I’ve now skipped two long runs in a row because of my back, one that was supposed to happen last weekend, and one that was supposed to happen this weekend, putting me farther behind my schedule. Friday, I was feeling well enough to try a short, easy run up South Table Mountain (4 miles, pretty flat), and that went really well, so I figured I could try a longer one Saturday and start ramping back up. One thing I did want to change, though, is how I carry water- carrying a CamelBak on a sore back seemed like a bad idea, so I tried using a hand water bottle in each hand. Add a dog leash to that, and it’s a bit challenging! I figured this would be better because it wouldn’t be resting on my back, and would encourage me to carry less stuff, which is reasonable now that it’s summer. I think it will take some getting used to… and what I failed to think about was that extra weight hanging off my arms does in fact mean extra weight on my back, since my arms are attached to my upper torso. I’m so smart. SMRT.
We drove out to Pine Valley Ranch, where the race will be, to do a short run there and get a sense of what the course is like. We ran the first 4.5 and last 3 miles of the course. It was hard. The trail is nice and smooth, and it’s not too steep, but somehow it felt hard anyway. It could have been the heat, the new water configuration, or the fact that breathing felt like I was smoking a pack of cigarettes while running uphill. This run goes through several burn zones, as you can see in the photos, and it’s pretty desolate and open (which I actually like, you get better views, when it’s not smoky at least). The race proceeds go to the local fire department. So it shouldn’t have been surprising that there was an active fire upwind from us, and we ran through smoke. Somehow I thought when I left California that I wouldn’t be near as many wildfires, but it turns out there have already been several this year. The current one is actually in New Mexico, near the border, and it’s just so windy that the smoke is making it all the way here.
I’m glad I ran part of this course, so I know a bit more what to expect (hopefully minus the smoke). While I was disappointed to not be running 22 miles as originally planned for the weekend, I’m pretty excited that I can run at all, less than a week after a back injury that left me writhing on the floor. And I have to admit, there is still a part of me that is kind of amazed that I can go out for a “short” 6-10 mile run without feeling like it’s a big deal. Considering that just a few years ago, I was struggling to train up to 6 miles so I could do my first Olympic triathlon- an experience that did not go very well, and left me with unpleasant leg pain for a long time after. And that back in high school, I couldn’t run a single mile, which is why I stuck to the 100 meters and high jump. This has been a long, slow road to becoming a runner, but I’m really happy that I can get out in the woods (or burned stumps) and run for an hour or two, regardless of whether that meets my training goals or not. I’m also happy that I have some other things to look forward to this summer, so that if I don’t finish the 50K, that’s not the end. There’s the Aspen Backcountry Marathon in August, which Jenny, Tricia, and John are coming out for, so that should be lots of fun. And of course there’s Wasatch two weeks later, which I need to do some serious hill and darkness training for!