I’ve been sick as a dehydrated cat with hairballs these past two weeks. As soon as I got home from the Green Mountain Relay the crud closed in on my throat and within a few hours it was GAME ON. I was down for the count with a raging case of laryngitis that turned into a glorious bronchitis fiesta.
The last Big Race on the calendar is the Grand Mesa 50M on July 28. I’ve done smaller Ultras, big stinkin’ trail runs and paced Sherpa John for a portion of his Big Horn 100M Ultra, but this will be my first 50 miler.
With three weeks to ramp up my training and get back on the mountain, I sat down yesterday to plot a plan of attack. How in the world am I going to go from zero miles last week to a few snot-ladden miles this week to be ready to run a 50-mile race in three weeks?
Fortunately this scenario is all too familiar. I’m an expert at going zero to sixty in a few weeks. My method is to get back on the trail and start putting in the miles. Rinse and repeat. Ramp up fast before the body knows what’s hit it and within 10-14 days all my fitness is back.
I hit the Marshall Trail this morning after very, very slowly gathering my gear. My head wasn’t in the game. I didn’t know if my body would remember what to do. Never mind that I’ve run more miles this spring than I’ve ever run. Never mind that I BQ’d with a 13-minute cushion in the Colorado Marathon. Never mind that I just ran some serious hard legs in the Green Mountain Relay in Vermont. Never mind all that. Illness wipes all memory of “before”. The body remembers but the mind tricks you into thinking you’re broken… unable… lost… weak.
Colorado has had more than her fair share of wild fires in the past few weeks. The sky has been white with smoke and a perpetual blanket of haze has covered the Front Range. This morning I arrived at the trailhead and just sat in my car, looking around.
The sky was clear and so incredibly blue. I could see for miles up and down the mountainous corridor. Even with my sunglasses on the world looked clear and bright. The wild grasses showed signs of drought; through the lens of my iPhone I saw the world as it should look in late September.
I wore the heart rate monitor and started out slowly to allow my legs and body time to acclimate. I ran two days ago with my kids for a special 4th of July trail run and needed the slower pace to cough up lung goo and wipe rivers of snot that flowed from my head. Today was much better; I coughed a few times but didn’t choke on the phlegm and the moisture streaming down my face was salty sweat and not a deep sinus cavity cleanse.
I paused at the top of the first big climb to snap a picture of the mountains to the west. The beautiful Front Range Mountains were lit by sunlight that bounced off the dry, yellow grasses to create a golden glow.
My heart rate stayed in the low 160’s for most of the run, inching higher when I coughed or pounded uphill too fast. By mile 5 all the variation in the heart rate had evened out. The body remembered what to do, dialed in a moderate heart rate and suddenly I was in cruise-mode.
It was easy. Peaceful. Perfect. Salty. Warm. Beautiful.
My little training plan had 12 miles on the books with an approximate time of 2 hours. The trail dumped me out about 500 feet from the parking area at 1:45/11.2 miles, so I headed back up the trail for a few minutes to get a hair closer to the 2 hr/12 mile mark.
The slight headwind felt so good on my salty face.
I sipped from the hydration pack tube and noticed that the quality of sunlight had changed in the two hours that I’d been on the trail. When I hit the turn-around the air stopped moving and the full force of 78-degree weather with 56% humidity hit me square in the face. Suddenly I was completely happy to be done with my 2-hr jaunt on the mountain.
Tomorrow I’ll hit the trail with the Saturday Morning gang in the morning and try to get a few more hours on the trail in the afternoon for a sweet little double-header. After a good night’s sleep tonight, with any luck I won’t be coughing at all tomorrow. Finger’s crossed!