So last Saturday I got in a 20ish mile trail run. To leave it at that, however, would be a great disservice to the monumental training day that it was.
At dawn I met 12 or so CRUD runners at the Waldo Canyon trail head. The instructions were to get some altitude training by heading up Long's Ranch Rd, then Bob's, then Barr and the rest was to be determined. While the weekend before was my recovery weekend, a large number of the CRUDers ran the Collegiate Peaks 50 mile- making the fact that they were hitting the trails again all the more impressive. The group hung together most of the way until Barr Camp. Here, a meeting of the minds decided to push onward, at least to the Bottomless Pit sign, potentially to A-Frame-depending on trail conditions. So upwards and onwards we trekked.
While snowy in some areas, icy in others, we were all suprised at how runnable the trail was leading up to A-Frame. Here, John Courtney, Julian Smith, Paul Doyle, and myself discovered we had slowly distanced ourselves from the pack. While we hesitated for a moment or two, the snow speckled PIKES towering above against a crystal clear blue sky beckoned us. And since the forecast for the day was a 50% chance of rain, the conditions we saw were far too good to pass up. "I really want to take a shot at the summit," I offered. Apparently John had summited the weekend before and didn't hold back from proposing a scrambling route to the top. So, before any of us had time to consider the rationality of the decision, John took off and we all followed. Now although the temps were relatively mild (40's by best estimate) it was brought to my attention that I lacked a crucial piece of equipment-SUNGLASSES. Paul told me he once got a wicked case of retinal burn after spending a day in the snow without glasses and suffered for it the next day. Concerned but determined, I improvised the best I could. To be honest, I doubt that pulling my hat down to block some of my visual field or focusing on Julian's shadow in front helped much at all. However, it did make me feel a bit better and that was good enough to persuade me to continue. We trudged and trudged opting for stable boulders over snowy patches, with only the rare but unavoidable knee deep post-holing. The views were beyond words (take a look at the pics if you haven't already) and we fortuitously avoided any questionable weather that now lurked below us.
What an amazing feeling at the Summit house. No tourists. Just us and a handfull of employees getting ready for the ensuing rush of 300+ coggers. As we refueled inside, my eyes were already feeling the effects of a "retinal tan" (when did they install black lights at the Summit House?) and I was urged to borrow some money for shades on the way down. Equipped with my new "CHEAP SUNGLASSES" I was set to go.
Now, while the ascent could be described with plenty of great adjectives: awe-inspring, unforgettable, breathtaking (pun intended), I only truly became aware of the magic of the moment during the descent to A-Frame. As a group we represented a span of 4 decades (me in my 20's, John in his 60's), but we all went through an identical transformation during the next mile. This time, instead of dodging snow patches, we cruised the couloirs like they were our Autobahnen. Flirting with the limits of control, I found myself alternating between post-hole hurdling and sans-ski-skiing. Much to my surprise, John, the most senior member of our gang, was absolutely flying and was 20 yards ahead of everyone! As a pediatric physical therapist, I recognized what was happening immediately. During that mile, we had become 6 year olds again, laughing and pushing the limits of what our legs and bodies could handle. We slipped, we tripped, we fell, we laughed. Then we got up and tried to go even faster. It was pure PLAY.
I'll leave you with a couple quotes from one of my favorite books, Running and Being by GEORGE SHEEHAN, who dedicates an entire chapter to this phenomenon:
"In play, you realize simultaneously the supreme importance and utter insignificance of what you are doing. And accept the paradox of pursuing what at once is essential and inconsequential."
"Run only if you must. If running is an imperative that comes from inside you and not from your doctor. Otherwise, heed the inner calling to your own play. Listen if you can to the person you were and are and can be. Then do what you do best and feel best at. Something you would do for nothing. Something that gives you security and self-acceptance and a feeling of completion- even moments when you are fused with your universe and your Creator. When you find it, build your life around it."
and for you 80's fans...