“I’m in no rush.” That’s what I told myself today as I parked at the trailhead. I should be back on the LoBo Trail where I belong, but I deferred a run last October to this October. The course runs upwards of 60 miles through Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon. Over three days. We’re in summer today, I felt it, but fall is up next. I need to train on a mountain trail. But I could give up thoughts of constant running today, on this trail.
At Heil Valley, I always warm up on the Lichen Loop. I was out early enough to avoid directly overhead sun. My current state of fitness won’t let me enjoy running up to the top of the Wapiti Trail. I ran over a mile of it but didn’t make it to the top. I don’t think it matters, and didn’t then. I just need to run up and down a mountain trail. Doesn’t matter how I do it. Could be more of a power walk, with stops to drink water. Sometimes it was.
Part of the technical aspect of running such a rocky mountain trail requires attention to control. For me, control highly correlates with slow. Part of my plan already. I was good. I carried a water bottle, that’s how slow I started out. I don’t know if I ever actually increased my pace, but I felt like I did at times. Steep trails kill.
So I walked when needed, knowing that I would before I ever stepped out of the car. I would try to run when going past other hikers and bikers. Think what you want about me, appearances matter. I typically pass bikers on the way up. Not today though. Probably not for a couple of months, if I train. I ran strong though at times.
Whenever my lactate level would allow, I’d unwind over the dirt and rocks, and when I exceeded my lactate threshold, I either slowed down, or, with increasing frequency, I walked. Even the walking was a training experience. Both cardio and technical. I re-introduced myself to trail running today. It’s going to be an uphill climb, but starting is the hardest part. And I’ve started.
I know that I developed a pattern of streaking through sunlit meadows faster than the darker woods. It just seemed smart to expose myself to the unrelenting rays of the sun today, as little as possible. At times, I swear I could see beams of light slicing through the grass in front of me. I think this photo above proves I didn’t imagine it.
I think, never stopping to walk with full sun exposure, was what got me home today. Could have been the difference. Hard to say sometimes whether it’s the heat or the hill. Today it was both so I optimized my slower running to cooler parts of the trails. That’s environmental leverage. And because I carried water with me, I practiced a little hydro management too. Point is, pace doesn’t matter. Everything on the spectrum from walking to running today counted toward the training I’m going to need for October.
Running and walking with control, which is harder than you think on the downhills when you do it fast, meant that no matter how slow and controlled my pace was, I was getting something from it. Technical training from my foot placement decisions. Cardio from my random pace and the hills. As I passed an older couple, one called out something to me and I replied back with something witty that made them laugh. Then I laughed. Going slow allowed me to take photos. It was a good run