I had a good enough 22-miler today. Instead of running a long run every week and my body taking 3 days to fully recover and I miss out on prime training, I'm attempting a long run every 3-weeks to allow the in between time to focus more on strength training. My trainer thinks it's going to make me a stronger runner. I'll keep up this plan for awhile but as the Boston clock ticks louder, I'm going to have to revamp this plan and go to every other week or so (we'll evaluate/negotiate in a few weeks); but for now my plan is to add a couple long-run miles every 3-weeks. Since I did that frigid 20-miler three weeks ago today's endurance test was 22. I opted to fore go the usual CC park to downtown long route routine to instead venture over to Waterton Canyon. The canyon is about 20 minutes from me in the foothills of SW Denver; it is breathtaking! It's also very hot, in summer, so it's not a place I frequent. It makes it that much more special when I do and today was no exception. Waterton is also a challenge in that there is no water along the trail. This is the downside as my hydration "issues" warrant me to carry two water bottles. This hurts my back; evident by today. Waterton Canyon also has the largest herd of lower-elevation Big Horn Sheep and it's pretty rare that I run up there and do not see them. Today we came upon them just after mile 1, there were probably about 8 sitting on the edge of some rocks. I am always in awe over these magnificent creatures, watching them in their natural environment just takes my breath away. Though I had good intentions of bringing my camera, I once again forgot it and thus the embedded pictures are from my cell phone - sorry. This Sheep is at the top near the tree; he kinda blends in with the rocks so look carefully!
The start of our run today was cold and I was overly-accessorized with way too many items that left me constantly readjusting/fixing everything on my body for the first 6 mile: 3 shirts; shorts underneath pants; gloves underneath wind-blocked mittens; my pink hat that wouldn't stay snapped in the back every time I tried to pull it lower on my head; my over-stretched elastic ponytail-holder that was no longer performing it's intended duty of holding my hair in a ponytail. The glove/mitten combination was proving the absolute worst - every time I had to readjust something, I had to take them off and to get them back on, I had to put them on one at a time (put the glove on then the mitten) and the thumbs of the gloves were being very difficult and not cooperating by nicely fitting into the thumbs of the mitten. When I had to get my Accelerade out of my pack, I had to twist the entire pack around to the front so I could access the contents. This, in turn, screwed up the position of my iPod and my bandana so I'd have to spend time getting them back into proper position. Needless-to-say, just to go the first 6 miles was taking forever. My friends told me I had too many accessories. Ha.
Dennis told me a story about a time he and his family were in Mexico and went to a sea turtle habitat and had to attend a briefing before viewing the endangered creatures and how they weren't suppose to take pictures of them because the flash of the camera apparently is harmful somehow to them (he took some pictures anyway... and got an earful from bystanders shaming them for their lack of following the rules). This reminded me of the time we were in Hawaii and went to go snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. We had to watch a video on the frailness of the coral reef and while viewing (from the front row), I suddenly got wheezy and passed out cold. I have problems with motion sickness; the informative video showed way too many moving objects (this also reminded me of the time I was in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas a million years ago and went to see the movie 'Speed' on the IMAX theater; I saw about 10 minutes of it before spending a half hour in the Caesars Palace bathroom puking. Not an ideal situation when trying to impress a new guy in my life at the time. No wonder it didn't work :) ).
Got to the top of the canyon, finally, and it was warming up fast. There is a dam up there that, in summer, has all this water flowing over the top; pretty spectacular! Not so much water gushing today but there must be water coming from somewhere because there are some pretty cool ice falls.
As we turned and went back down, the wind was merciless and literally slowing my pace to a crawl. The turn-around back is more downhill and usually easier than the way up but that wind was uncompromising. I thought of Dallas and the intense winds there and I told my friends: Can you say 'Dallas Marathon?' The winds hounded us about 4 miles until we could finally turn the corner and get a breather. These winds dogged us last week at the 10-mile race; I guess it's either the locale or the time of year - maybe both....but man, ugh! I didn't lolly-gag by fixing all my body adornments on the way down but I couldn't wait to get to the car at mile 12, I was going to drop-ship many items. The only time I recall stopping on the way back was about mile 11 when this tiny rock in my shoe was annoying me to no end and I'd had enough of it's persistent irritation. Dennis also had been having some calf problems so really, I was only thinking of him by stopping so he could stretch his calf muscle :). We made some good time on the way down.
The canyon is 6 miles up and then, of course, 6 down giving only a total of 12 miles. I needed more. I debated whether or not to run 5 back up to give me the 10 additional miles I needed but instead, I opted to take the trail over to Chatfield Reservoir (the location of last weeks' infamous 10-miler). It's probably been 8 or 9 years since I've been on this trail; the freshness of the unfamiliar was pulling at me more than the canyon again. Though I love the canyon, I didn't want to deal with it anymore. My back was also starting to really ache. At the car, I unloaded what felt like 10-pounds of "accessories": my long pants, a shirt, and my mittens. Got more water and a new bandana (nothing like a lot of wind to make your nose run!) and headed North on the trail to Chatfield. The sun was out and the skies turned their ever-so-intoxicating deep blue I love so much. I felt revived. For a bit. My knees were bothering me a little in the canyon and once we started back out again, they decided they didn't want to be ignored. Dennis ran with me for a couple miles then turned around; his plans only called for 16 miles and his calf was really bothering him. I was left alone...and that's okay sometimes. On unfamiliar ground, I came to a Y in the road and didn't know which way to go. I went one way only to soon discover I was at a livery and nowhere to run so I turned around and took the other part of the Y. My back was bothering me and my knees were shouting louder. I stopped and took some Accelerade, some sport beans, walked for about 2 minutes then started off again. The trail I was on eventually came to a T-intersection on the exact same trail I ended my 10-miler on last week. Who'd have known! I got to the finish line of last weeks' infamous race, ran through the parking lot, and then decided I had enough; it was time to go back. I still had about 5 miles to the car and I just took it slow and plodded along. I thought about things in my life where I've been lost and listened to their echos; time passed quickly and I forget about my knees. I felt better the last 4 miles of my run today than I had almost the entire 18 before; I felt that I could plug along at this leisurely pace for another hour if I had to (if my back pain would slightly ease up; I will pack Aleve next time). My knees cried uncle and actually gave up their assiduous discontent and I suddenly felt fabulous. I refused to give up and let the torch go out; today was good enough and I made it to the end feeling elated.
It is indeed possible to just be good enough in the midst of getting better.
22 miles run