So Ash woke me up at 5:25 this morning, just 10 minutes before the alarm would have gone off. I managed to get out of bed, and prepped for my run, relatively easily today. Note: I weighed 137 this morning, ignore my previous gripe
First customer at Starbucks, walked out with my grande half-caf with peppermint syrup and cream. Mmm. Picked up new friend Barbara, and drove out to the trailhead. We were supposed to be seven, then it was four, and only three showed up (Tommy "Danger Boy" was the other one besides me and Barbara).
We wait for fifteen minutes in the freezing cold discussing rattlesnake encounters before we decide the fourth member is a no-show. Tom and Barbara laugh at how over-dressed I am - but this time, it is just for the trailhead. I strip off my pink fuzzy fleece and warm fleece hat to reveal a long-sleeve thermal top over my tank top, and a fleece headband for my ears. I keep my rainbow mittens on.
7:17: I set my watch to go off every hour to remind me to eat a gel (yes, I finally experimented with gels as I've been longing to do - and they worked impressively well!). Then I set the chrono feature to keep track of our time. And we're off!
Tom stays with us for awhile before taking off (he had a family get-together this afteronon in Bisbee and needed to get back in time to carpool). Barbara, who is faster than me, decides to stay with me for the run. We make sure to keep to the left at the many trail junctions in the first mile or so. She leads the way to the first hill - eroded granite, yuck! I immediately begin to walk. The sun still has not risen over the huge Rincon Mountains, but it is shining on the Santa Catalinas across the valley. I am smiling as I breathe heavily to propel myself up the hill. I quickly get too hot for the headband, and Barbara's lead lengthens as I fuss with taking my headband off, put on my visor and take off my gloves. The gently rolling terrain is beautiful and easily takes my mind off the hill I am climbing.
8:15: I am anxious, knowing the first hour is almost up, and I'll need to take my gel, which is buried in my camelback. I also have to take off the long-sleeve thermal shirt, and "water a bush." I call out to Barbara to keep going, as I find a nice shrub with no cactus under it to take a break. I am on an exposed ridge, with grasses waving all around me. The sun finally rose over the mountains in the five minutes prior to my pit stop. I stuff my shirt in my pack, and feel the breeze on my backside. I am very dehydrated. I grab my first gel, and take off, thinking Barbara is way ahead of me. I am surprised to find that she was a short distance off, having waited for me - very cool!
We begin the ascent in earnest. Stairstep after stairstep after stairstep (note to current and future trail-builders: please do not create stairs out of hiking trails. It hurts. Thank you). Switchbacks lead up to a ridge, and the views are ever-expanding. I am pushing myself. I watch Barbara glide through the waist-high golden grasses, swaying in the breeze, catching the sun as it glints off the tops of the stalks. I make a mental note to self: put sunglasses on head when driving to trailhead, even when it's dark out, to remember to take them on the trail. The sun glares off polished granite in the nearby, dry creekbed.
I begin to wonder why I like doing this. My body cries out to me to stop pushing myself, "Make it hike. You can stop on a hike. You can take your leisurely time on a hike. Why must you push yourself to go fast?! I know it's a 10-foot flat spot, please don't run it!" I begin to wonder where Tom is. I think we are close enough to the 6-mile turnaround point, Douglas Springs Campground, but no sign of Tom. I am with it enough to look around and realize we have made it out of cactus land, and into brush land. A few oaks dot the grassy hillside. I wonder how I ever thought it looked like an African savannah out here - there are too many bushes, too many cactus. I am grateful we didn't have to duck to avoid a swarm of bees, like Johnny and I did years ago - back when I backpacked the trail.
9:00: I wonder if we will make it to the campground at my targeted time of 2 hours. I doubt it. We being the undulating, up-and-down portion of the trail. I know we are close, but it seems so far away. Barbara takes off, not nearly as exhausted as I am. I have to walk a lot of the gentle downhill, and make another mental note to self: when body feels like hiking, slow the pace - it's telling you something: you are pushing too hard!
I keep checking my watch, worried over time, yet unable to move any faster. I finally turn a corner to see Barbara talking to Tom. "Are we there yet?" I whine, trying to make a joke out of my exhaustion. "Almost," replies a sweaty Tom. He makes sure we are well-supplied with gels before he takes off to catch his carpool to Bisbee. I know we are close.
9:13: Not there yet. Another saddle to cross before we begin going downhill to the campground. I see the hill where years ago, Johnny and I camped out under the stars. I kept my contacts in that night, so I could watch the stars shimmy and shake - and also make sure no animals were going to eat me!
9:15: Still not there. I push myself to make it before the 2-hour mark. Suddenly, I see a bathroom - we are there! We make it in 1:59:34 - before two hours!!! I am excited. I grab another gel, "water a bush" - I am still dehydrated - and pause for a moment to take a breath. Four minutes later, we head back up the hill.
I am exhausted. I can barely crawl up the hill. We top out, and Barbara begins running down the hill. I am speechless at the expansive views. I begin to jog, taking it easy. Each uphill I walk - slowly - and each downhill I jog. I smile, enjoying the views and the wind and the endorphins that are finally kicking in.
We pass three people. The first two ask how much farther to the springs. Neither Barbara nor I are with it enough to accurately answer. "Uhh, 25 minutes? 1 mile? 2 miles?" The third doesn't ask, and we are relieved.
10:00: I realize that we are on pace for me to stop at the same place I stopped on the way in to take off my shirt. I am excited. I jog at a decent place down the hill. My mental state is beginning to recover from the earlier exhaustion.
10:17: Once again, I wave Barbara on as I "water a bush" - this time I am well-hydrated. I grab another gel, pack up my handheld water bottle, and take off down the hill. I cruise over the smooth trail, seeing the fall colors in the creek-bed aspens that I missed on the way up. Three horses pass by s l o w l y, and I sit down to wait. I make another mental note to self: do not sit down during run - too hard to get back up!
We reach the eroded hill again, and I know we are less than 2 miles from the start. Barbara goes slowly down the hill, which gives me a good rest. I worry about our time, when we have to stop and wait for numerous people to pass, keeping in mind that uphill traffic has the right-of-way - even if I'm running pell mell down the hill. I notice that my knees are hurting a lot - especially my right knee.
We get to nice flatter trail, and I take off. I am feeling good, and I cruise down the trail. I laugh at all the hiker's faces as we come up on them, running - huffing and puffing even downhill. I see Barbara stop and walk over each of the large, rock water bars, and think to myself, "I don't have to walk. I'll just hurdle each one!" and promptly trip. THUNK! I caught myself on my left knee and both hands - not too bad. Plus, now, both knees hurt equally!
I go faster and faster till Barbara reaches the register - she signs us in, and I take the lead for the first time. I explain the significance of "onepinkfuzzy" as we race to the end - faster and faster and faster. Whew!
11:04: We made it in 3:48:15. Allright! Woo hoo! We are excited. Good job! We throw ourselves into my car, and take off down the road. We have to watch out for all the bicyclists, as it's El Tour de Tucson today. A huge contingent of thousands of bicyclists have converged on Tucson to ride the 109-mile perimeter. We make sure to not hit any of them, and no cars, either.
Raging Sage is our coffee-stop on the way home. I have an iced, decaf, non-fat mocha and Barbara orders an espresso con panna - 2 shots of espresso topped with whipped cream. We enjoy good coffee and good conversation before heading back to the car. I drop her off and head home.
I don't feel too exhausted or too sore yet. I'm sure I will tomorrow. Now I have to figure out how to get my miles in during Thanksgiving week! I need to take next weekend off - I understand now why it is suggested to do long runs every OTHER week. My muscles had a HARD time today! Overall, I am very satisfied with my run. Yay!