Friday morning my gf was getting ready for spin class and I decided to go jogging (good call considering I broke my right foot yesterday, but that’s another blog post.)
It’s been cold for Northern California so I threw on black tights, a black long-sleeved running turtleneck, and was already wearing black socks. As she brushed her teeth, I walked up behind her and grabbed her in a bear-hug saying, “Chubby Ninja beats you up, steals your lunch money.”
I didn’t quite look like a chubby ninja – no sword or head covering, but it was sobering to take a realistic look at myself in the mirror. Not bad for forty-two, definite room for work.
It’s odd becoming a middle-aged athlete. There are advantages – working joints, for example. No high school or college nagging injuries. No youthful metrics to woefully fail to meet. I work out with hard-core jocks – women who were varsity athletes at their Division One schools. Ladies who can run 20 miles on a lark, hike 15 miles though the Sierras in an afternoon, or cycle double centuries for fun. It keeps me honest. They know the pitfalls of training, the rigors of nutrition and just as talented musicians jam with anyone, they’ve invited me into their inner circle despite my naiveté and low VO2 max.
Gf left to be brutalized by a small woman whose resting heart rate is below 45 beats per minute and I decided to head home and run along the constructed arroyo behind my house. I live in what is Sunnyvale, California’s closest equivalent to the ‘hood which means I ran on a raised berm, next to an electric transmission station where the homeless have dragged couches for summer relaxation, spray painting “don’t piss here” on a fence enclosing a public utility box. I was alone under the gray, foreboding sky. For a moment I was concerned for my safety, thinking people would blame me if I were to get jumped; the hubris of wanting to be outside and by myself.
I jogged past the Santa Clara Water Authority No Trespassing sign. There was a slight hum from the transmission line resonating above me and my ragged breath matched the cadence of my feet on the gravel below. Three quarters of a mile until another fence, turn around, and run back. Some of my friends find my hood depressing – the rows of “modular homes” (read: trailers) with little vegetation discouraging. It was all I could afford given turn of century Silicon Valley home prices and my objection to commuting more than 20 minutes to work. My neighbors are mostly older and retired. A few families have moved in – recent immigrants with young children. It’s been a good place to live and a tiny tax write-off. I feel safe there, next to the light rail and two major highways. I grew up three-quarters of a mile from the Pentagon and am used to the fuzzy line between urban living and suburban sprawl.
As I jogged back toward the entrance I noticed the arroyo had running water from the recent rains. There were several mallards and their drab mates swimming against the flow. Further upstream was an egret. His yellow beak probed the air and his surprisingly large black feet were a few inches underwater. A plastic bread bag and some water bottles lay just a few feet from him, a filthy juxtaposition to his white plume. My heart sank. So few places for water fowl, seeking refuge behind the trailer park in what amounts to a glorified ditch. I shook off the dark thoughts as the egret eyed me suspiciously.
“Chubby Ninja should clean up this arroyo”, I thought, wondering how I could scale the steep concrete walls. I made a note to ask my friend Peter, who would engineer a solution if one wasn’t immediately available. I may not have a sword, but I do have black nitrile gloves. I turned left and ran along the John W. Christian Greenbelt to Lakewood Park. I passed two people, a young teenager wearing an iPod and an elderly asian woman carrying a small grocery bag. We nodded our hellos and I turned around, sneaking past the old Advanced Devices semiconductor fab long closed, surrounded by a tall chain link fence. My cardio threshold expended I walked into the park, noticing the Christmas lights and a few new cars. Chubby Ninja took a shower and then went to San Francisco for a New Year’s Eve dinner.