It’s funny what a little friendly smack-talk and motivation between runners can accomplish. But let me back up a few hours…
Friday morning I ran 10 easy miles with Dave. He and I are in the same training cycle and will be running the Colorado Marathon in early May. His paces are totally ramped up compared to mine, because I’m loading trail miles and hours instead of pure pace vs time. I smack-talked him into dipping into a Marathon Pace for the last mile, and he grudgingly obliged me by kicking it in and chasing me the last mile. That being said, Dave is a faster runner than I am hand’s down, and can hold a sub 7:30 pace for a lot longer than I can. I was just messin’ with him Friday morning.
Late Friday afternoon I felt a little itchy, ready to run again. The question was, should I run a double (two runs in the same day) given that I planned on running Saturday morning with the girls and Sunday morning at the Reservoir? As I sat at my computer writing I tweeted with Jeff (my twitter runner friend from Seattle who’s ramping up his training in preparation to run a 100-miler in late March), discussing this little idea of mine. He asked all the right questions; what was on the books for Saturday and Sunday, were the miles going to be on road or trail, what was the expected pace? Based on my answers he gave the thumb’s up; run a double on the mountain, go easy on Saturday, run for time on Sunday. I could have made the decision on my own, but it was great to be able to hash it out in conversation with another runner who was familiar with my ability, weekly mileage and propensity to sell myself short.
As the sun set Friday evening I hit the Mesa Trail with my headlamp. The plan was to run up Big Bluestem, head down North Fork and loop around again, about a 6.5 mile route. I hadn’t been on the mountain in weeks and didn’t know what kind of conditions I would find. I ran Big Bluestem in the dusky twilight and at the top of the hill paused briefly to turn on my light. The bright moonlight didn’t reach the forest floor, and the footing was about to get tricky.
For the next mile and a half I walked/ran/slid my way down. At one point I stood on the side of the trail, looking in awe at the river of ice that twisted down the ravine and disappeared into the dark. No snowpack, gritty gravel or pine needles littered the ice. The only possible traction on this section was to try to land on the rocks that marred the perfection of the frozen terrain. Visions of falling backwards and breaking an arm danced around my brain, and I slowly resumed my cautious descent, realizing that if I truly injured myself it would be a long walk back to the car in the dark.
I ran slowly that night, looking up at the stars that shone so brightly. My feet hit every divot on the trail, jamming ankle bones this way and that. Pretty soon the cold that had started off as a benign chill permeated my bones because I wasn’t generating enough heat; I wasn’t running fast enough.
Back at the car I didn’t stop to stretch or take a last breath of night air; I headed home with the heat cranked. An hour later I climbed in bed to sleep, so I could get up and run again 10 hours later.
The next morning I joined the Saturday Morning gang at Bobolink and ran the same trail as the morning before, this time at a slower pace with different company and conversation. The incessant wind that has tortured us for weeks was quiet until the last few miles, which worked out perfectly because Siga and I were deep into solving our Contemporary World Problems; we had our groove on and weren’t deterred by a few 40 mph gusts.
At coffee that morning I ran into Jen, a friend of Dave’s. We exchanged cell phone numbers and arranged to run the next morning at the Boulder Reservoir. I told her my plan to run four hours; she wanted to run 20 miles, so we figured we were in the ballpark to do some serious miles together. We decided on a 6am start time, said goodbye and left to enjoy the day.
After getting 5 hours of sleep I arrived at the Boulder Reservoir. No other cars were there, so I had my pick of where to park. Jen arrived a few minutes later; we geared up and headed out.
My legs were tired when we started running and the wind was already ramping up its onslaught. We headed north out on 55th Street and watched the sky brighten to the east. A mile and a half in, we stopped for a pee break and Jen snapped a picture of me in the early light.
Jen was a powerhouse, chatting easily into the wind even when I had to duck my head to get out of the gusts. I lagged many times due to fatigued legs and the effort it took to battle 40 mph gusts that at time, seemed like they went on for miles.
We stopped again to take a picture of the alpaca that caught Dave, Nico and my attention a few weeks back. I clicked a picture of the local wildlife and giggled at the this one.
We kept a steady, slow pace, and I apologized to her again for my slowness. The last time she, Dave and I ran, we were a full minute faster on that 18-miler. Today, I just didn’t have it in me.
We rounded out around the Reservoir and watched a hundred runners head out together in a monthly rUnify Boulder gathering. I toyed with the idea of trying to catch them and tacking on the last 10 miles with the group, but they were a good half-mile in front of us and I didn’t have the wheel-power to catch them. We plodded along and turned into the wind again. We had another three miles before we even got to the cars.
At mile 18 I told Jen that when we arrived in the parking lot it was going to take a lot for me to want to keep going. The effort of battling the wind had done me in. We calculated our time and miles; we would have about 20 miles in the bank, coming in at 3 hours and sixteen minutes. It wasn’t worth it to me to keep plowing through the gusts to get another 45 minutes on my feet. I was done.
Back at home I added the mileage to my weekly training log and looked at the grand total. 51 miles in 4 days. My legs were trashed, I was hungry and tired, and completely satisfied with the week. I broke through some physical and mental barriers this week and have a few friends to thank for helping me along.
Thanks Dave, Jen and Jeff. You all helped me this week and I really appreciate the smack-talk and motivation that get me out of my comfort zone.