It’s funny what some people consider a blessing, others consider a nuisance, and vice-versa. People with curly hair, straighten it. Others with straight hair, curl it. For me, my hair grows incredibly fast. That bugs the heck out of me because I’m have to constantly cut it. My fingernails also grow very quickly – some girls’ dreams. I’m not one of those girls. I hardly ever paint my nails. Instead, I’m continually hunting down a fingernail file to shorten them. Point is (right now), it’s pigtails time. I can’t get out for a hair cut, so for the first time in a while, I needed to put my hair in ponytails for this morning’s run. Perhaps I should just grow my hair long again, then I won’t be annoyed by this. Oh, the dilemmas in life!
Since today is the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States, I didn’t have to work. And since this is “easy” week, I keep my runs to ten miles and under (Oh, okay, maybe I will run a tad over ten miles). Anyway, ten miles – the choice was easy. Holy Jim Trail. My ultimate goal on this grind of a trail is 1 hour thirty minutes, CONSISTENTLY. In the Twin Peaks Ultra, I will run up Holy Jim at about mile 15.
As long as a year ago, I ran this uphill trip in a little less than two hours, 1:50 something. Semi-recently, my best was 1:42. Then last weekend, while aiming for 1:40, I managed to eek out 1:37 (I contribute this to the fact that I was chasing, trying to keep up with, my running friend). Today, I thought I’d up my goal running to the top of Holy Jim, which is at the Main Divide, a place called Bear Springs, to 1:35. (Bear Springs by the way, is the location where the last grizzly was killed in these mountains. A little bit of history here, in the late 1800’s the bee keepers who resided in this canyon, Cussin’ Jim among them, became fed up with the bears destroying their honey bee colonies. Thus “they” set out to kill these bears and hunted down the last grizzly at Bear Springs).
Finishing up the last of my coffee before hitting the porta-potties and pressing the “Start” button on my garmin. Notice how many cars are in the lot at 7AM. Not usual, but being a holiday, a lot of people came out to the mountains:
I set out up Holy Jim at a faster pace than usual. Two hikers made their way behind me. I also passed about 5 hikers making their way up, quickly into my run. The skies were overcast at first. But as soon as I hit the switch-backs, I began to rise above the mist. On the switch-backs I also noticed those two hikers that I started off with were gaining on me. I thought, “I’M NOT GONNA LET THEM PASS ME.” Yes, I was yelling (inside my head anyway).
Just when I thought I’d lost those two hikers (by the way, I think they were the fastest hikers in the world), I’d catch a glimpse of this male/female team not more than ten feet behind me. Yikes!!! Whenever I caught a glimpse of them (nipping at my heels!) I’d take off on a sprint stronger than I could handle (but I handled it).
Their superb hiking abilities were really stressing me out. I had to come up with a plan to shake them for good. I knew that a few down hills approached when I switched ranges. And I thought, “They’re hiking, so their pace downhill will be only slightly faster than their normal pace. I’m running; I’m going to haul ass down those hills.” And that is just what I did, and at every glimpse back, I could no longer see them.
Soon after losing the hikers, I spotted a mountain biker up ahead walking his bike up the trail. I noticed that he turned back to see me and hopped onto his bike. Then we played the same game that I did with the hikers. There was no way this biker was going to let a runner pass him. And every so often on a switch-back he would glance back and see me. That’s when I’d see him pick up his speed. I finally caught up with the cyclist at the base of that final terrible uphill to Bear Springs. I glanced at my watch a little disheartened because I thought I wasn’t going to make my goal. I said, “I hate this part!” And the cyclist replied, “Me too, and I have to push my bike up to it!” I PLOWED up that hill, groaning outloud, “Come on Lauren! Come on!!!” And can you believe it???? I slapped my hand down on the trail marker and quickly looked at my garmin. 1:35. Goal Accomplished!
I chatted with the mountain biker for a bit. Then glanced down to see those two amazing hikers approach. Once they made it to the top, I learned that they are training for a Mt. McKinley hike this fall.
I ran as fast as I could manage on the way down Holy Jim. Tripping HARD three times and meeting up with dozens of hikers, I slowed at times. The downhill trip took 1:04. I really think there’s room for improvement there, especially after I get my pivot down on the switch-backs. Once on a pivot, I met up with a mountain biker, and I almost ran off the trail. He said I did it very “gracefully.” Funny!