Trail running glory (and agony)

Today was a rest day, which means I ate everything in sight. Luckily we don’t keep much unhealthy food in the house, but we do have this:

It’s SO good. Plus it was on sale at Fred’s, which makes it even better.

It was a rest day because MM and I crammed a week’s worth of running into four days, since we were both sick the beginning of last week. We ran eight hilly (hilly!) trail miles Thursday, a nine-miler over the Coastal Trail Friday and a grueling 18-mile trail run with over 2,000 feet elevation gain on Sunday.

The shorter runs were great. The weather was warm, the pace steady. The 18-miler, no so much.

We ran the Powerline Pass Trail, starting from Prospect Heights trailhead, to give us extra hills. This was my idea. I often have such ideas; I don’t know where they come from.

The first 3.5 miles were straight up, with no respite. Well, okay, there was one place that dipped downward for a small space before relentlessly heading back up again. It’s one of my favorite trails, very open and vast, and I love running over each crest and encountering yet another hill spreading out before us.

The trail levels off near the Glenn Alps trailhead, which leads to Flattop Peak in one direction and Powerline Pass in another.

Near the Glenn Alps trailhead. See the powerlines? They stretch all the way over the pass and to Indian.

After a slight mile downhill, the trail climbs gradually and then more aggressively until it hits the pass. The clouds increased in as we hit higher elevations and soon we were walking in fog. Everything looked gray and dreary and I was tired and my legs felt like lead and even though it was incredibly beautiful, it was a cold and aloof beauty. I felt small and vulnerable and alone, even though MM was with me.

So of course we fought. Well, I fought. I argued and whined and complained and MM ran alongside of me and wisely kept his mouth shut until finally I shouted, “Say something.”

I was bonking, not so much from lack of nutrition but lack of mental focus. I kept running but it was a dispirited motion; there was no joy in my steps. And we were still running uphill.

But finally we reached the pass. We power hiked up through heavy scree until we reached the snowfield and then we turned around and looked out over the valley and the immense views. And we saw nothing. The cloud cover was so low that we could barely see in front of us.

There are mountains in the background, trust me.

I perked up on the way back. It was mostly downhill and we were running toward the light. Toward the sun! It feel like a mild redemption. (Did I mention we were running mainly downhill?) The cloud cover lifted and the light opened up and I felt happy again.

It’s funny how many moods I shift through during a long run, how my ego slowly drops away (though rarely without a battle), how I lose myself in the cadence of my body, in myself.

Still, I’d like to learn to handle the messier emotions more tactfully, especially for poor MM’s sake. I’d like to be able to stay mentally strong, even when I’m feeling weak. I’d like to realize, while caught in the moment, that that’s okay to give in to my emotions, that in a few minutes or a few miles, it will be over, another mood will strike and I’ll be lost inside whatever it brings.

What this run brought was a chance meeting with a cow moose around mile 16. We could hear one of her calves grunting in the brush and knew to keep our distance. The mosquitoes feasted on our sweaty arms and legs but still, it was nice standing there in the sunlight, the mountains stretching out around us as we waited for a moose to lumber off the trail.

I have two races scheduled for this week: The Anchorage Running Club’s Master 10K on Wednesday (reserved solely for “mature” runners, and one of the perks of getting older) and the Her Tern Half Marathon on Sunday. More about each later. Right now I’m going to sleep.

Hope you are all dreaming of fast feet and mountain trails.

7 thoughts on “Trail running glory (and agony)

  1. egb

    Great photos. You are not alone on the mood swings during long/hard efforts. I was so proud of my other half recently because he didnt swear in a race until after mile 5. Such progress.

    I love the race for 'mature' runners. Good luck!


  2. Mary

    I have those mood swings too. Generally brought on by my frustration because I am not performing the way I want to. My husband has learned to recognize the “Princess” moments and to ski carefully away.


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