Short on Miles, Long on Time 
Sunday, October 5, 2008, 06:48 PM
Posted by Administrator
Paul was the run director for yesterday's Tucson Trail Runner's event at Charleau Gap. Being an out-an-back course, runners could go any distance they desired, up to 21 miles. Three weeks ago, I ran 17 miles and so my plan for today was to do 19. I liked the idea of doing my last few long runs on trail to minimize my risk for injury. However, this trail turned out to be a lot more technical than I expected. I've run parts of Charleau Gap three times in the past few years and had fond memories of a fairly runnable trail, well-shielded from the sun by the mountain. I don't know whether I have a poor memory or the trail has been changed in the past year by monsoon rains, but I did a lot more hiking, rock-hopping and sliding than actual running yesterday.

The run began at 6:00am, just as it was getting light out. Recent runs have started a bit later, but, for reasons of safety and good ol' peace and quiet, Paul wanted to minimize the time we had to share the trail with ATV'ers...and he was counting on them sleeping in. Knowing that I'm on the slow end of this group and not wanting Paul to have to wait for hours for me, I hopped out of the car and hit the trail, getting a 15-minute head start on the other seven runners (which is why I'm not in the photo above). My lead was short-lived, but I made it about 2 miles before the front-runners caught me.

There is a fair amount of climbing on the way out with lots of areas of loose rocks, making for slow-going. On the climb to the second gate, I leap-frogged with some dirt bikers who joked with me about a McDonald's at the top of the hill. When I finally reached the gate at the saddle, they had stopped for a snack and told me I was their idol for running the trail. Everything is relative in life. I may be a back-of-the-packer among trail runners, but my consolation prize is admiration from the dirt biking community!

After cresting the hill, the trail descends again. The welcome break for my aching hamstrings was tempered by the knowledge that this would be an ascent on the way back. About 7.5 miles into the run, I crossed paths with Renee who had recently turned around. We chatted and she took some photos before heading on her way. At this point, I started having doubts about my 19-miler. I had already been running about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and my hamstrings and ankles were not happy. (Note: My calves felt fine thanks to my new socks!) I was stuck on the idea that I HAD to do 19 miles to adhere to my training plan, but gradually rationalized that road miles and trail miles are not equal. My previous 17-miler took me 3:15 and, at this rate, this 19-miler was going to take me 5:30...which is longer than it will take me to do the entire marathon, unless something goes terribly wrong. So, at 8.6 miles, after deciding that time on my feet should be factored into my training plan, I turned around.

I had assumed that the way back would be much faster with all of the downhill, but I was slowed by the loose rocks. It seemed to take FOREVER! With two miles to go, I was thrilled to see Paul hiking back to meet me. My joy was short-lived, however, as he told me that Renee had fallen and broken her wrist. I felt terrible for her! She slipped on some loose rocks and landed on her bottom, but her wrist took the brunt of the fall. Luckily, Joel had just caught up with her and so she was not alone. And an ATV gave her a lift to the trailhead where an ambulance was waiting. Renee had surgery today and I'm sending lots of good thought her way for a quick recovery.

My legs are somewhat sore, but in a healthy way. My next and final long run before the marathon will be in three weeks. I don't have a plan yet, but, if it's on the road, then I'll shoot for 21 miles. If it's on trail...we'll wait and see how technical it is.
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