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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Jun 21, 2014

JenniferFischerSeven summers ago, I was in the final months of training for a 30-mile trail race I planned to do for my 30th birthday. Through my training and run, I was raising money for charity, as well.

I was back in Northern California recently, amid some beautiful natural settings with a good friend who also came out to support me in my trail run, which went through the redwoods. I found myself thinking back to that run and the training process it involved, and what I learned along the way.

The Santa Clarita Valley provided many beautiful trails to run as I trained. My favorites were Towsley Canyon Park, off of The Old Road, and “The Beast.” I’m not sure of this trail’s official name, but it begins just off of Highway 14 at the Newhall Avenue exit. It’s across the highway from the Carl’s Jr.

They call this trail “The Beast.” It is uphill the whole way, 4.86 miles to the top.

When I first read about it, I was skeptical. Could it really be uphill for nearly five miles? I still remember experiencing this trail for myself for the first time as I set out one Wednesday morning to see if it was true.

As I struggled up the first three-quarters of a mile, which are considered the most difficult, I had already decided its name and reputation were warranted. An absolutely unrelenting climb. It truly is a beast.

elsmere112010-05Yet worth all of the effort, I discovered, continuing upward. Farther away from the traffic below, winding around different curves, I found view after breathtaking view. Beautiful canyon walls stood high on either side of the trail. Gorgeous mountains rose in the distance.

I stopped, simply to take in the view. Surprised not to find myself fatigued or cramping, I breathed deeply. Inhaling, I took in the clear beauty of the world around me.\

The magnificence of Mother Nature overwhelmed me. Being devoured by The Beast was nothing like I had imagined. I felt myself moving inside it, its unfettered beauty all around me.

My mind traveled to a place I had visited once in Thailand. I stumbled upon an inviting temple in Bangkok and ventured inside, looking to meditate. Seeing that my attempt at sitting still was not going well, an observant nun invited me to join her for a “walking meditation.” She taught me to concentrate on my breathing, to be mindful of my body, to be present to the meditation as a process I was experiencing.

Returning my attention to The Beast, I drew on my experience in Thailand and sought to complete the run with a meditative focus. A “running meditation,” if you will:

right, left, right – breathe in

left, right – breathe out

left, right, left – breathe in

right, left – breathe out

right, left, right – focus in

left, right – breathe out (exhaling stress)

left, right, left – focus in (there is tension in my right shoulder)

right, left – release the tension

right, left, right – focus in

left, right – tension out

Repeat. Repeat. Climb.

elsmere112010-12I would run The Beast several more times, often running to it from Canyon Country and then running on as I increased my mileage toward my 30-mile goal. But I will never forget that first run – the beauty of the trail and the beauty of the experience, which pushed me to focus on my breathing, focus on the moment, and free myself from anything else.

My trail running days are on hold for now, but I still draw on this experience as I conquer other beasts. Sometimes being a parent feels like a beastly trail, as it can also be a relentless experience. It is joyful, but also constant. A 24/7 job, indeed.

At other times, the beast is the next film or media project that my company will create with many twists, turns and daunting hills to climb to reach our goals. Yet, the way through these beasts is the same: Put one foot in front of the other, breathe, focus on the task at hand, be in the moment, climb up and repeat.

As you perhaps conquer your own beast, look for those beautiful vistas, the moments of wonder that you can easily overlook or miss if you’re focused too much on the challenge. Stop now and then to take in those views. Take deep breaths and know that in the end, all of the effort and the exhaustion is worth it – really worth it.

I’m grateful for all of the beasts in my life. How about you?

Oh, and if you decide to try literally to conquer The east this summer, I suggest taking water with you and running it early in the morning to avoid running up such a challenging trail in the summer heat. Know your fitness level, and conquer only as much as you can at one time.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

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6 Comments

  1. Troy Taylor The Beast!

  2. Fabiola Tanaka you did this

  3. Marsha McLean says:

    Hi, Great story. I’m so glad you are able to enjoy this great hike. It sounds like you were either in Whitney Canyon or Elsmere Canyon. Elsmere Canyon was slated for the world’s largest garbage dump. I led the fight to keep that from happening. 25 years later, these beautiful canyons are now in public ownership. We could have had the dump in Elsmere, an off-road vehicle park in Whitney, and no place for all of us to cherish and hike. It was worth the fight. Best wishes, Marsha McLean

  4. Kevin D. Korenthal says:

    I take my mountainbike up the Beast and down Los Pinetos Trail and Placerita Nature Center trail.

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