Friday, February 12, 2016

Quick trip home to PA

Bundled up and loving the snow

Went back to my hometown of Lehighton, Pennsylvania for a few days this week. Lived the life of a running Spartan, as I stayed for 3 nights in an unfurnished apartment which my friend Paul owns. But the world outside the front door is my running oyster, and I took full advantage of a break at work, and the hospitality offered to get in a whole bunch of hilly, snowy, and cold miles in.

Late Monday after the 8.5 hour drive up I met Ryan by the old high school. (A few days later he texted it was like meeting up in 1991 for XC practice, since that's about where we would gather beforehand). We got in about 5 miles crisscrossing through town, and also through the current high school grounds where we stopped to look at the construction of the new football field, and all weather track.

I noticed and remarked how it's only 6 lanes, except on the front stretch where the sprints would be run there are the customary 8 lanes. Also ran through the big cemetery off of 4th street. Ironic since I seem to run through it often when I'm home, and Ryan said he has a knack for, and enjoyment of running thru cemeteries as well.  I joked at one point we should be carrying an Army Track flag with us. (we were teammates from 3rd- 8th grade on Army)

Had shucked my long pants before the run after some debate, and my legs ended up being half frozen by the end of the run. Would be the last run I did up there in shorts. We talked about how we are both data and numbers junkies with running, and log all the miles we do. Both of us always calculating things like average distance per day, then multiplying by 365 to get a snapshot of how many miles in the year we'd end up with at such rate. He also looks back at specific days and runs done the year before, and sometimes will duplicate on the exact date the following year. And of course compare. I told him I have yearly logs saved from the last 7 or 8 years.

Tuesday and the running and nature gods blessed me with some light snow. Headed into the Mahoning Heights up Beaver Run Road, after a loop through town which included the Ochre Street hill (see pic below). It had been several years since my last run in the snow, and I figuratively speaking had a grin ear to ear the entire run.

Up in the heights I fell almost into a trance enjoying the tranquil and serene beauty of the snow sticking to the trees, and lightly blanketing parts of the road. It was one of those runs that I felt completely blessed to be right where I was at that particular moment in time. I would not have traded it for anything else. I was in my own little snow globe- kid like in the joy I was feeling in my heart. And I ran on, up and down the hills I have run on innumerable occasions in this lifetime of mine. My thoughts reflected for a moment on the writings of Emmit Fox, how he states that the only thing that matters is to get our present thoughts correct.

During my runs, and also at times when driving I like to look at the distant ridge lines. And think about how perhaps in a few miles I will be on top of, and/ or catch site of the next ridge line and think about how I did a run last year that took me all the way up and over that particular hillside or small mountain. Some of the views I get while running in PA are just stunning, as I make my way on foot up and down ridgelines which parallel each other in areas, and also slope down towards the valleys where the Lehigh River, or Mahoning Creek flow through.

Such as when I was coming down Jamestown Road and descending off a ridge towards the Lehigh River, I was presented a spectacular view of the mountain dusted in snow that is perpendicular to where I was, beginning just on the other side of the river. Each day, each run, each summit opens up new vistas. It never fails to fully capture my imagination. Sometimes I like to try and find contour maps to look at online as well.

Went for another long run Wednesday morning. 2 hours, or 13.7 miles. Purposely sought out and ran up as many hills as I could, including 4th, 7th, and 9th streets in town. Got back earlier on the run past the Ukranian Homestead (or the Ukes as we call it). Have to always hit Spring Hill at least once when I'm home. My watch just happened to roll over to a new mile half way up, and I observed how my pace went from 8 something per mile, to 14, 15 something per mile on the crazy steepness that makes Spring Hill the little monster that she is.

Had a flashback to early in the season high school track practices when all the athletes would have to do the Ukes run, and how one coach would always park and be at the bottom of Spring Hill (Mr. Brophy?), and another coach would be waiting at the top of the hill (Mr. Bisbing?)

I'm like a surfer chasing after the waves out here, and it's why I love to come back up to my old home and run, run, run. And run some more. I dig the highs, and there is something out here which fills up my running soul, something I can only get on those hills, ridgelines, and valleys. (And come better weather, the woods and innumerable trails).

I hope all my running friends can find their happy places as well-

View back up Ochre Street