Thursday, October 3, 2013

10:27 PM

Before I Left the Path More Traveled

On the recommendation of a friend I attempted to run the 10.5 mile Back Bay trail in Newport Beach, CA today. I was traveling for work, which ironically gave me the opportunity to work out more than normal, at least this time. After hearing my friend rave about the Back Bay run I was thrilled to find that the back gate of my hotel opened onto the path and determined that I would figure out a way to make the run happen between conference obligations.

A scan of the conference agenda identified an afternoon session that I could legitimately say had no relevance to my work or marketing goals and so when the time came, I promptly changed clothes, stashed my bag and headed out on the well-marked pathway. So far so good.

As I trucked along, I marveled at the views provided by the wetland/marshy back bay ecological preserve that the trail abutted.  Then, as I watched various water fowl flying and swimming in the preserve, I started to feel a little sad that this natural place that I was running around and through, while beautiful, was obviously a last vestige of nature in the otherwise built out Orange County (the “OC”). It is mind boggling to appreciate how much we humans have changed the natural landscape and converted it to an almost wholly built environment. Spending time in this reserve you can appreciate what this place used to look like just some 50 odd years ago - its just hard to believe how much it has changed and what the impact must have been to the local ecosystems that were destroyed in the process.

Such were my musings as I rounded the eastern edge of the reserve and turned west to complete the loop.  The trail had been pretty sparsely occupied when and where I started out, but now I was starting to have more company. A highschool girls cross country team passed me, all wearing a “uniform” of lululemon sports bras and shorts; their similarly attired coach (this is the OC after all) paced them on her bike, calling out their mile splits 6:38, as they went. Next came shirtless rockstar guy who I was happy to follow for a while because he seemed to know some of the fun looking offshoot trails well. He lost me when I stopped to take a call and check my email (work) and I instead took up with the boys cross country team and then with a few different folks taking their dogs out for a jaunt. 

At seven miles, the trail seemed to fork – one option dumping me out on a busy road and another obviously less traveled path that seemed to continue around the shoreline. I opted for the nature trail and cruised along happily for another half mile or so until I found myself staring at two options: (1) water or (2) sandstone cliff with foot notches cut into it leading to another smaller trail. I scrambled up the cliff and found myself dubiously following a combination culvert/ overgrown trail around the edge of a cliff. At this point I decided to turn around and retrace my steps, really wishing I hadn’t lost sight of shirtless guy.  I spent about ten minutes trying different trail spurs, looking at maps on my phone and otherwise trying to navigate my way out of this impasse. Finally, I decided to give up and take a road back in the direction of my hotel. As I wound through the million dollar homes of the cliff dwellers that had disrupted the flow of my path I got a wee but grumpy, a feeling that passed around mile nine when I encountered a pedestrian path that took me the rest of the way home.

All and all, it was a bit of an adventure, well actually an 11-mile long adventure. I arrived back at the hotel a little tired, scratched and dirty and a lot sweaty. As I had already checked out of my room, I begged a towel from the houseckeeper and did a pretty rudimentary clean up in the lobby bathroom. Then fully dressed and hopefully only looking minimally disheveled (I forgot a brush so just used my fingers and put my hair in a ponytail) I returned to the conference just in time for the cocktail party and appetizers (i.e., a well-timed post-run refuel session). I had a great time at the networking event, shared the story of my runventure with a few new acquaintances and secured enough new contacts to make the trip more than worthwhile. So far, still good.

I tell you all this for two reasons. (1) to encourage you to explore your surroundings via a run or ride whenever you get to go to a new place, and (2) to remind you that, as any good MommyTasker knows, never let vanity, practicality, or sensibility get between you and a great workout.

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