Things that make me feel alive

Wandering the Farmer’s Market on a sunny Sunday morning
Running 8 miles in the wine country and loving it
Riding my bike 38 miles through the vineyards

The notion to make a list like that is not mine. It comes from Sei Shonigan’s 1000 year old diary, The Pillow Book. I was reminded of the Pillow Book by the novel I am listening to when I run – My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. It’s a great book but that’s all I have to say about it for now. I’ll expand on the items in the list, instead.

This weekend was the Wine Country Century ride that started in Santa Rosa, CA and wound through the wine country. I chose to take the 35 mile route because I wanted to go on a long run first. Due to various impending, darkly lurking injuries I decided to cut that down to 8 miles and Friday night I wasn’t sure even that would work.

As it turned out I had a fabulous run – the kind that reaffirms my faith that I really am a runner and I really can do it. After my crappy run Thursday night I was feeling more like a slug than a runner but the Saturday run was some kind of wonderful. I started out on a left leg that was still stiff and sore but I figured I might as well just hit the road and see what happened. I put in the iPod earbuds, fired up the book and took off after waving good-bye to the other Women of Iron (my biking friends).

The run started in a area of wide roads, strip malls and houses but after about 2 miles, just when the whiner within started to pipe down, I found myself in the country with vineyards on my left and green hills and livestock on my right. Heaven. About another 1/2 mile down the road I became aware of the sound of birds chirping through the narrative of my book so I shut off the iPod, pulled the earbuds out and kept running with just the sound of the wind, my breathing, my footfalls and the birds. I just don’t get peace and solitude like that anywhere near home.

Knowing that my leg had been bothering me and that I still needed to ride my bike 35 miles I decided to turn around at the 4 mile mark. I stopped, reconfigured my clothing, inspected a grape vine with tender, light green growth and started back. I could hear a tractor firing up in the distance but other than that there wasn’t a sign of humanity anywhere near me. No cars, no people, just peace and serenity and me – pant, pant, huff, huff…. Oh, and a rather large snake lying by the side of the road for some early morning sun. I almost stepped on it but managed to jag sideways just in the knick of time (after letting out a little shriek). It looked like this one.

When civilization reared its ugly head I put the iPod back on and listened to the book some more but I just kept running – right up to the truck when I got back. I felt fantastic and didn’t even want to stop and switch sports but it was that time of the morning.

I managed to transition from runner to cyclist and took off. I have to give the ride mixed reviews which is pretty much how I feel about all bike rides. The scenery for the ride was even more spectacular if that is possible. Just miles and miles and miles of grapevines and farms and sometimes stuff like this (click to enlarge – it’s worth it)

I was very happy for the first half of the ride but then I started to get very hungry. At long last, after climbing a hill for a while I got to the rest stop and fueled up. Then I started off again, thinking I would be filled with new vitality. No such luck.

Things that aggravate
People who honk their horns
Empty boxes left in the pantry and refrigerator
Climbing hills on my bike

I’m not a good climber and I don’t like climbing. It seems endless and painful and slow and it doesn’t help that my bike weighs about 35 pounds. But climb we did for a long, long time. At one point I felt like I just couldn’t figure out the right gear or the right cadence and when I woman passed me I said, “Are we going up hill?” and she said, “yes – it isn’t you!” But it was me. It was me whining and grinding my way through it. My legs were shot.

Things that make me feel like an idiot
Forgetting to put the pot under the coffee
Forgetting to pay my property taxes
Going the wrong way on a long bike ride

Finally when I was getting really close to the end I got to an intersection where I thought I was supposed to hang a left and who should be coming the other way but my friends. “Hey! It’s Pamela!!! (note – I just outed myself here). Friend B yelled, “Pamela!!?? What the??!!” and I just yelled back, “I have a different route” and kept going. I was now on Chalk Hill Rd. Get it? HILL! I rode up that hill for about a mile and a half because I just don’t stop on hills. I’m too afraid that if I stop I will never get started again. My rationale was that if I was going the wrong way it was downhill to get back so what the heck? Finally, when I got to the top of the hill I pulled out the route map and realized the folly of my ways. See that little extra piece sticking out of the top of the route on my Google Earth image? Extra Credit!

Down the hill I went and back to the start where I rejoined my friends, had lunch and bade the wine country a fond fairwell.

Things that surprise and delight
An impromptu invitation to dinner
Coming home and finding the house cleaned up
Realizing that I am much stronger and more resilient than I think I am.

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7 Responses to Shonigan

  1. Stefano says:

    Things that aggravate:A big snake lying by the side of my same road………and mine is the wine country (indeed it is also a too easy loot)

  2. jeanne says:

    What a beautiful write up, and sounds like a great day. Great run, and great (if very challenging) bike ride. You are HARDCORE for not stopping on hills, and yes, you are hereby granted EXTRA CREDIT for adding in the extra hill! Well DONE!

  3. susie says:

    A great post…inspiring, Pamela:) And now I need to read the book, too. (Oh, I’ve done the coffee thing. Geesh.)

  4. Jessica says:

    Great post, dear. And guess what?! I just bought a bike! I got a Specialized Crossroads (hybrid) – I love it so far.

  5. Pamalamadingdong says:

    Well done.That snake woulda made me squeal like a girl.

  6. Dori says:

    That was so well-written! I haven’t done the coffee thing, but I’ve put progesterone cream on my hair, thinking (of course) that it was hair cream. 🙂 I loved your last line. That’s why I run–to see what I’m capable of. Great job, 21CM!

  7. circusdays says:

    I’m utterly impressed.I am, not even 40 and a brand new Mom and you’re an inspiration to do more. My only wish right now is that I could run again (knee surgery made that out of the question) or bike, as I live and work in traveling circus and that makes any kind of exercize rather hard to execute. We’re near Santa Rosa right now and I long to head for the hills.Thanks for the inspiration.

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