I had to be up no later than 530. I slept lightly and was awake at 453. I kept my eyes closed until 515 and got up to have a raisin bagel with cream cheese. At 530 I woke up C. and we pulled out of the driveway at 545. We picked up E. who was waiting in the drizzle at his house and made it to the rendezvous point just before 600. A string of cars pulled in and some got out of their cars despite the drizzle to confer about the ride out to the woods. This was the 4-time state champion high school cross country team's first Saturday running the trails of Chulouta. By summer's end (early August down here) the boys will have logged 500-700 miles since Memorial Day as a base for the upcoming season. They do it right.
The coach was a no-show as he came in on a red eye from San Diego the night before and obviously couldn't get moving. We high-tailed it out to the park 15 miles from town; me and 17 high schoolers. I now have a refreshed reminder of how novice drivers (males) drive crazily when given a chance. One guy spun his daddy's Caddy SUV in a 360 on the wet roads and managed not to wreck it or hit anyone. He'd had his license 5 months.
My greatest fear was losing these guys on the road since I did not know the way. I was lucky to not get pulled over for the speeding I had to do to keep up.
At the park it was raining and 77 degrees. Everyone circled up and stretched for the run. The target was 50-70 minutes depending on one's condition. I was ready for either. Around the fence and onto the sandy trail we went. The rain was a blessing through the open fields which typically are sweltering hot plates. The trail reached some underbrush and wound along a brook. It finally had to cross the brook known as the "Deep Hole" and the only way across was to traverse a few accurately placed limbs in the water. A wrong step and you were in the water and running with wet socks and feet - the worst. So care was taken fording the brook.
Once across, the cool forest trails were a delight. Woods were full of wild turkeys, birds, owls, and large flies that bit like hell if you slowed up or stopped. Palm varieties and scrub oak were everywhere. Gullies down to low swampy water were evident as were smaller paths into nether regions. We crossed a river several times over wood bridges and through swamps where who knows what resides. Under a blanket of rain and huddled quiet I listened to my breathing and footsteps. My shoes squeaked as I paced through long grass and plopped across muddy flats.
My inclination was to take a bike trail or smaller path deeper into the woods but my companion group was more focused on going out 25 minutes and then retracing their steps. The foolish devil in me wanted to find another way out along the narrower trails my senses were teased by. Since I was the grown up I put aside my mischevious thoughts and ran back with the boys. Seeing the same sights in reverse was different and deeped my appreciation and memory of the trail.
The boys were dropping subtle hints ("I feel like I'm going to die.") to keep me from pushing the pace too hard. I ran ahead of them and then walked at trail intersections to let them catch up.
We made it back to the parking lot and in a short while everyone was in the circle stretching and drinking water. Without their coach they were at a loss what to do for breakfast. Every Saturday in the summer they go out to the woods to run and someone always hosts a pancake breakfast afterwards.
Well I knew we had plenty of batter and syrup back at the house so I volunteered to have them over. They were ecstatic. I phoned the house and warned Mrs. Thin Trade that a swarm of grimy wet skinny high school runners were coming over for breakfast in 30 minutes. She doesn't like surprises and she also doesn't like having to sweat too long over something unusual like cooking breakfast for 17. With such short notice both purposes were served.
At home they sat around on the terrazzo floor, put on some music and talked high school talk. I cooked up two pounds of bacon and seven batches of blueberry pancakes. It was a great feeling to fulfill their hopes and wishes for a good breakfast after a hard run. It was a great morning. I actually found an appreciation for running in the rain. I look forward to going out again next Saturday and enjoying somebody else's pancakes too.