Last night I lay in bed trying to decide if I was up for a run with the girls. Kathy organized the run to meet at Doudy Draw at 7am, and I had yet to RSVP to the group. My stomach had been churning since I ate a late lunch at the Smiling Moose Deli. I ordered a gluten-free sammy but I don’t think that’s what I got.
I woke after seven solid hours of sleep and decided that if I missed the run, I would kick myself for the rest of the weekend. I needed to get outside, feel the sunshine and enjoy the company of other women. I needed to get out of my head.
I thought about eating something and grabbed a banana for the road, just in case the urge to eat ever came back. It didn’t, so I left it in the car for my post-run recovery fuel. If I was hungry.
When I left the house the car thermometer read 56 degrees. During the drive from Louisville to Doudy Draw it dropped to 46 degrees, then miraculously went back up to 60 as I pulled into the trailhead parking lot. I organized my clothing and decided to wear arm warmers with my t-shirt. They would be easy enough to carry later when I overheated.
The group was about 15 women strong. I knew 6 of them well and had seen several others at previous runs over the summer, when I was a hit-or-miss member of the weekly group. After a few minutes of standing around, hugging friends and meeting new people, we hit the dirt.
This run was important to me because it was the first trail run since I injured my leg and foot several weeks ago. I needed to see how my foot would do on uneven terrain. The last full week of training was a month ago, and this was my first week back. During the 3 weeks of injury I ran super-short distances a handful of times, but nothing that I could build on toward the Slickrock 50k that’s coming at me like a train. October 8 is next Saturday, and my training has been seriously stalled.
The sun was just cresting the horizon when we headed up the hill. Two of the women that I had seen on previous runs were in front of me; coincidentally, both were named Allison. Kathy, Jacqueline and I grouped together and started up the incline that serves as a 2k warm-up. They talked about their race last weekend, the Aspen Goldenleaf Half Marathon. I was supposed to run it, but bailed because of my foot and a family commitment in Colorado Springs. This is two years in a row I was supposed to run it; next year I’ll be there for sure.
The trail leveled out for a stretch, then narrowed into single-track with rocks. Kathy and Jacqueline slowed down and Beth with the Long Legs caught up. We talked about our life news (kids, work) and somehow caught up to the two Allison’s. Now we were a four-some, and we stayed together for the remainder of the run.
The low angle of the sunlight caught the red leaves on the sumac bushes at such an angle that they looked like they were backlit. The reds sparkled against the yellowing grasses and sharp angles of the rocks. This is my favorite time of year, for so many reasons.
We came to the first fork and turned right, heading toward Eldorado Canyon. A quick body check told me that everything was working well. As we made a hairpin turn and traversed our way up the hill I caught sight of two men and a woman not more than a hundred yards behind us; they were a small group that somehow got caught in our larger group. I couldn’t look at them for more than a second though; my attention was firmly on the ground in front of me.
The two Allison’s led the way and I tuned out all conversation, aware of only my breath and the next footstep. I don’t recall thinking or noticing anything except the ground in front of me. This zen running lasted probably only a few minutes, but it slowed down time and brought me firmly back into the moment. My hamster-mind finally stopped its incessant spinning. There was finally more room to breathe; my body was lighter.
At the top of the hill we turned south and ran through the Fairy Forest (my unofficial name for it). The two Allison’s stopped to look at a map which confused them more, then followed me over the slight rise and across the bridge to Goshawk Ridge. They were relying on me for direction. Thankfully, I’ve been here dozens of times; this is my favorite route ever. Every time I run it, it’s different. I’m always different too, and the mountain and I get to know each other on brand-new terms every time we say Hello.
We meandered through the beauty that is Goshawk Ridge and I got my little adrenalin rush toward the end when I hit the steep decline and got to roll like an avalanche, comin’ down the mountain.
I called out to the girls to take a left at the fork and we ran into the threesome that had originally been behind us on the hairpin turn. They had taken a different fork and then ended up on the road, lost. I led them back to the correct turn that would take them into Eldo Canyon. Allison #1 and I danced our way down the rock steps and dodged scree, and the threesome fell away.
In the canyon we all looked up and laughed. The rock face shone in the sunlight. It’s a beautiful thing, and you’re either blind or dead if you don’t appreciate the natural wonder of the place. I’m neither, and it gives me tingles every time.
As we ran out of the canyon, Allison #2 and I fell into pace and started chatting. I told her about the Slickrock 50k race next weekend, and how circumstances have changed so that I’m going out alone. The man that I’ve been seeing was supposed to go with me; our passionately tumultuous relationship split us apart recently. I don’t know anyone who’s going to be racing in Moab next week, and there’s no one for me to stay with. I’m 100% on my own.
A few days ago, I thought for about two seconds about not going. But that idea made me want to cry even more. I’ve missed out on too many adventures and too many races this summer to let this one go. I signed up for it because I wanted to push myself farther than I’ve ever gone. Well, it looks like it will be three days of being completely on my own, with no one to catch me after 30 miles of running. I don’t want to ask anyone else to go with me; I’m tired of asking for what I need. Asking makes it feel like it’s someone’s obligation to give me something, which is exactly opposite of receiving the gift of someone’s excitement and enthusiasm of support.
As I explained all this to Allison #2, she listened quietly and nodded. Then she said the same thing that I’ve heard from several people this week. “You’re a strong woman, stronger than you think. You’ll be just fine.”
I wish I saw the same woman she saw. Until I do, I guess I’ll keep running, keep pushing my own boundaries, and learn to run alone.