I have run 1/2 marathon distances a number of times, but never on pavement. It has always been on trails and going mountain pace.
I attempted this a week ago, but got rained out.
So, I tried again. This time I started at Big Springs Park and ran down to Orem. It was great for the first 9 miles – nice easy pace. I’m not fast. But then the last 4 were hot and exposed. Why did I do this in the middle of the day?!
I made it about 30 minutes without the headlamp, but once I got up into some small stands of trees it got pitch dark. I forgot how creepy it can be up there.
Then, as I crossed the parking lot at Dry Canyon, a guy warned me about a rattler he heard near the trailhead. Sure enough, there it was in the middle of the trail. It was my first sighting this season.
The family spent a weekend at my in-laws cabin along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Island Park, Idaho (about 20 minutes southwest of West Yellowstone). It is gorgeous and this is the latest in the season we had been there. The leaves were stunning. The Mrs. and I took a little run along the river and then I doubled back when we got to the cabin and did it again solo. The place is crawling with grizzly bears, so despite the overwhelming urge to go explore the various ATV trails, I stuck to the main road.
Local legend and 17-18-time Wasatch 100 finisher and friend Phil asked me to pace him for the last 25 miles of the Wasatch. I thought that might be a bit more than I could handle, so he said, how about the 14 miles from Big Mountain to Alexander Ridge to Lambs Canyon. It is the hottest and most exposed section of trail and Phil was pushing for a sub-24 finish. This would push me to my limit, and he knew it would be tough for me, but I thought I could do it.
I was wrong.
It was a very hot day. I kept with Phil for the first 4 miles or so. I led up through Mule’s Ear Meadow and up to Bald Mountain. Then, he started to pull ahead on climbs, and I would catch up on downhills. We yo-yo’d to Pence Point. That was fine with me. I’m a better downhill-er than climber. That’s not news. The heat was really getting to me, but I felt that with some ice down my pack, I could continue on. But then on our way down ball-bearing hill, I rolled my right ankle – 3 times. It has been weak for a while and I have rolled it every couple weeks or so. Quickly, the distance between Phil and me grew. Then, as I was placing more and more weight awkwardly on my good left ankle, I rolled it. It made an audible pop. My stomach was already uneasy from the heat and exertion and the burst of pain doubled me over and I puked. A second, less severe, roll on the left ankle soon followed. I limped my way to Alexander Ridge. Phil was already gone.
I felt horrible. I sat for about 5-10 minutes, cooled down and then limped out. The ankles ended up walking off a lot better than I thought they would. By the time I got to Lambs Canyon, about 20 minutes behind Phil, they were sore, but I was jogging on them. Looking back, I suspect that even without the ankles slowing me down, the heat may have forced me to tell Phil to go on with out me. I think I could have hung with him a bit through, probably dropping on the long exposed climb out of Alexander Ridge on the Sheep Trail.
You know what hurt worse? My pride. And this is saying something, because I make no pretensions at being a good runner. I’m always touting my weaknesses and blunders. So, maybe it wasn’t my pride that hurt. Maybe it was just the shame of feeling like I had really let someone down. Phil had placed some trust in me, and I had let him down. I know he did it with the hoping of boosting my running experience, and grooming me to do Wasatch myself some day. Perhaps, he asked me to pace him more as an opportunity to give me a good learning experience than to benefit from my being there.
In any case, it wasn’t the best day.
However, it WAS a lot of fun to be out on the course and see people out there. When I arrived at Lambs Canyon the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers were out in force! And, they even cheered me a bit and told me to keep my chin up as I limped in, head hanging low. Those smiling faces actually meant a lot. There I was, proving that I could NOT hang with the best of them, and they were slapping me on the back and saying it was great to see me nonetheless. Good people.
So, to Phil. Thank you and I’m sorry. It was both a great and horrible experience.