My Hardest Run To Date

I’d been feeling fatigued from all the frequent climbing and long miles and when I added on the one hour track race on Thursday night, I really wondered if I was doing myself a disservice by pushing a bit on the pace. I hadn’t felt quite like myself yesterday and had mentioned to my husband that I might want to cancel my Saturday run with my friends. He encouraged me to go ahead and do it, since I have Big Horn awaiting me in 5 weeks.

So, this morning, I met up with several friends to run a 13-14 mile run. It was a little chilly and windy when we started, but very humid at about 7:00 am.  I knew things were going to be challenging when in the first half mile, both of my calves started to cramp in protest at the pace (which honestly wasn’t overly fast – it was just overly fast for my legs in their fatigued condition.) I could not keep up. I took an S! Cap and drank some water and even took a GU, thinking I could correct the fatigue with good fuel.  It didn’t really help.

Within minutes, most of my friends were far ahead and I was way at the back hiking the uphill. Since we were running in the Boise foothills, this was just one of many long, slow climbs to come.  I’d been training in these very hills quite a lot in the last several weeks, but today was just not my day. I couldn’t seem to find the ability to get moving at even a reasonable pace.

My friend, Billie, came back to run with me for a few miles and since she is struggling with a sciatic nerve problem, we took turns sharing our woes of the day. It was fun to have her company.  I took out my camera and snapped a few photos of the breathtaking views and of the two of us.  After a while, we could see the summit and the treeline, so Billie (who is a much better uphill runner than I am) went ahead and headed up to the top, so see if she could catch the rest of our group, whom we hadn’t seen for some time.   That was the last time I saw Billie for hours.

When I very slowly made my way to the summit, I was grateful to be amongst gorgeous, lush pine trees. There was even some snow on the ground! I looked ahead hoping to see a pal, so I could have them take a funny picture of me making a snow angel — but I didn’t see anyone. I took a couple pictures, then headed on down the trail, feeling more hopeful. I found a strange setup.  There was what looked like a bit of a campground with several lawn chairs of various bright colors sitting around – but nothing else. No cars, no people, no tents – just these 5 or 6 lawn chairs sitting in various spots around the makeshift campground.  Odd! Since I didn’t see anyone around, I thought this would be a good time to hit the bushes before I saw my friends again.  After a little visit to Mother Nature’s bathroom, I started to walk towards a big wide open, green gate, that I assumed my friends had left open for me to signal the correct way to go next.  I headed through it, and started walking uphill through a few inches of snow and mud. I climbed until I was at a high solar-powered tower, far above the city.  The view was spectacular! But… after walking all around the top, I could not find the next part of the trail.  It was a dead end.  I pulled out my cell phone and called Billie to let her know I needed some guidance, but got her voicemail (I would find out later her cell phone had been left in the vehicle and was not on her.) I had already called two more of the running group, but also got only voicemail.  I started to feel nervous. I was wondering where everyone was and here I was on this super high point and could not see another person for miles.

I thought logically about it and went back down to the camp site and looked around for another trail. I found out and started to run on it. My stomach was giving me problems, though, so even though this portion was downhill (my favorite) I had a hard time doing more than quick walking it.  Within minutes, I ran into two of my friends (who were not part of the earlier group, but who were out enjoying some time on the trails, too.) It was such a relief to see my friends, Ryan and Michelle!  Ryan said the others were only about 10 minutes ahead.  Then we started to chat and chat some more. The conversation was lively and fun, but I soon realized that my other friends were getting further and further away as we spoke. We had chatted about 10 minutes, when I took off downhill to find the others.

Within a few minutes, I could no longer see Ryan and Michelle and was at another fork in the trail. Which way to go? I had no idea! I started to panic a little, since I’ve never actually ran in the trails solo before and am not very familiar with the names or how they connect to one another – especially in this portion.  I really missed my friends. I realized I usually just follow whoever is in the lead when we do these group runs and really don’t know how to navigate myself very well. Now I was a follower without a leader.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I started to cry. I didn’t mean to, but once I started, it was hard to stop. I felt so lonely and scared and wasn’t sure what to do. Finally it occurred to me that I could call my husband at home. I just needed to hear his reassuring voice and tell him how scared I was. He picked up the phone right away and worked his magic with me. He soothed me and calmed me down and helped me get some perspective.  I reminded him that I had a Ridge to Rivers Trail Map right on my desk and asked if he could find the spot I was at and see which way I should go. Wayne is entirely the opposite of me when it comes to navigation – he excels at it.  Before long, I was running along again, though much slower. I was feeling kind of defeated.  I started thinking, “What in the world am I doing training for a 50 mile race when I cannot even keep up with my friends on a casual 14 mile run?!” I really started to wonder if I should just cancel my trip to Big Horn, feeling that I really wasn’t cut out for this ultra running business after all.  They say running is a mental sport and I guess you could say at this point, I was losing the battle of the mind.

After having several good trail runs in a row, I guess I was due for such a bad one.  But it was hard to think that clearly out in the heat with the sun beating down on me, wondering when I’d ever get off the darn mountain and back to civilization.  I called Wayne at the next junction for directions, and hoped that his advice was correct. Since he’s never been on these trails, he was doing his best, without really knowing if he was guiding me back to my friend, Randy’s house or not.  Because of this uncertainty, I felt it was hard to run. I walked a lot, doubtful if I was still on the right trail or not.

Not long after this last phone call (my watch said I’d been running for nearly 4 hours by this point and I hadn’t seen Billie for more than 2 hours), my phone rang.  It was Billie!! I was so happy to see her name on the screen! She asked if I was ok, and I started to cry. I told her I was lost, but that Wayne was trying to guide me back.  She handed the phone to my friend, Randy, who tried to talk me through the rest of the route home. Turns out, Wayne had done a very good job and I was on the right path.  That was the best news ever!!! I felt like a giant weight had lifted off my shoulders and my feet were ready to run again, knowing I really was headed in the right direction and would see my friends soon. My friend, Seth, even put his running shoes back on and headed back on the trail to come and find me.  That made me feel better too.

Within half a mile, I found Ryan and Michelle again on the trail. I really have no idea what route they took, but they’d gotten ahead of me, but hadn’t passed me on the way. I just wanted to hug them both!  We walked and ran together for a bit and it was nice to forget my worries and just be with friends again.  Soon, Ryan and I were jogging along, and my legs seemed to flip a switch to “Happy Zone” and I was able to easily run downhills again.  Before long, we saw Seth running at us and I said, “The Search and Rescue is here! Thank you!”  Seth joined us as we headed back down the mountain.  I took off quickly, bombing down the hill, with a smile on my face and joy in my heart again.  Seth yelled out, “Whoa Whoa! CAREFUL!” since I was running so fast. I laughed and yelled back over my shoulder, “I won’t fall, Seth! This is just how I run downhills!” 😀  That was a fun moment! I felt like ME again! A little stronger, quicker and surrounded by people I care about and enjoy.

Seth and I ran strong the whole way back to the house, where, Randy greeted me with a nice, big hug.  I felt better. Everything was going to be ok. It sure was a tough one out there, though. I think I’ll take a rest day tomorrow and enjoy the yummy Coke that Randy gave me when I left his house. When I got back home and saw my husband, I just melted into his arms and said, “You were there for me, honey, when I really needed you. Thank you so much for helping me when I got lost. I love you a ton!” I hugged all five of my kids, who’d been worried about me and it was so very good to be home again.

Stats: 15.40 miles (plus about 1/4 mile more when I walked back to find Billie, Ryan and Michelle and to share my ice water with them and chat as they made it back to the house.) Pace: 18:30 actual time  (15:09 moving pace.)  Total time: 4:45:07. Moving time: 3:53:24. Elevation Gain: 3,491 ft (the most I’ve done in the last two months in one run.) Average Heart rate: 145. Max Heart Rate: 205 (the highest I’ve seen yet.)  Felt: Awful, tired, fatigued, but came back to life with a second wind and finished strong and happy.

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