*Disclaimer: I am not fast, nor do I claim I ever have been, though I am working on improving that.
Three miles behind me, I pull off of a short section of trail onto the 5K road loop that circles the Rose Bowl. Feeling good, I’m running a bit faster than my typical pace, weaving through and past the walkers and slower joggers, enjoying my music, taking in the night air. I appreciate road runs for the steadiness that they provide, to have the opportunity to not think about foot placement or hill climbs, but just settle into a fixed pace and my thoughts. About 800 meters into the 5K lap, I sense another runner closing on me very slowly; he was there for a while, but I was oblivious due to my headphones until a streetlight cast his shadow beside me.
Almost instinctively, I begin to pick up my pace just slightly enough to keep him behind me. For some reason I decide I shouldn’t let him pass.
He hangs on my heels to the left for about 30 seconds. And then I feel him making a surge, now running beside me with a comfortable distance between us.
Neither of us look at each other.
We hold the pace, now about 30 seconds per mile faster than when he first caught me.
I don’t know how far he’s already run, but we appear to be working about as hard as each other.
I reach down and cycle through my music to find a more upbeat song and pick up the pace slightly. He drops two steps back, realizes the change, and picks it up again, staying beside me.
After another 30 second eternity of running beside him, ignoring each other, he picks up the pace. I decide to let him go just a little bit, staying about one meter behind him, but matching the increased pace.
The race is on. How far, to where, on what terms…nobody knows. But there is no denying it is happening, despite the fact we still “ignore” each other by avoiding eye contact and hiding behind our headphones.
I decide to catch him and pass, but he stays with me. We are side by side again, engaged in our awkward dance. The walkers and other joggers we pass have no idea about the struggle lurking beneath the surface; we likely look like running partners.
We are now easily running two minutes faster than when he caught me, easily approaching my best 5K pace, if not faster. I’m starting to hurt, lungs and quads burning, but I’m still successful in making a conscious effort to relax my face, drop my shoulders, settle in. Fast, smooth, easy. One mile to go on our 5K lap, a turn is approaching. I decide that is where I’ll make my move. The road just around the turn begins a 400 meter gentle decline, followed by a 400 meter rolling hill, then flat again. I fall back on his heels for the last 200 meters leading into the turn.
A pause comes between songs and I can suddenly hear his labored breathing and the weight of his footstrikes. My timing is good; I’m not breathing or pounding nearly as hard and at this point I’m certain I have him. He’s getting stretched thin.
We hit the turn and I accelerate, this time with a more decisive kick, easily pulling away by 10 meters before he responds. He’s still there, matching my pace. I turn it up a little more and I can feel him fading.
I’m stuck now in a solitary world of burning, of wondering how long I can make this last before I blow up, betting everything that I can hold it just a little longer than he can. I try to relax but I’m beginning to strain. I can’t relax. I don’t want to look back. Just keep going.
We pass a light; his long shadow is completely absent beside me.
My turnoff is coming; I start drifting across the street to where I’ll leave the loop.
Upon reaching the intersection I turn sharply left, affording me the ability to glance back over my shoulder.
He’s 400 meters back, stopped and doubled over at the side of the road.
I slowly jog up the side street until I know I’m well out of site, and then come to a staggering, knee-clutching stop. I fight hard, sucking desperately at the air to make my head stop spinning. Smiling. It was likely a 5K PR for me, all in the midst of what was to be an “easy” 9 mile run.
Perhaps it would’ve been nice to shake his hand in the end, to laugh it all off and break the tension, but this race was to live unspoken amongst strangers.
A short video, mostly just trying it out.
Still don’t know if I can directly imbed here as a free user….
“The names of the cerros and the sierras and the deserts exist only on maps. We name them that we do not lose our way. Yet it was because the way was lost to us already that we have made those names. The world cannot be lost. We are the ones. And it is because these names and these coordinates are our own naming that they cannot save us. They cannot find for us the way again.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
We have done this trip so many times now, so many seasons and ages, it has all become so natural and easy. A sleeping bag, a bed sheet, a headlamp and a sack of food. A familiar drive, a stop for coffee and a snack. Simplicity; no need for planning anything, we find ourselves sleeping side by side in the open, shirtless and without covers, discussing stars and trees and the sounds of river voices until drifting off. We sleep in until 9AM, get up, swim, waiting for sunlight to enter the canyon and hit our pool, warming. A gift, all of it.
Went out for some peak bagging this morning, starting to prep for Zion.
Icehouse Canyon>>>Icehouse Saddle (7555′)>>>Cucamonga Peak (8859′)>>>Bighorn Peak (8441′) via XC east ridge>>>Ontario Peak (8693′)>>>Icehouse Saddle and return.
~16 miles, about 5000′ gain.
An oldie. I posted this trip report on BPL but somehow forgot to put it up on my own blog.
More trip reports can be found in this BPL thread, beginning on page 23.
Waiting, waiting, getting closer now, anticipating the sound of the 2:00 bell and the end of my day. Stopping at home, quickly packing, hugs and kisses for the wife and children. She has surprised me with all manner of pre-made food and drink, enough pasta to feed a platoon. Los Angeles traffic now, bouncing in my seat, the car is moving 5 miles per hour but my mind is racing…two hours of driving to pick up Adan.
Darkness, headlights, music and conversation for the next 8 hours, stops along the side of the road on I40…Ludlow, other nondescript roadside gas towns, standing and drinking beers in the desert, watching nighttime trains roll beside us. We finally arrive, set up a quick camp on the Arizona Trail in the the Kaibab at 2:30AM.
Adan and I sleep until 8:30, awakening to overcast skies and mild temps, drive in to get our site now, killing time around camp. Runners start trickling in, the odd and fun task begins of matching faces with online personalities, strangers yet not strangers, all good people, we mill about camp for the day. It becomes hard to believe that the following day is supposed to hold a storm, at times the sky even clears on Friday…Bizarre, it’s as if we have to sit and wait for the storm to come in order to start our run.
As predicted, I wake to the sound of snow on the tent at around 10PM. Looking out the door, an inch or two has already accumulated. It is confirmed, finally, we will be running in some wild weather. I’m not a stranger to the Grand Canyon, having done R2R on back to back days while backpacking, and I know it is hard enough without the weather interfering. I know then and there that people in our group are going to get seriously challenged out there, some to a greater degree than ever before.
Alarm goes off at 3:30AM and the prospect of getting out of bed and going into the snow is not feeling too good. I get dressed, sort my gear, wander out. The vibe is one of business, everyone a bit hurried in the dark. Snow is falling pretty good at this point. I fry an egg and make toast, get a little coffee into me. Despite a bit of anxiety, I’m thrilled the day has finally come, that all the unknowns are disappearing. I don’t care about the snow, at least I know what we’re dealing with now. I double check gear, pack food, and soon we are off.
The second we reach South Kaibab and I look off into the darkness I know that this is going to be an epic and I’m completely excited. It’s cold. It’s windy. It’s dark and it’s snowing. And we’re about to do a hell of a hike. My watch reads 5:20AM when I take my first strides down the canyon after Eugene and Dan Hewins. The descent quickly unfolds into one of the most beautiful mornings I’ve ever had in the mountains. I can see the blue glow of their headlamps weaving the switchbacks and ridges below me as a gray-blue morning light begins to filter through the clouds. Snow is falling, wind is blowing it into our faces, I’m absolutely ecstatic and alive, running smoothly down the mountain. In an hour or so I’m crossing the emerald waters of the Colorado River.
By the time I’m down the SK and approaching Phantom Ranch, ITB pain has started in my left knee, an injury I haven’t dealt with in years. Not even a single hint of it in any training run, I can only assume it’s been brought on by 7 miles immediate downhill running without warming up. I’ve dealt with it before; my stomach sinks, basically knowing that’s it’s only a matter of time before I’m going to be brought to a limp. I know from the outset that I’m not going to stop due to it, so I’m trying to psyche myself up for a really long, slow day. Along the canyon I pass and get passed a few times, all of us shifting positions back and forth. By Cottonwood my running day is about over, I can only hike at this point to alleviate pain. From here on out, I have the pleasure of doing a R2R2R mostly on one leg, trying to take the brunt of the stepping and descending on my right leg. Despite it, I’m still having a blast. There is a certain anxiety building, however, that with every step forward I’m just going to be in worse shape going back. I’m pretty convinced that the North Rim is going to wreck me pretty good, making for an epic on the return.
I reach the top, feeling pretty terrible. I’m just behind Torrey and Eugene at this point. I’m a little loopy in the head, beginning a bit of a bonk. I know Eugene looked at me with a little concern before I waved him off. For a brief moment I’m alone and a really bad feeling comes over me. My knee is killing me, my stomach is protesting the Snickers bar I’ve eaten, and I’m getting cold. I get a sinking feeling that I’ve gotten myself into something bad, that it’s going to be a really long way out of this stupid affair. Fortunately, I’m able to shake this low pretty quickly; I down a bottle of Cafe Mocha Perpetuem and the calories/caffeine really help. I get my head together and head out. Within 10 minutes I’m somehow I’m able to tune out my knee pretty well and actually run the entire NK down. I picked up a killer runner’s high in the cliff section and rode that energy hooting and hollering all the way to Cottonwood before grinding back into a limp. I’d pay for the burst big-time, as my right foot now started to really ache due to all the compensating for my left knee. The downward spiral. Fortunately though, everything else felt fine and my energy was good.
Slogging it out back up SK was another highlite of the trip. Despite pain and fatigue, it was a brilliant climb, reaching near-blizzard feeling conditions higher on the trail. Torrey and I were literally dropping to all fours in places in order to avoid being blown off by the wind. One gust had us pinned on hands and knees for at least 15 seconds until we started making our way up to a rock outcropping. Epic times, but a little worry beginning to form about the runners behind us. I knew we’d be out fine, but these were the sort of conditions that truly bad things can potentially happen in. We can only trust all of our partners will make good decisions.
Soon enough I see some headlamps flashing down at us and know we’re in the final approach. Before I know it, Eugene and Adan are running down to greet us; there’s palpable concern in the air that things were looking pretty bad out there, coupled with relief that we’re up. I’m actually feeling pretty good with the exception of my leg. Final time: about 15:20?
Attention shifts to finding the last runners, making sure everyone is accounted for. A bit scary at first, not really having any idea what sort of shape they’re in or where they are, all the while seeing conditions really begin to deteriorate and rage in the darkness below.
Soon everyone is accounted for and mood finally turns to celebration and fun, the trip begins it’s fade into memory, and all the moments of pain and swearing off adventures like this are slowly forgotten. How quickly they get replaced by the sparks of new cravings for new adventures. A completely F’n great day, long live the full-spectrum experience!
Thanks to all you great people, not a single one of whom I wouldn’t want to share a run with again.