So, in my last note to you, I reveled in the post race flush of finishing the Canyons 25K upright and in one piece, i.e., no falling, tired but got the job done. That was one tough “go”, especially the uphill return trip to Foresthill and the finish. Next on the “Alps runcation” training schedule was the Paiute Meadow half marathon in May followed by the Waddle Ranch half marathon in June.
Neither run was quite the runner rush I was hoping for but I finished each, enjoyed the scenery and fellow runners – meeting the fellow who had the heart attack on “cardiac hill” at the Paiute – yes, he was still out there going for it – and was first in my age group at the Waddle Ranch. Prior to that race, Sean had asked me if I was going to uphold my “first in age group title”…..answer: yes AND I was not the last one to finish this year. It did get hot and my foot started bothering me the last few miles but again – got the job done. Reminder, the whole purpose of all this group run participation is to condition myself so that the “runthealps runcation” is enjoyable and I’m not gasping for air and whining about how steep it is, the whole time wondering why the heck I thought this was a good idea and going to be a fun thing to do.
That brings me to the Broken Arrow 26K at Squaw June 17. Peter sent me out there on back to back days to familiarize myself with the course and run the loop from Squaw out to Hwy 89 and back then, next day, up KT switchbacks, across the saddle and up what I now know is referred to as the “Ho Ch Minh trail” (HCM) in reference to a supply route through Laos during the Vietnam War that meandered through a sparsely populated region of rugged mountains. Although Squaw has no triple canopy jungle rainforests, you get the idea – rugged and challenging and UP hill! It is bsically the ski run from the top of Headwall chair to the saddle or the Sun bowl…..relatively easy ski runs.
I have skied at Squaw Valley for 50+ years and have never thought much about what the ski runs look like with no snow on them and never spent time at Squaw during the summer months. So, what a surprise!! I could see HCM in the distance from the top of KT and thought “wow, that looks steep”. I had Sierra, my little dog with me and once we got there and were slipping ansd sliding our way up the hill with poles, Sierra was looking at me with an expression that definitely conveyed “are you crazy??” When we finally got to the top, we sat down, had a drink and a snack and enjoyed the view – the whole purpose of going up. I was mumbling to myself, I will admit – “geez, I haven’t run one step; just slog, slog, slog! WTF!! (Reminder: Helen says that stands for “where’s the finish”.) But then there’s always that lovely run down. I sailed, relatively speaking, to the bottom of the Headwall chair and realized I had left my pack on a rock near Siberia. Since it had car keys and other vitals, like food and drink for me and Sierra, I turned around and thanks to Strava, was able to retrace my steps and retrieve the pack taking another hour+ that I hadn’t anticipated. It was a 5-6 hour day to go 8 miles. That night, I wrote Peter and said I thought maybe I was in over my head. His wise council: “remember the goal – run the Alps”; I’m not in the running to win the 25K although I admit, sometimes I fantasize about what a trip that would be!
In order to calm down and get more familiar with the whole Broken Arrow event, I talked Peg into volunteering with me to help out with the event. I went out on Wednesday and helped mark part of the course; we showed up on Friday to help move chairs around for the 52K prerace meeting and movies. We came back on Saturday and helped nourish runners who heroically finished the 52K. I was feeling inspired!! I can do this!
Sunday arrived – weather was now cold, rainy, threats of lightning in the forecast. What to wear. I layered up in rain gear – wool shirt, rain pants and jacket – and set off for Squaw. It was raining. Big deal – I like running in the rain. Once in the parking lot, I stretched, ran around a bit to warm up, and ran into Peter who was in shorts and a T-shirt – he gave me encouragement and said to go have fun. In the ladies restroom, I asked a young gal who was changing clothes if she was wearing rain gear. She gave me a surprised look and said no, she was wearing shorts! Somehow I missed all these clues and started the race way over-dressed and soon was peeling layers. The run out to 89 went fine and circled back to the bottom of a couple of ski runs that eventually head down to the Resort at Squaw Creek from top of the Red Dog chair. OMG – I had been out here marking this part of the course a few days ago….it somehow seemed steeper. Poles in hand, I thrashed my way to the top and finally headed down to the Easy Street aid station. A warm greeting and friendly faces!!! Was wonderful to get here, grab some Coke and keep it moving up the switchbacks to the top of KT. Not so steep….moving along fine.
At the top of KT, I was greet by a young fellow – Patrick – who “strongly advised” me to turn back as there was a real threat of lightning up on Squaw Peak. I’d read the weather report so his admonishment carried some weight. I hemmed and hawed. What if I just went across the saddle and see how things played out. Well, he wasn’t high on the idea. Was I the last one to reach KT? Well, he wasn’t sure. It was now 10:30am and it had taken me a bit longer than I thought it would to reach this point in the course. At the top of the Headwall chair was the metal ladder – Stairway to Heaven. With the forecast and warnings, I’m thinking this could be a figurative or literal “stairway” so don’t be stupid. I turned around and ran down to the bottom of Squaw – my first DNF ever.
For the next week, I second guessed myself – what a wimp, no guts, Julia would have said “damn the torpedos”, politely ignored the guy at the top of KT aside and run on to attack HCM. How could I be so dumb – over dressed and no finish!! What happened to my so-called “high closure need” – I always finish what I start……blah, blah, blah.
I have to say, Peter’s words kept coming back to me: remember the goal; you can’t go to the Alps if barbecued by lightning. Let it go, Carol. Stay alive to run another day. It’s not the end of the world. I think I’m still processing this whole series of events. I do know a few things: I will keep running, I will have fun, I will enjoy the scenery and all the people along the way and remember that every step is a gift.
Next up – the DPMR half in July and Sierra Crest in August