Last weekend’s long run was expected to be hard. I had a point to make to myself. We were going to Herman Gulch, a beautiful and really tough run the begins around 9,000 feet above sea level. Saturday marked only the third time I’d run Herman Gulch.
The first time I ran it was following the Pikes Peak Ascent last year. Although I was in great shape, probably the best shape of my life up to that point, it whooped my behind, completely owned me. Back then, I didn’t care, wasn’t training for anything at the time; so it didn’t matter. I was just there for the ride.
The second time I ran it was the week following my first fall this season. I was technically not yet allowed to run but got Ryan to very grudgingly agree that I could run uphill if I hiked or walked back down. Well, that day, the trail itself was about enough to do me in. The mud, snow, and frigid wind about a mile up Jones Pass nearly had me in tears at one point.
This time, I was sure to get to bed a few nights beforehand because I wanted to be able to give it my all up the trail to Herman Lake. I’ve been feeling the strongest I’ve ever felt on trails the past few weeks, and our long run last weekend was to be a test of just how far my training has brought me.
Saturday morning, I was focused on one thing and one thing only: NOT allowing Herman Gulch to whoop my arse yet again. Apparently, my focus was misinterpreted when I picked Joe up. “You look like I feel.” “Huh? I fell OK.” And I did. I felt focused.
About half way up, I hit my first speed bump of the day when I realized that I had, ugh, forgotten my Garmin watch. Really? REALLY, Meliss?! I was instantly irritated. Whether I did or didn’t run well, having my stats was important to my training. Seriously?! UGH!
Strike two came shortly after we got to the trailhead, and it was worse than I could have imagined, worse than any of my trail running faux paus in the past. We started walking the trail to warm up a minute or two before our run when I thought to check the front pocket on my hydration vest one more time for peace of mind. Only, I didn’t find peace of mind. . .or my car key.
WHAAAAA THAAAAA?! SERIOUSLY?!!! Why did I put the key in the front pocket? I never do that! Why didn’t I put it in the back pocket? WHY?!
Joe later said he knew my key wasn’t there from the look on my face in that moment. After retracing our steps carefully twice – to no avail - and a desperate phone call to the most awesome roommate ever in the history of the universe who agreed to get my spare car key from our old apartment and set aside a full agenda to drive up I-70 about an hour outside of the city to rescue us, we were finally off and running.
Maybe it was feeling angry at myself for losing my car key, maybe it was feeling upset that I didn’t have my watch. Who knows, maybe it was my training. Whatever it was, I started running up the first steep and technical section of the trail. . .and I didn’t stop. Not once. I had never done that before. Insert closed-mouth, ear-to-ear grin here.
As if that weren’t enough to raise a girl’s spirits after a bumpy morning, I reached a pair of hikers once the trail leveled off to a flat spot. One turned when he heard me coming up behind them and asked, “Did you happen to lose a car key?” I stopped in my tracks, and I’m pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head the most they ever had despite of my decades-long romance with horror and thriller films.
“YES! Yes I did! Did you find it?!” They did. Turns out they parked right next to us and found my key about five vehicles toward the trail head. They told me where I could find it; and after profuse ‘thank yous’ – about fifty on my behalf and a hundred more on behalf of my roommate who would no longer need to give up a Saturday to save a careless damsel in distress – and one giant hug, I headed back to the parking lot.
Much to my relief and more than momentary elation, I found it exactly where they told me I would!
I took a minute to put it in the pocket where it belongs – the pocket in the back, where I always put it except today for some reason – to call my roommate and share the good news and offer him profuse ‘thank yous’ for his willingness to help me out no questions asked, and to pay my good fortune forward by lending my phone to a woman in the parking lot who couldn’t get reception on hers.
And, of course to take my only picture of that trail run. Gorgeous, clear blue skies and snow caps in the distance – so much prettier a view than the broken asphalt between ol’ Sal (my car) and the EEW-inducing outhouse!
And then, I headed back up the same trail – up the long, steep section marking the beginning of the trail. . .again. Small price to pay for peace of mind!
Maybe it was feeling relieved and fortunate for the good people who returned my car key, maybe it was feeling excited that I made it up the first steep section of the trail earlier without stopping. Whatever it was, I ran up the first steep and technical section of the trail. . .and only stopped once. And, when I got to it, I ran up another steep section of trail without stopping once – I had never done that before.
Had I an ounce of extra energy left in my body at that point, you could have inserted a closed-mouth, ear-to-ear grin here. But, I didn’t; so don’t worry about that.
At the end of the day, it was a good day. Guess all’s well that ends well. . .with a car key.
Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.