Saturday, June 7, 2008

7 Miles on Siesta Key

Today I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a member of the great Big Cats Running Team. This has become a tradition in my life obviously, so once again I found myself running on a beach in Florida and having "the best day ever." It was the perfect way to celebrate one year in "the club."

The day after our 2007 MLB Draft at Disney World, I ran on Cocoa Beach and watched Atlantis blast off. That same day I traded messages with Bob (El Tigre Blanco) and he inducted me into the Big Cats as Mark aka Monster Cat. I had to choose the cat name. I was No. 82 on the rolls.

I worked the Draft against yesterday at Disney, and this morning I headed over to Siesta Key in the Sarasota area. It is listed commonly as one of the 10 best beaches in the entire world, something I just found out from my friend who is our former VP of Marketing at MLB and whose brother lives five miles from Siesta. I went first to the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, and the man there gave me the map below. He and the woman there both told me to park at one of the yellow-highlighted parking access areas, so I parked at No. 5. He also circled the Siesta Public Beach Access main area, which is more toward the middle of the key. He told me that Siesta Key is 3 1/2 miles long and "it should be perfect for you to go out and back and get in seven miles." And he was a Cubs fan, so naturally we then talked for a while about baseball and he gave me his card.

I wore my new Nike shorts and blue tech shirt that I bought the day before at the Premium Outlets Nike store near my hotel at Disney. I had stopped and bought four powergels at a local GNC, and I downed one of them right before the run and put the other in my pocket. I swallowed two of those little salt packs you get from a typical fast-food joint, and drank a lot of water in advance. I also had stopped and bought a Coppertone Sport spray. I had no idea that you could now get suntan lotion in a spray, and I was amazed at how well it worked.

After parking at 5 Access, I walked out onto the expansive and incredibly white beach and down to the Gulf of Mexico and proceeded to run south.

It just feels so good it's amazing.

It was 11 a.m. The temperature when I started was 89 or 90. Humidity was high as you probably know of a typical June day in Florida -- quick rain later in the day because it just evaporates all day. My first concern was that I didn't bring my Nathan's Fuel Belt, so I was wondering how I was going to stay hydrated. I didn't want to die of heat exhaustion/dehydration at age 48.

Once I got down to the Siesta Public Beach Access area, there were lifeguard stands, and I stopped and got water. Then I asked a lifeguard if there was any other water on the beach, and he said no. Like, tough dude. He was an idiot and should be fired. Fortunately standing nearby was an elderly gentleman who lived on the key, and he told me to just go up to any condo building and use their shower station or hose that is typically there before you enter a pool. He pointed especially to a tall white-and-blue building down the way. I wound up making that my go-to place on the way there and back.

I proceeded to run through thousands of beach-goers. I was dodging kids building sand castles. I was leaping over tiny rivers of water stretching from the Gulf. For the most part, the white sand was packed pretty well. It was far better than at Cocoa. The slope is more radical on the Atlantic side. Here is wasn't too bad.

I had my Nano Red with me as always, but most of the time I tucked the earpods into my sportband so that I could hear the surf. I really wanted to appreciate this. At times I would find myself just running like usual, focusing on form and one foot in front of the other, and then I would remind myself to really soak this all in. I don't get many chances to do this lately. I asked one woman laying there, "Whatcha readin?" She said something-Picault, and I came home and realized it was the NYC Bestselling paperback Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picault. I was just making conversation. It was nice to see all the people enjoying themselves. I always wonder about their circumstances, what they do the rest of the year. I heard one man tell another man, "...and they can tax that to the maximum allowed..." Talking shop.

I ran the 3 1/2 miles to a dead end on the south point. Funny thing happened there. I looked around, and it was a complete carpet of seashells. THAT'S where they go. So many people were looking for shells along the way, but the surf takes them into that corner at the end. Then I turned around like Forrest Gump at Santa Monica Pier and started running north again.

At this point it was a constant detour to a condo that had water. At one point I took my shirt off, hosed it down, wrang it out and put it back on. I had the other powergel at the halfway point. I constantly soaked myself. My nice Brooks Glycerins were all soaked with salt water and covered in sand. I probably am ruining them. I'll have to get a new pair. I didn't care, though. This was just a dream run. My right lower kneecap area hurt much of the way, but I am dealing with it and not making a big deal about it. I wound up icing it while I was driving back later.

When I got back to the 5 access area of the beach where I had started, having run 7 miles, I stripped down to just the Nike shorts. I went into the Gulf of Mexico and just had a blast. I was bodysurfing. The turquoise water, resulting from the pure white sand, was gorgeous. Nice moments.

Then I got a bite and headed back up I-75 for I-4 and back over to Orlando. Then I spent the rest of the day poolside. I then flew back to NYC, a great trip accomplished. Our Draft was unbelievable, magical. Soon I will be back in the rush of making this book franchise happen, following my current leads and continuing to refine chapter 7. For this brief shining moment, I got to just exhale, celebrate my Big Cats anniversary, and continue to build my own little tradition of running on a Florida beach. Thank you, Siesta Key.

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