My sister Rachael added running into her workout repertoire a few months ago. She lives on top of a big hill in Boulder, so her runs always go down and then back up at the end. Until a few days ago, I didn’t know how far or how fast she usually went. I casually invited her to join the ladies on our annual Turkey Trot trail run last weekend, not expecting her to accept. Imagine my surprise when she said Yes! A few days later Kathy sent out the email naming the place; I forwarded it to Rachael, giving full disclosure about the run.
“Here it is! We meet at the Dowdy Draw trailhead inside Eldorado Canyon. It’s on your LEFT as you’re driving into the canyon, about a mile?? after you turn off Hwy 93. It’s about 100 feet past the Mesa Trailhead parking lot that’s on the right.
This is about 5.5 – 6 mile run. The hills are on the first half, and then it’s downhill from there. It’s absolutely beautiful, my favorite run (although a tad short for me). We’ll be done by 8 (or shortly thereafter) and will head over to Caffé Sole for coffee from there.”
I didn’t want there to be ANY surprises for her. I figured she would run slowly but steadily and that she would finish by 8:15 or 8:20 at the latest. Given that it hasn’t snowed in a few weeks and the daytime temperatures have been in the mid 40’s and low 50’s, I thought the trails would be passable with occasional ice patches here and there; nothing serious.
I picked her up at 6:50 Thursday morning (so there was no possibility of her getting lost inside the canyon and believe me, this was a real possibility). I gave her my Garmin so she could track distance and time, and told her that if she got too tired to continue, to TURN AROUND and go back to the car. I gave her the key to the car so she wouldn’t have to stand outside in the cold without a water bottle. I introduced her to all the ladies in the group, and especially Amy and Joy who would be picking up the rear. I did not try to tell her the trails, as they are convoluted and can be confusing.
I realized I didn’t have a pocket to hold the clicker for my car. Heidi put it in her pocket to carry it for me. We started out. I ran with Heidi, Siga and Beth at the front of the pack for about 15 minutes, looking back to see where everyone was. After we crossed a little ravine and hit the switchback I paused, watching the figures come into view. Kathy came first, then Amy a minute later, and then… nothing. Kathy and I discussed it for a minute, then I decided to go back and look for Rachael, as there was a sinking feeling in my gut. “I’ll see you at coffee,” I said, so that she wouldn’t wait for me at the Trailhead afterwards.
As I started running back I found Joy, who never even looked up as she huffed and puffed up the hill. Shortly thereafter I ran across three men and called out to them “Have you seen a girl in a white jacket?”
“Yeah,” the first guy said, “she’s right past the bend.”
Good, I thought, she’s close by. I kept running though, wanting to find her quickly. At one point I looked up from my footing and noticed a small movement in the trees about a mile off. I kept retracing my steps though, hopeful I’d run into her momentarily. After a half a mile I had passed the turn-off. She can’t be back this far, I thought. And then I realized what had happened. She hadn’t turned west onto the trail heading for Eldorado Canyon and had continued on the path up to the switchback of Doudy Draw.
The short of the story is that I spun around and started booking it along the trail to the huge switchback that climbs up to the mesa. I hoped that I was a lot faster than her, that she was pausing to take some walking breaks, and that she didn’t have her iPod on so she could hear me call. A mile and a half later I caught sight of her heading up the switchback, walking. She came back down and we headed back to the fork in the trail.
She had been running for two miles so far, about what she ran every two or three days on the streets of Boulder. She didn’t want to go back to the car yet though; she wanted to keep going. So we did. We jogged over the trails when we could, we picked our way over the ice when we had to, and slowly but surely we progressed.
I carried my camera in my hand, and took advantage of the slower pace to take lots of pictures. As we walked, talked, and jogged, a kind of peace settled over me. I’ve never been on a run with my sister. She wasn’t having a LOT of fun (I don’t know if she had ANY fun, to be completely honest), but she wasn’t complaining. She was determined to finish this run, come hell or high water. She walked a lot and stretched out the cramp in her belly. Her shoulders hurt from tensing up, so I showed her how to relax them and let her arms flop to reset her posture. Her feet hurt but she didn’t say anything. It wasn’t until I idly mentioned my trail running shoes and how they gripped the ice that we noticed she was wearing trail… shoes. Not running shoes, but trail WALKING shoes. This was a complete “A-HA” moment for her. “No wonder my toes are going numb on my right food,” she said in utter comprehension. I thought it was supposed to hurt!”
I got to show her the “Wind Tunnel” going into Eldorado Canyon, and the massive rock face that greets visitors as they come through the man-made, dynamited walkway. “This is my favorite view of the entire run,” I told her. “It’s incredible in the early dawn light, with the sun’s rays spilling onto the trees that grow in the crevices.”
We made our way across the ice field and jogged the last bit into town. She gave me the car key, and I sprinted the last mile and a half down the road to the trailhead. With the car, I went back and picked up my tired, tired sis. It was 8:45 AM, and the Garmin said that she had covered 7.5 miles in all.
Kathy and Marcia were waiting at the trailhead. Siga had run back up the trail to see if she could find us. Heidi had put my clicker in Siga’s glove and left it in the handle of my car door. The girls were worried that I didn’t have my key. Heidi didn’t realize that I had TWO keys (well, technically a key and a clicker) and that Rachael had the other one. So, the ladies waited. I drove up the road to get Rachael, we met again at the Trailhead where Siga came back into view, and then the five of us drove to coffee at Caffé Sole.
Rachael was surprised that they waited. “No one gets left behind,” I explained, then launched into stories of people getting lost, turned around, or mis-directed on various runs. “It happens to everyone,” I told her. “Some runs are uneventful, the rest end well with a good story. It’s all good.”
Hours later, Rachael was still on her feet, cooking stuffed mushrooms for Thanksgiving appetizers.
I know she’s planning on doing some shoes shopping on Friday and getting some real running shoes. Three cheers for Rachael, she did it!