Take that, Boney Mtn Trail!

Progress in Ironman training, or any kind of training for that matter, comes in many forms.

I can be physically measured, emotionally felt, experienced or visualized.

I was fortunate enough to experience all of these moments during this morning's trail run up Boney Mountain in Newbury Park.

Perhaps the morning was pre-ordained for greatness because I no longer felt the urge to bundle up to avoid the chill.  Like plopping into the pool instead of dipping, I'm finally prepared to handle the cold weather without fear of cramping or getting the chills.  So, in 47-degree weather, I rocked the shorts and T-shirt.  Felt good, too!  Crisp. Light.

The run itself was meant to be a litmus test, though I secretly think the test was rigged. Coach Gerardo didn't allow us to use our runner's watches (in my case, STILL my Polar!) or heart-rate monitors.  We were supposed to run however we felt like running, with "be smart" as the only suggested guideline.  I took that to heart as best I could, but really I felt like an uncaged wild animal from the get-go.  Like I was totally free from the science of the sport and returned to the sheer art and joy of it.

Despite some heavy calves at first, I felt great from the first mile all the way past the 15th, about where we finished.  Physically, I experienced the sensation of gliding along the muddy hills even when I should have felt winded.  Just a couple months ago, during my first Boney Mtn trail experience, I did a lot of walking.  Lots of huffing and puffing too, combined with a shortage of water and proper nutrition.

Last time out, the low-hanging branches and plants that clawed at my legs felt like they were doing their best to push me backwards.

This time, the rain-soaked vegetation reached out to high-five me as I breezed by.

Emotionally, I ran without fear or anxiety.  I knew I belonged in the Fortius training group.  I was part of the team.  I could even help lead it every once in a while.  And it felt good.  Further, the views were spectacular, a steel gray cloudy morning interrupted by patches of teal sky and an apologetic sun for all this wet weather we spoiled Southern Californians have been experiencing.

Speaking of experiencing, I don't think just a couple months ago I could even have run with an understanding of what "be smart" meant.  Though I pushed myself a little hard at parts today -- especially while scampering up the steep hills toward the top of the trail -- I always ran at a measured pace. I was in tune with my heart-rate.  I knew when to push forward, pull back, speed up and slow down.

Never before have I felt so at one with my own body and mind.

And, the visualization, well that's easy.  I can clearly remember parts of my first Boney Mtn trail run where I thought I was in over my head.  The ascents were never-ending.  The terrain caused me uncertainty.  The breaks were too short while the duration between them was too long.

The smile on my face at the top of the peak here is me remembering all those moments and realizing that the person holding the camera this time has changed a lot since then.  On more than one level.

In short, it was a kick-ass run.

And then I swam with Mike for 45 minutes to the tune of 1.25 miles.  Dare I say it was soothing and relaxing?

What's happened to me?

I am becoming an Ironman.

276 days and counting.