After 6 miles, you reach the Colorado Trail. “Really? What was the trail we just ran?” What you just did was the Indian Creek Trail Head. It sits south of the CT at nearly the same distance as the Waterton Trail Head sits north of the CT. Where those two trail head paths collide is the start of the Colorado Trail sans trail head – which is said to start in Denver and end in Durango.
10 miles remain, but according to runner’s math, it feels like halftime. You’ve completed one trail and are starting another. That’s half way regardless of distance. A Lo Hawk leads the 3rd quarter and you notice a different feel to your body with your first steps. The weight of lactic acid in your legs reminds you of the several hills you climbed over the last 6 miles. You eventually fall into a comfortable pace as A Lo Hawk leads yet another march, another quarter in this epic run. It occurs to you that you might run the entire course today. So much for hiking. But to be fair, you’ve yet to encounter hills you can’t handle, and the elevation isn’t out of your range. A 16 mile run is starting to appear possible.
Like a dolly zoom, this quarter expands the further you run. You realize you are beginning to tire. A Lo hawk isn’t showing signs of fatigue as he runs downhill with the confidence and speed you demonstrated in the 2nd quarter. And while he might walk a few steps of intensely steep uphill, he is quick to return to solid pace once the steps flatten out. You surrender distance on even ground and struggle to close the gap during downhills. Your pace is inconsistent while A Lo Hawk’s tempo is strong and even. You consider whether he is in that much better shape or if trail running skills are starting to show their impact.
The path meanders in and out of sun and shade. You feel the heat in the sun and alternate the bill of your cap to forward from rear to counter the glare. You feel grateful that A Lo Hawk is leading as following is the only thing that’s keeping you running. If it were your lead you’d be walking – if not resting on a big rock in the shade. You haven’t hit a wall exactly, but your body requires replenishment. The end of the 3rd quarter brings relief and for the first time you eat. You test the carrots – something you’ve never brought along for a run or hike before but seem like a good idea. They are moist with water while still crunchy. You’re happy with them and relate a story to A Lo Hawk on how they remind you of eating tunas in Mexico.
You finish the bottle of Gatorade you’ve been carrying in your hand – partly from thirst and partly because you’re tired of carrying it. A Lo Hawk has been fueled by Cytomax. Before you start up again, you remove your top shirt and stuff it in your pack along with the empty bottle. It’s heavy with sweat and you feel smart for your selection of layers. Up to now, you’ve been alternating lead with A Lo Hawk, but you let him lead the 4th quarter as well. He’s still strong.