I initially planned to run an easy 20 miles today on the LoBo Trail. I say easy because that trail is so pedestrian and flat. I changed my plans last night though to instead run a real trail at Heil Valley Ranch. Running from the Wapiti Trailhead on the south end to the Picture Rock Trailhead on the north end, and back, is 18 miles and considerably more challenging. It will be nice to run a real trail again. I couldn’t wait to wake up and go Saturday morning.
I start a bit before 10am. I don’t expect it to get overly hot and I am fairly well acclimated. I carry two liters of HEED sports drink in my Camelbak. I feel heavy starting out, but then I haven’t been running hills. This begins with 3 miles of moderate elevation gain. Nearly 1000 feet in 2.74 miles. I note as I struggle uphill that my legs don’t feel recovered from Friday’s run. This is odd because I only ran an easy 4 miler yesterday afternoon. My legs were sore last night too and I thought it odd at the time because generally I can run up to 8 miles and still feel fresh afterward.
Still, it feels great to be running on this trail. I notice that while there are tons of mountain bikers, there are no runners. Everyone is likely training on the Boulder Backroads for the upcoming marathon. Whereas those roads are hilly, this is a mountain. They zig, I zag. I take it slow though, which is my plan considering my 18 mile target. I maintain a slow pace as the trail begins the six mile descent down to the Picture Rock Trailhead. Not slow enough apparently as I trip at mile 5.25 and crash into the ground. Runner down! Falling forward with 6 miles per hour of downhill momentum is a bad scenario. I’m drinking from my camelbak at the time, which is likely why I lost focus. I’m just barely able to thrust my hands forward into a large but flat surfaced rock to break my fall. The rock angles upward so my hands slide forward and I rest on my forearms – in sort of a pushup position with my torso never hitting the ground. Until I rest on the ground of course for five or ten seconds.
The sliding motion likely spared my wrists or arm from breaking, but my palms leave behind measurable DNA on the rock. And they really hurt. I continue running, but more slowly. Either my trail legs are out of practice, or I’m super fatigued. I recount the fall and consider how lucky I am I didn’t break my wrists. I can run the Boulder Marathon in five weeks with broken wrists. Broken ribs would have ended my running season. I reconsider the wisdom of training on the safer Boulder Backroads.
I’m wearing my Garmin but never look at it. I find out after uploading the results later that I’m running over a 10 minute pace – even downhill. That’s unusually slow for me, but perhaps understandable given my near death experience. Despite my deliberate pace, I continue to stumble fairly often. This hurts my toes and I shout out with screams that echo off the mountains. I finally encounter another runner, a girl perhaps in her 30s, running in the other direction within a mile of the trailhead. I wonder how far she is going and when we will cross paths again.
I reach Picture Rock Trailhead in a little over nine miles and turn around. This begins a six mile climb. I feel weak but pass several bikers on the ascent. I begin to wonder after only a mile into this climb if I can continue without walking. My strength is seriously fading. I begin walking after two miles. I figure I will start back up once I catch my breadth. I never catch my breadth. To be fair, I’m walking well under a 15 minute pace uphill, but this is strange. I figure worse case, I’ll walk the entire climb and run again on the nearly 3 miles of downhill into the trailhead on the other side.
I note that my head and face feel cold and clammy. I try to run occasionally but can never maintain it for more than 50 yards. I don’t believe it is overly hot and also think I’ve been disciplined in drinking my HEED. My rate of stumbling becomes worse and I even begin to feel dizzy. My shouts of pain that accompany each stumble are now joined by raging expletives. I’m in a foul mood. At 15 miles, nearly to the top of the hill, I begin vomiting. This makes me feel a bit better, although my legs and arms shake involuntarily for several minutes after I continue walking. My symptoms do resemble heat exhaustion and dehydration. I suspect I’m sick though. I feel sick.
I try running again on the downhill but can’t. In fact, my pace slows down even more, despite the easier grade. Fortunately there is a bathroom at the trailhead because diarrhea hits me at the end of my run/walk. I rest for about 15 minutes before driving home because my legs are cramping. Despite laying down on a picnic table, I never catch my breadth. Not until I vomit again does my breathing settle down.
I’m still in bed hours later. Karen thinks I over did it. I think I’m sick. Runner down!