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I posted this pic to facebook after digging it out of my basement Saturday.  I like the symmetry it represents to my running story.  I consider the Dallas White Rock Marathon to be one of my most brutal running experiences of all time.  But not the one in this picture.  I’m 18 here running with Johnny – a good friend from high school and college.  However, this is my second marathon.  I ran my first marathon two years prior at 16, although it was the same fall weather event in Dallas.  It’s the first marathon that I ran with my buddy Mike where I hit “the wall” at 18 miles and died.  I’m not sure what seemingly sentient being looking like me crossed the finish line at 26.2 miles, as I said – I was already dead.  So it wasn’t me.

Being dead, I recall thinking at the time how unlikely it would be for me to ever enjoy running future marathons.  Yet somehow, two years later, I found myself running the same Dallas White Rock Marathon during my first semester at college.  I suspect natural endorphins must somehow repress previous painful runs.  This second run around the White Rock Lake in Dallas wasn’t painful at all.  Granted, I started off with a belly-full of beer from the previous night, but this was a pleasant run.  While beer is hardly on par with recombinant EPO, I appreciate the bravery it provides at the starting line to a 26 mile run.  Also, I’d gained some nutritional knowledge on how to avoid the wall by maintaining a strong glycemic index.  Basically, consume glucose throughout the event – for me any event over an hour or over a 10K.  It’s also wise to eat a healthy portion of fruits and vegetables (low in their GI value) throughout the week leading up to the marathon.  And beer is good anytime.

These two marathons mirror my IPR experience.  Thirty years would expire between my second marathon and the 17 mile IPR without running anything nearly as challenging in between.  I’m running two IPRs separate by two years just as I did with the Dallas White Rock.  And the first IPR goes down in my record book as one of the most challenging runs of all time – just like my first experience in hitting the wall.  I suppose if I continue running events at this pace, the symmetry will soon be lost, but I like thinking about it after finding this picture.

The Labor Day 3-day weekend is a nice way to prep myself for Imogene Pass.  I assumed over a month ago I could not only get in shape for Imogene Pass, but for two marathons that follow closely on its heels.  Past experience tells me that if I am in shape for Imogene Pass, then I’ll most certainly be in shape to run any relatively flat marathon at 5ooo feet.  But one massive run at a time.  Next weekend is the Imogene Pass Run and I need to work some hills into my routine.

I’ve been running regular 8 milers on the LoBo Trail, convenient out my front door but pretty flat.  Combined with situps I feel pretty good about my progress.  And I’ve been fortunate enough to squeeze in some steep climbs at altitude the last 2 weekends.  This weekend I finally tried out the south end trail head of the Heil Valley Ranch.  I’ve always run the Picture Rock Trail after learning of it two years ago from my buddy Dave.  I credit its 5 to 5.5 mile climb with conditioning me for my first IPR in 2010, but I wish it wasn’t quite so rocky.  My wishing days are over.

The Wapiti Trail is located near the Greenbriar Inn off Left Hand Canyon.  It’s a bit shorter drive from my house too – only 13 miles.  The trail head itself is super nice with picnic tables, grills and ample parking.  It’s funny that the intersection of Hwy 36 and Left Hand Canyon is always packed with cars every weekend from the masses of bikers who like to climb the road to either Ward or Jamestown.  But this short drive to the trail head – I think it’s on Geer Canyon Road – is only partially paved leaving over a half mile of gravel.  Otherwise I would expect bikers to park here.  Surprises me also that the Greenbriar doesn’t cater to bikers with a lunch on Saturdays.

Wapiti Trail begins with a quarter mile of unpaved road and rises for 2.5 miles before joining the Ponderosa Loop.  It’s less rocky than Picture Rock Trail with some really nice dirt segments.  Like Picture Rock, it’s not overly steep, but it hits the top of the hill in half the distance.  And it’s much more shaded in the trees.  The top of the hill actually offers two loops, Ponderosa and Wild Turkey.  I have seen wild turkey up here by the way.  The two loops lie side-by-side, sharing a mile long trail between them.  Ponderosa is the western loop, to the left, and Wild Turkey is to the right on the east side of the hill.  Because Wapiti joins Pondersoa Trail, you have to run to the right for a quarter mile, maybe less, to pick up the Wild Turkey Trail.  Wild Turkey also intersects with Picture Rock after about a mile.

I ran figure eights out of both loops Saturday and Sunday.  I plan to do the same tomorrow but if my legs don’t recover well enough it will be simple to shorten the run by only including a single loop.  The section in the middle is a bit rocky and the west flank of Ponderosa is even more rocky – similar to a creek bed.  But Wild Turkey has some awesome sections of dirt that are ideal for cruising.  These loops offer some slopes but nothing too steep to slow you down.  Ponderosa is 2.6 miles and Wild Turkey 2.9, so combined with the 2.5 mile length of Wapiti I got in 10.5 miles by running the figure eight.  I wanted some longer runs to prep for Imogene Pass but I’ll take the 2.5 mile climb and trail experience over distance.  And 31.5 miles in three days isn’t too shabby.