I have changed in the three some years since i have taken the sport of distance running seriously. Three years ago I had averaged nearly 80 miles a week for 4 months in preparation for my first planned Ultra. A massive injury, Masters Degree and teaching career later, I had run only around 60 miles a week for the previous four months and had done only one Ultra specific workout. A back to back set of 20 milers Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning a month prior to the race. I wanted to continue exploring Diné Biyeah and to finally dip my toes into the outrageous world of ultra marathons. The result was a nearly perfect day. One of those days filled with numerous moments which I'll never forget.
The trail continued and it was soon apparent that the landscape would not permit anyone to develop an easy rhythm. As you may be able to deduce from the pictures, this course was stunning and technical. It was not one in which you could get into a consistent rhythm. The trail and landscape required far too much attention for that.
A runner who I later learned to be Jedediah who briefly closed to within inches of me close to the turn around point both beat the volunteers to the turnaround point near Rainbow Bridge National Monument. On most of the return trip I was predominantly power hiking the significant inclines. Once returning to Bald Canyon I had a tough sunny climb up awaiting me. Getting to the top I turned and screamed into the wilderness. I would not have enough breath or energy to scream in only a few miles. I still couldn't see my competitor and at that point I knew it was going to be my race to lose. My father and my dog who had hiked in were there to meet me and we traded out water bottles.
The next landmark was the trailhead aid station/finish of the ten mile race. The group of volunteers, EMS, runners and the race director's presence provided a brief surge of adrenaline only to be met by the reality of a lonely and primarily uphill return to the finish line. At this point the effort to run even a slight incline had increased so exponentially that I seriously worried that after leading the race for 37 miles I would be past in the home stretch. Nonetheless I was doing everything that I could and moving forward with walking breaks which were often longer than my running sections became my new reality. Just before returning to the pavement the RD and my father passed me in their cars and I was able to muster enough sheer will power to "run"the final mile of the race. You can see below the flexibility with which I am using the word "run".
I'm not sure if I'll be back to defend my title, however I know I'll backpack that trail in order to appreciate the landscape at a more leisurely pace! It is tempting because I'm almost certain that I could improve my time with a little more specific training. I am however committed to taking one goal at a time for the moment.