Welcome 2013. It’s nice to meet ya!
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I like to look back, but only briefly. And I like to look forward, but not too far – it freaks me out, makes me anxious. What I do like is starting over, setting back my running log to ZERO. I REALLY like starting over. Monday has always been “start over day” for me. But in reality, every single day is start over day (in that sense, every single hour is start over hour, every second is start over second.) A new year though, brings out the strongest sense of a new beginning. Starting a new running spreadsheet with zero recorded, really makes that hit home. I feel I have a blank slate, not only with running, but in life. I have more lessons to learn, opportunities to grow.
This morning I woke for the first run of the year. It took me five days to get out a run in 2013 because we are still in “celebration” mode here. The boys are on Christmas vacation, as am I. We took in a few hikes, some good food, etc. It seemed so long since I ran, it almost felt like I wasn’t a runner. Nah. I knew all I had to do was get those feet moving and I’d be on my way up the mountain. That’s how I did it this morning, one foot in front of the other, up Maple Springs Road, then The Main Divide to Modjeska Peak, for an 18+ mile out-and-back. And what an adventure it was. The mighty mountain taught me a few lessons, and beat me up quite a bit in the process.
The run up Maple Springs Road was lonely and beautiful. It was cold, with spots of snow here and there. The creek ran slightly heavier than usual. I bundled up to keep warm, wearing two pairs of shorts, two warm shirts, a beanie and gloves, plus my new compression socks which surprisingly do a terrific job keeping my legs warm.
Very quickly, the road filled with snow and ice. At first it wasn’t thick, but it was tremendously icy. I learned almost immediately to run the trail edges, to stay in the white stuff.
white stuff (fluffy snow): good
white stuff (chunky snow or with vegetation poking through): good
Slushy mud: okay
ice: bad, very bad
black ice: (that is clear ice that you can’t tell is ice): downright evil!
I met three mountain bikers making their way up Maple Springs. One of them rode right up. The other two struggled as I did, slipping and sliding, finding our way to make it through the terrain. Two dirt bikers also passed by, and one of them slid so closely to me, I fretted for a second he was going to run me over, perhaps knock me off the mountain.
Gradually, more mountain bikers made their way up, the majority struggling. And gradually I got my groove, having slipped several times, I made pretty good time “staying in the white.” That is running in the fluffy snow that lined the trail’s edge. Sometimes that meant running along the cliff, other times up against the mountain wall.
I nearly made “Four Corners” injury free. And then it happened. I can’t recall exactly what occurred. But I do know that I slipped. And then I fell. My previously injured right wrist slammed into the ice, as did my right butt cheek. On impact I slid haphazardly down the road, stopping when I hit the white fluffy stuff. I pushed myself up, brushed off the snow and continued running up to “Four Corners,” which was full of mountain bikers, and empty of snow.
With only a mile and a half to Modjeska Peak, I figured I’d be running down in no time. I fretted a little over going back down Maple Springs. But my feet soon forgot that fret since I was now running on dirt, glorious dirt toward The Main Divide.
It wasn’t long on The Main Divide when I hit snow again, ICY snow. I’d run along, then the “white” would end and I’d need to run across a patch of dirt or carefully maneuver across ice to get to the fluffy white stuff. I struggled, to say the least!
Eventually a man ran ran down The Main Divide toward me. He must have seen the distress in my face, as this was all he said, “Stay in the white!!!” Believe me. I already knew that. (But not well enough!)
I came across more mountain bikers on The Main Divide, some of them verbally worrying about the trip to Santiago Peak. I phoned my husband (yes I got reception!) and I continued with one foot in front of the other, RUNNING. A slow run, yes, but running nonetheless.
Though only a mile and a half to Modjeska Peak from “Four Corners”, I was alone for a long time. A half mile distance probably took me fifteen to twenty minutes. And then suddenly and surprisingly two other runners ran down The Main Divide toward me. What a surprise! We chatted trails together, exchanged names, and turned out, I knew one of them. I am “virtual” friends with Self Inflicted. Imagine that, we meet on a snowy mountain on a cold winter morning, seemingly in the middle of nowhere (funny thing is, I saw Self Inflicted’s run posted on Facebook and thought, “Too bad the meeting place is so far away, else I’d probably go.”) Funny.
After departing Self Inflicted and Eric, the snow and ice thickened a great deal. I ran down the middle “in the white stuff” when it ended, I found my way to more fluffy snow. But due to a second’s loss of focus (YES, A SECOND!) I found myself running on black ice. BAM! My left knee slammed into that ice so hard, the first thing that crossed my mind was BROKEN KNEE CAP. The solid smooth black ice broke and tore at my skin, drawing blood. Instantly after the knee impact, my left wrist slammed down, allowing the ice to tear a chunk of skin off my palm.
I could not move for a moment. I had to get my “wits,” get some air back into my lungs. Laying there on the ground I saw several mountain bikers slipping their way uphill, one of them straight toward me. “I can’t move,” I said to him. He continued heading straight toward me. I didn’t realize that he couldn’t control his direction. “I can’t move,” I said again (I really could not), but then realized that was moot. I kind of slithered to the side as he slowed and made his way by me. Several other cyclists came up behind him, all asking if I was okay. I said that I just needed to get my “wind.” But I stood up anyhow, so that they could see and be on their way without worry.
Surprisingly, I was able to walk with minimal pain. And even more surprisingly, I ran the last quarter or mile or so to Modjeska Peak.
Modjeska Peak was under direct sunlight and void of snow. Santiago Peak from a far looked snowless, but I knew that trail up was shady and would be icy and snow filled as well. I ran to the edge of Modjeska, past the small cluster of towers and took in the majestic views as a Sheriff’s helicopter hovered above.
I headed back down The Main Divide cautiously, but confident. Mountain bikers making their way up, questioned me about the terrain, and I honestly told them, “It’s icy, it’s difficult.” Some of them turned around. Some of them made the trek. And some of them made the trek to turn around a little later and meet me on the way down.
I met some more familiar faces from today’s adventure at “Four Corners.” They headed down Harding Truck Trail on their mountain bikes, and I ran onward down Maple Springs. I was an expert at running this snowy ice by now. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t cocky. I ran yes, but I was cautious, and I focused. When I ran the snow-free, sunny part of the mountain I experienced pure joy. What would have normally been hard was a relief. And I thought, “Isn’t this just how life is? You go through the hard parts, then later, other times don’t seem so tough.”
With about 4 miles remaining, my knee ached pretty badly. I didn’t want to take any ibuprofen however (for reasons that I may or may not bore you with later). With about three miles remaining, hikers making their way up began asking me (again and again, seriously) “How far til the end?????”
I thought to myself, “The end? Where’s the end?” I didn’t want to be a smart ass, so I asked, “The end of the paved road?” They would say “Yes,” and I looked at my garmin and told them with a smile. And as I ran that terribly long last couple miles in, I lamented on where’s the end? Is it “Four Corners?” Is it Modjeska Peak? Santiago Peak? Ortega Highway? Heck you could keep going around the world and end up exactly where you’re at, and that’s the end. When the last couple (a man and woman) asked me how much longer until the end, I had the urge to respond, “You are at the end. You are at the beginning and at the end.” But I did not respond such. Instead, I glanced at my garmin and told them, “two miles.”
TIPS: Where to run in snow & ice . . .
Happy New Year!!