You might have started off leading this final leg, you don’t remember. If you did, A Lo Hawk passed you at some point. He’s ahead of you with hopefully only a few miles remaining when your feet begin to hurt and you reconsider promoting your shoes with a blog link. This run brings forth memories of the Imogene Pass Run last September. The bad part of the IPR – miles 8 and 9 leading up to the peak. The only thing that kept you running then was the pressure of not forcing the runner behind you, whom you knew was likely to be feeling as tired as you, to have to pass you. That trail didn’t provide the ability for runners to easily pass, and so you felt obligated to maintain your position and pace. The CT at this point actually widens to double track, so you run alongside A Lo Hawk. But that is short lived, you mostly fall behind – even when walking although there isn’t much of that. The first 4 quarters feel like they were yesterday – this is the ultra quarter.
At some point you carry on a conversation with A Lo Hawk. Talking is much more rare now too. One of your chats covers the topic of falling. You’ve only taken a couple of spills your entire life – both on trails. The conversation foreshadows a near fall. You slam the big toe of your right foot into a trail rock so hard you nearly hit the ground. You scream loud enough to cause A Lo Hawk to turn around. You don’t know if you were injured, you keep running. But it hurts. Bad. You imagine it as a bloody stub, but the pain gradually subsides and is replaced with the misery afflicted to the soles of your feet which have become tenderized flesh.
It once again occurs to you that you are wearing the right shoes. The thing about trail running shoes is they have a glob of rubber on the front, not unlike a car bumper. These shoes re-earned their way back onto honorable mention in your blog. That bumper clearly saved your big toe from destruction. Thank you, La Sportiva. Once you sufficiently recover from the pain and fear of toe loss, you find it ironic, almost irritating, that like the two falls you’d related to A Lo Hawk, this occurred in the last mile of your run. But that’s probably not coincidence. No doubt, the end of any run is when you are weakest and most likely to stumble. Good reason to slow for a cool down. And A Lo Hawk certainly is shuffling along the trail much slower these last miles. The final downhill leg resembles the IPR’s 7 mile drop into Telluride. As was the case then, A Lo Hawk’s and your quads are too weak to push it in.
Upon seeing the trail head, marked by an iron and wood foot bridge crossing the South Platte River, you are ready to simply walk it in. And A Lo Hawk feigningly slows to meet your expectations. But then you hear him mumble something and with renewed vigor he kicks in the final stretch. This is fairly impressive considering the steepness of the trail here, but you feel more like penalizing him for the pitcher’s balk. Your mind was set for walking, and you almost did. Instead, you finish the trail running, as you had done for 16 miles; but without any pretense of strength by kicking. You finish up slow as if running a cool down. Much like you did during the last half mile of your most recent half marathon.