks and race is 1 week later. My Sunday long runs are now peaking at 28/30 miles with a couple of 10 milers during the week. As I’ve no hills near me I’ve taken to using my Wife’s “Step machine” for 5 hours a week as it really hits my quads. As for the expected heat (95 degrees F) I’ll spend an hour or so a day in a sauna the week before I fly out to start introducing my body to heat as its 21 degrees F here!


      • Pete, you might consider putting the step machine inside the sauna. šŸ™‚ Or going out to run in as many layers of clothing as you can manage without toppling over! Make the most of the remaining weeks of your training — I’m pulling for you!

      • Lori, I’m already running in lots of layers to deliberately overheat (I’ll have to add more layers as it started snowing today and is 26 degrees F) ansd alas the sauna people wont let me move the step machine in there so I’ll guess I do press-ups instead to simulate exertion. On Sunday I’m doing a long 30 mile run (did 28 last Sunday) which looks like being in the snow!

      • Pete, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things (which doesn’t surprise me a bit!).

  4. Just found your site, really pleased to see someone talking about the joy of running from the perspective of us “average” runners. There’s definately more appeal to it than the “end gaining at all costs, no pain no gain” messages that most running information is infused with. Have you thought about the barefoot thing before, and maybe doing more barefoot style running? My own pleasure in running has been transformed by adopting a barefoot style, it actually gives you more control and even an advantage over “cushion footed” runners over uneven trails.

    • Hi Phil, thanks for finding my blog!
      I have experimented a few times with minimalist or even barefoot running. I go barefoot all the time at home so my feet are accustomed to the feel of being barefoot. I do own a couple of pairs of Vibram Five Fingers but I’m still a little leery about running in them on hard surfaces. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try…

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