Sunday, November 20, 2011

Scary Exhausted

I asked Nick if he wanted to go for a short run or hike on Saturday and he suggested Meyer's Ranch. Meyer's Ranch is a beastly trail that climbs 850ft in 2 miles then goes right back down. In terms of difficult climbs in our area, it's one of the easiest though. I've succeeded in running all the way up a whole TWO times. Walk breaks are not unusual here. But when he said Meyer's Ranch, I was totally thinking he said Flying J Ranch. Flying J is pretty much the easiest trail out here, though I would say it's harder than most in Kansas. So I'm thinking of Flying J until Nick realized that I was and corrects me. 

At this point I was thinking, "Ughhhhhh." I had been doing tough runs all week and wanted to run 20 on Sunday. This 4.4 mile run was not going to help. Before we got dressed, Nick asked me if I thought the trail would be icy. I didn't know. I hadn't been out there in a 3 or 4 weeks. I should have guessed though. The trail is on a north facing slope and the other trail in town (Flying J) was moderately icy. So of course we went out wearing our most minimal shoes, with puny tread. We were also dressed for 45 degree weather. 45 degree weather on a trail with sun. Not 45 degree weather on a north slope with wind. 

It wasn't too bad to start out, there's a steep ascent but it's fairly exposed so the ice wasn't bad, then it flattens out for a bit. About half way up, you reach a long steep hill. Of course it was incredibly icy the rest of the way. I was getting totally worn out going up hill, trying to keep traction and finding the best route through the ice and snow all at the same time. I took several walk breaks. And as we got closer to the top I started thinking about how much it was going to suck to come back down. I mentioned this to Nick and he just said, "I'll think about it when we get there!" Easy for him to say, I thought. He's not the one who falls on his ass every other day on much gentler slopes.

Fortunately, we were at the top before I knew it and I got a few minutes of flattish trail to relax on. The rest of the way the trail was a moderate downhill though and very icy. It was really slow going. We were taking baby steps and running on the side of the trail a lot, to gain traction on the unpacked snow. I ended up falling twice, both times on my butt, hands and elbows. The feel of the snow and ice on my ungloved hands was the worst. They were burning, and I later found out I had a bunch of tiny splinters in one hand. THOSE were fun to remove. No bad injuries though. Good thing there were no rocks under my tailbone!

Today, we went out to Golden, where I was theoretically going to run 20 miles with my friend Courtney. Courtney's fiancĂ©, Luke, told us that there was a pretty serious climb over the first few miles. I was a little worried after doing Meyer's Ranch yesterday, but I figured I would take some walk breaks going up and be alright once I got up the climbs. 

Apparently we took a wrong turn early in the run and we ended up having to ascend a short portion of trail that was EXTREMELY steep. Like, you had to use your hands steep. The biggest problem with it was that this short section of trail consisted solely of loose dirt. No rocks or roots to hold on to. So I found myself half way up the trail, frozen with fear. I was close to tears. In front of me and behind me was loose dirt. Off to my left was…air or a steeper fall off. I don't know. I just knew I thought I was going to die. So, as I clutched the trail, terrified, I removed one of my gloves to make it easier to grip…the loose dirt. And as I started moving again, I saw that Nick had come back to help me up. Thank goodness! I don't think I've ever been so scared on a run.

Once I got up I was so relieved but immediately started panicking when I thought I'd have to go DOWN that thing. I was reassured though, that we had simply made a wrong turn and that we wouldn't have to go back that way. Once everyone was up, David (Manthey) joked that he hoped there wouldn't be ice on the concrete. I laughed internally. Surely there's no concrete. We're on a trail 100ft above Golden! I was WRONG. It was no joke. All of a sudden the foot traffic slowed and I found myself on 1ft-wide concrete wall. On my left side, was nothing, until you hit the ground 100ft below. On my right side was a 3 ft drop to a grassy section. After a bit of walking on the wall, I decided, this is DUMB! I'm going to pee my pants or die. One of those things is definitely going to happen. So I was the first to hop off the wall to walk on the grassy section below.

To sum up the rest of the run, my legs were totally tired. I did ok for the first mile or so but ran out of juice. On top of that, I kept having fits of not-being-able-to-breathe. I don't know what the deal is. Maybe once I start feeling a LITTLE short of breath I have panic attacks or something, due to being frustrated about being short of breath, which just makes it worse. Stupid mountain asthma. That's what I've started calling my old lady wheezing problems. Anyway, once I finished most of the climb, walking most of the rest of the way, I decided to turn back with Nick. Leaving me with a whopping 6.16 mile run. That number is significantly different than 20. But I will get there. You just wait and see!

So there you have it. You have learned that I am afraid of falling on my butt on the ice, partly due to the fact that I broke my tailbone in FEBRUARY and it still bothers me. You may never again see me "plop" down on a couch. But that Saturday run definitely made me want to try the Kahtoola Microspikes. They're a little pricey and I used to just screw my shoes, but some of my shoes are a little too minimal to be screwed. So I will let them keep their maidenhood.

I also found out that I am WAY more afraid of heights than falling on my butt. I've improved a little bit though. I used to be terrified of ascending Hope Pass. But that's child's play compared to my experience today. I was pretty scared for parts of the Jemez Mountain 50k, but not paralyzed by fear like I was today. I don't have any plans to improve my fearlessness like I want to increase my mileage though. The next time I visit a new trail, I will be sure to ask if a) I will have to use my hands or b) I will be forced to walk on any trail narrower than 2ft across with a vertical drop on one side.


  1. Funny, I ran some of that same route yesterday when I dropped my car off at Subaru on Colfax: Subaru-Lookout-Apex-Green Mountain. It was later that morning though.

    If you run it again, there's a perfectly good singletrack trail through the woods all the way up to the Nature Center, which doesn't require shortcutting or hospital-defying walks. Just continue west from the Windy Saddle pull-off and stay on the trail (make sure you stay left at the Beaver Brook turn-off).

    Or if you want something longer, take Beaver Brook, which is fantastic. There are definitely some rocky parts with drops, but nothing like a 2-foot wall.

  2. soooooo. sunday was ridiculous. my hips still hurt! it wasn't bad ater the initial climb... but by then these hips were DONE!

  3. I have those microspikes - I wanted something better than yaktrax, and I really like them.

    We found a "shortcut" on the way back to the parking lot that eliminated the climb AND the wall - take a left over the water before going under the underpass.

    Nice to meet you!

  4. Ack, sounds epic in not an entirely fun way ...
    Bet the microspikes will be a purchase you'll be glad you made!