When we sign up for races, no matter the distance, we think about the good things – the finish line pictures, the free beer/food/swag, the fun we have eating all the food while training, the time we spend with friends on the trails, the badassary confidence boost after nailing it on track day, the exhausted elation that comes after your final run of peak week training…the good stuff, the warm fuzzies, the happy smiles.
What we choose to ignore are the sucky parts. The alarm repeatedly going off before the sun reaches the horizon, the frigid/scorching training runs that flat-out suck, the heavy legs after a long run, the ravishing hunger that refuses to be satisfied, the achy muscles that remind us how out of shape we are, the runs that drag on forever and ever and ever, the stomach issues that pop up at the most inopportune time…all the crappy things that would immediately talk us out of ever racing again if they stuck around long enough to be considered.
Running isn’t always easy. Hell, it’s rarely easy peasy, it’s always demanding our effort and self-discipline.
That said, if it was easy we’d probably get bored with it and move onto something else, like becoming a Juilliard-level ballerina or professional gymnast [two sports I find fascinating and terrifying]. So I guess I’ll suck it up and stick to running, even when it does kind of make me want to chop off my feet and donate them to starving alley cats.
This past weekend slapped me in the face with just how miserable running can be…but it also reminded me of all the reasons we push through the miles that make us want to quit at life. It really is the hard runs that give your miles purpose! On Saturday morning I met a few IRL + internet friends at the NCAR trailhead in Boulder with plans to run/hike/scramble up Bear Peak and Green Mountain. We had our traction attached to our shoes, the route was loosely planned out and our summit donuts were safely stashed in our packs…off we went.
It started out as a fun, chatty run as we all got to know each other the you do while scampering along trails covered in snow, ice and mud. We hit the summit of Bear Peak in good spirits, even as we ducked behind rocks to avoid the gusting wind. We snapped a few #summitselfies and decided to save our donuts for the Green Mountain summit. We bailed off Bear Peak and headed down the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail…and this is where the run got interesting.
In my defense I had never been on this trail and it really did make the most sense logistically, even looking back it was the right decision. However, no one was prepared for the brutality of the wind…and when you mix that wind with steep, rocky switchbacks and icy snow the descent got tricky. Everyone went into survival mode and did our part to bail off the mountain as quickly as possible.
The 40+ mph winds shoved us against the mountains as it froze our fingers and noses in seconds. Our traction was great on the snow and ice but clanged against the rocks. We noise of the wind whipping between the trees and against our gear made it impossible to hear each other…not to say we couldn’t communicate. It only took one glance up a switch back to see Cheryl’s bright red glove flipping me off. When I asked her about it over pizza post-run she claimed she “had both middle fingers up the whole way down, just so you’d see how much I hated you when you looked back”. Yup, I excel at making friends on the trails…
While it was cold and miserable I could do little more than laugh as I tip toed and stumbled my way off the mountain. I was literally swearing and laughing at the same time most of the way down the mountain. Even on the runnable stretches I was tripping myself as the wind slammed into me mid-step. It was insane…but we survived and felt like badasses when we made it to the windless safety of the trees!
We never made it up Green Mountain, instead we opted to head down Bear Canyon and add a few miles on along the Shanahan Trail, telling ourselves it would be more runnable. It was…but we still hiked the ups and when our extra 3 miles turned into an extra 6 miles I crashed through mood swings that ranged anywhere from “oooh, the weather is so great, I love running” to “all I want is french fries, I hate the world”. This is what we call character building, right?!
Looking back, this is a prime example of how long runs can be terrible and awesome all at the same time. While I actually enjoyed the insanity of the descent off Bear Peak, Cheryl hated it…and when I wanted to lay down and whine on the Shanahan Trails everyone else seemed to be loving life and the weather.It was during these final miles that I was reminded it’s not all about muscling through – you need calories and stable blood sugar levels to actually enjoy yourself. I spent the last hour or so telling myself to stop whimpering and eat…it worked!
Taking the time to dig some food out of my pack was worth it – being a few minutes behind the rest of the group meant I got to eat, which lead to a much better mood + pace in less than 10 minutes. Food [or maybe just sugar + caffeine?] is magical like that. This is the stuff I need to remember when I suffering alone through the first 100 miles of the Arizona 200M!
As much as I’d love to offer up Boulder trail secrets I don’t have any, I use this website to plan – Boulder Open Space Interactive Map
And because I’m a glutton for punishment I headed out to play on the pavement Sunday morning. Had the weather been the least bit fickle I may have bailed but when it’s January and you have the opportunity to run in 50-60 degree temperatures you get your butt outside! Which is exactly what I did…after two hours [yes, 2!] of dilly-dallying around the house.
Was it worth it?! Heck yes! It felt good to just run on clear, nearly flat pavement after a day of hiking + dodging ice on single track. My legs were tired and heavy but in a good way, not a broken way. Yea, yea, yea…I passed my Bia watch more often than necessary to throw mental temper tantrums…er, stretch. But I’m glad I got my butt outside to play and sweat in the January sunshine – it was my second day of running in shorts + tank top, I really do love Colorado! If all goes well today I’ll have another sweaty shorts day to brag about!