About two miles into my run I noticed a new set of tracks in the snow. After running through one of the many parking lots spread out long the Catherine Valley trail I spied a new set of tracks from someone who had started their journey here.
As I run I pay attention to who walked where and at what pace. The snow reveals a history of who was here last, who may be ahead of you, who might you meet on the return trip. It is not hard to spot the footsteps of a fellow runner. Often to the side of the trail with an obvious purpose in mind. This set of new foot prints was laid down by an expensive set of trail shoes. While every runner has sneakers most don’t have shoes for running in the snow and ice during the winter months. I studied the gate… it was at least a 12 inches longer than my own. I worked at trying to put my footsteps in his… almost impossible.
Here was a runner who was built for running with a gate like his he would take by my guess 30 percent fewer steps to cover the same distance as I. I have played this game often, I follow the tracks to see where on the trail they turn around. While not having the body, nor the training to ever really call myself a runner, I do manage to run further than most of the sets of footprints that I follow. I was hoping deep down that I would run another 3 or 4 miles and then see the tracks turn around. It would be a small victory to know, while at a slower pace, I had run further than my imaginary competitor.
The miles clicked by, the stride of distance did not change. I could see where he had run both up and back on the trail, the distance between the steps did not change on the way back. It was obvious that this guy was a good athlete and in tremendous[BB1] shape. At one point it was just his prints in the snow and mine. It is 5 miles to the next parking area and it is seldom that you see someone running or walking 10 miles in the snow, this guy did. While my goal tonight would be a total of 21 miles it was refreshing to see he had turned finally turned around at the parking lot.
I continued down the trail with a new sense of strength knowing that I was at least attempting a further distance than my talented imaginary competitor.
Running in the dark is unique in many ways. I am lone in the woods with just my thoughts and my dreams. It is a time for me to daydream and push myself forward with all sorts of yet to be earned rewards. I started out this night with the idea that I was going to accomplish a 21 mile run, something I had never done before. I had spent the afternoon walking a woodlot, I had bought earlier. 130 acres of hillside and I had meandered back and forth over it for a couple of hours before coming home. Having felt great about my recent purchase and kind of on a mental high I decided to test myself with a run. I have a bad habit of making everything I do over the top. I love the word epic, I try and do things that are epic, and they tend to go either really well or really bad; tonight they would go bad.
There is a lot to running a long distance, the comparison between writing and running is amazing. Writing is putting down one word at a time, one after another with a purpose and a goal in mind. Running is just putting down one foot one right after another with a goal in mind. Done by talented people, both look easy. The reality is that there is so much that go making it look easy, that to the casual observer none of it appears obvious. This is a writing site I do not need to go into details about what it takes to turn out a novel or a good short story. For running, it is no different, from the food you eat to the exercise you do to how you pace yourself and fuel and hydrate yourself along the way determines your success or failure. Leave out one part of the equation and all you have is a mish mash of results and most likely a good understanding of failure.
My turn around point was to at the 11 mile mark, this would give me a 21 mile run and a mile to walk home to cool down with. At mile ten I was beginning to doubt my strategy, I was tired, the 3 plus inches of snow were taking its toll on me. I pushed through the last mile and took a break. Eating some of my energy chews downing some water, taking some salt pills and some Advil. I headed back. The journey home always seemed easier than the one down, have no idea why, but knowing each step brought me closer to my goal made it easier.
Just as there are writing forums there are running forums. I was looking forward to sharing my goal of running 20 plus miles with the other members. Even though this is a forum for ultra-marathon runners, this run in the snow would be a very respectable run. With a wry smile etched on my face, I envisioned sharing my tale with the others.
It is common in running for everything to hurt, sore back, sore legs and fatigue are all part of the game; pushing through them are what makes you or breaks you.
I got to mile 14 on my trip home with only 7 more to go. I cross a road here, the deep snow had been kicking my ass. I looked at the road and I looked at the snow covered path. My feet tingled with pain, my knees hurt, I was soaked in sweat and the cold winter air chilled me to the bone. I had to be realistic, the trail back through the woods is very remote and there is no access. Being tired and cold I decided that at 8 o’clock at night, maybe the road would make more sense.
I don’t train to run on pavement my 57 year old knees don’t seem to mind the dirt and trail running, but remind me of my age when pounded relentlessly on the hard surface.
I quit right there. In a fair measure of shame I had to admit that I wasn’t going to run my 20 miles tonight, instead I had a 7 mile walk home. I worked on my fast walk something that is part of the ultra-endurance running. It is common to walk up the steep parts of the mountain unless you are part of the 1 percent of the top runners. In 3 months I am signed up for a 50 mile run through woods with a lot of steep climbs, I figured this would be good practice. No matter how many ways I justified what I was doing… I had failed, failed myself and lost the joy of being able to brag about running 21 miles tonight.
While some might consider me a runner, I know all I have going for me is a lot of drive and determination. I know that while some consider me a writer, I know all I have going for me is drive and determination
Last night I had the privilege of learning my limits, I will have to work harder to improve… not just in my running but in my writing.