Here’s your result for you Steve (just read your FaceBook query). I’m sitting in my hotel bed watching the Ohio St. vs Miami game. Totally spent for the day. Good game though. I’m following the CU vs Cal game via my ESPN ScoreCenter for iPhone app – but it’s depressing. Sort of happy the hotel cable doesn’t carry it. I don’t know where to start describing this run. It was such an extreme experience. I’ll start with the morning.
The hotel in Ouray didn’t have alarm clocks or clocks of any kind really. But at 48, I haven’t needed a clock in 20 years. I don’t wear a watch and I don’t set alarm clocks. I was staring at the blackened window waiting for some rays of sun to hint at the approaching morning. Karen didn’t wait. She woke up to brush her teeth sometime before 6am. It didn’t bother her to turn on all the lights. This killed my window sun ray measurements plan. My iPhone was charging across the floor so without being able to check the time I laid in bed until I felt ready. I didn’t hear any meaningful action in the street below (the race started outside our room). But I got up and checked the time. 6am – imagine that. Like clockwork. I don’t need no stinkin alarm clock.
Rob and Sue called from the lobby a little before 7am. Karen answered as I was in the bathroom. While I’ve known of my lactose intolerance for over 30 years, I thought a malted milk shake looked tasty last night. I met them in the lobby. Sue was talkative – must be a morning person. Rob was content to talk about coffee. I think he eventually poured a cup. We reached consensus that since it was fairly nippy outside, we’d wait in the lobby until 7:10am.
Once outside, I felt good about my wardrobe choices. Nike DriFit running shorts. No, I didn’t misspell “dry”. Click on the link. WordPress provides me with stats of the clicks on my links and it irritates me readers don’t click more often. I wore an Under Armour reversible AllSeasonGear fitted crew top. I wore it to keep warm. The flip side keeps you cool. And I wore my Columbia Omni-Tech Waterproof Breathable hiking jacket. Their current lineup might be called Omni-Heat now, not sure. I walked outside with my Barr-Camp running hat but switched to my red fleece skull cap. I wore some running gloves and configured my iPod nano and earbuds for easy use later. I decided on the earbuds rather than my bluetooth headset – which I like very much but their batteries don’t seem to last much past an hour. And because I didn’t require bluetooth, I left the heavier iPhone back in the room. The jacket, gloves and hat were official race requirements. Both Rob and I refrained from carrying water because the event arranged aid stations about every two miles. Still, at least half the runners carried water. I suspect some did it because their mini CamelBack completed their fashion ensemble. And honestly, some of them looked really good.
The race announcer was a card. He communicated this run had only one hill. The pistol fired and we were off. The first mile was similar to my prep run. My calves burned and I was breathless. Course options were offered that I didn’t know about yesterday. You could choose to stay on the jeep trail or take steeper but shorter single tracks at times. I chose the shortcuts because they were different from yesterday, and because it provided a chance to break from the crowd. Probably a poor choice because the crowd followed me. And because steeper is never better. I caught my breath on the second mile just like yesterday, and I noticed this time the trail flattened out so that explains the recovery. I was still running alongside Rob and he shared with me we were on a 12 minute mile pace. I wrapped my jacket around my waist during the 2nd mile but kept my gloves on. A little after 2 miles was the first aid station. We slowed to drink some Gatorade and I turned on my iPod. Sometime during the 3rd mile, the wind picked up and I put my jacket back on. I can’t recall where exactly, but before 5 miles, we started walking in spots. I took off my gloves but went back and forth on the jacket depending on the shade and wind. A nice feature of the jacket was the velcro. I didn’t have to bother zipping it.
Rob would gain distance on me whenever we walked. He’s just such an incredible hiker and I couldn’t walk as fast as him. But I was never too far behind and he’d wait for me at aid stations. And sometimes I’d gain on him during running portions of the course. After 7 miles, when I was feeling fairly pleased with myself, the course grew steeper. And colder. The boards that were placed across streams were gripped in ice and the shady spots were frigid. But it was the increased incline that marked my memory of the upper 3rd of Imogene trail. Each mile, from 7 to 8, then 8 to 9, and finally 9 to 10, increased in slope and cruelty. I wanted to crawl. Well, maybe I was crawling, it’s a bit blurry now. But I know I never stopped my forward motion. I know enough about finishing anything that perseverance is like the shark that never sleeps. You just keep on truckin.
Personally, the race was over for me when I reached the summit. I’d been concerned about the cutoff times and according to Rob we’d smashed them. We reached the top in two and a half hours. Maybe 2 hours and 45 minutes. The results aren’t posted yet. Rob waited for me at the summit aid station and we shook hands on our triumphant accomplishment. The descent wasn’t what I expected. I thought I would walk a bit until I recovered and then run as fast as I could handle. I’d been training on trails and as I’ve mentioned before in these blogs, I really like running downhill fast when I can. But I couldn’t here. The course was so steep and the rocks so treacherous, I never felt like I was running. For nearly the entire 7 mile drop into Telluride, I was hitting the brakes. In this phase of the run, perseverance meant preservation mode. I ran like James Tiberious Kirk clawing his nails into the Iowa top soil after driving his red Corvette off a cliff that looked more plausible in Idaho – or the Imogene trail. This was 7 miles of putting more energy into thigh-burning resistance than controlling momentum. Ironically, I could breathe going downhill, but my legs were burning, rubbery buffers between my torso and the rocky slide IPR certified as trail worthy.
Which is fine. I made it up this hill, I was going to make it down. What I don’t get is how over 100 runners screamed past me on the descent. I know some of it is trail conditioning and fitness. I didn’t note a pattern of men vs women kicking my ass. The mountain isn’t sexist. Most were younger. And even more were lighter. But the real difference was these people were insane. With 90 percent of my energy directed at stopping, these runners’ momentum was balls out directed down the hill. I like running fast downhill, but I don’t know how they were able to do it in these trail conditions. They ran like stones skipping across water. Their feet never touched down long enough to slide. Traction was never in play. And this ensued the entire 7 miles. I got passed as much at mile 11 as I did mile 16.
My awe from watching this runners’ cirque du soleil tap dance down the trail was finally surpassed upon encountering the first views of Telluride. It’s hard to describe such earthly magnificence. Upon seeing Ouray for the first time the other day, I didn’t expect to be viewing a town that could challenge it so quickly. But whereas Ouray is walled with stunning canyons, Telluride is set within a gorge of towering green pines. And, if you want to get picky, the streets are paved. Both towns are impressive, but Telluride offered a panoramic finish that Hollywood couldn’t reproduce with CGI. The race finished down a shady tree-lined street into the center of town. True to the last 7 miles, this street was also too steep for me to allow my legs to fully sprint. The pavement was finally solid, but I was simply too weak at this point. I crossed the finish line in 3:49:35. I had secretly hoped to finish in 4.5 hours so I was impressed with myself. And now I’m recovering. Rob and Sue left after lunch and we’re already planning dinner.