I decided last week that I needed to take my training to new heights, literally. To get faster, I needed to incorporate some altitude gains into my running repertoire. Surely, if I can run uphill I will have an easier time on the flats, and it’s bound to boost my pace. For this, my standard loop around my subdivision is no longer sufficient. I elected to move my training westward toward the mountains, into the ominous Boulder canyon. The sides of the canyon are intended for rock climbers and/or deranged uber athletes only, so I smartly kept to the gradual incline of the half paved, half groomed trail on the canyon’s floor. This is one of my all time favorite Boulder destinations, a beautiful glimpse into the splendor that is the Rocky Mountains.
Here it is almost possible for me to lose myself and my multiple running afflictions in the picturesque landscape. Almost. The visually captivating scenery is breathtaking, but so is the uphill ascent and on a windy day I might as well go running through a garbage heap for all the sights I’m able to take in. Fortunately, the weather last Thursday was gorgeous with no wind to speak of and I was primed to begin my uphill adventure in the great outdoors.
From the park at the entrance to the canyon path, it’s a slow but steady incline for two miles, then you turn around and can enjoy the downhill romp back to your car. The entire path runs beside the scenic Boulder Creek. The other thing enticing about this particular trail is that after battling through 2 miles of uphill terrain, the turnaround marking the end of the uphill portion of the trail is equipped with 2 glorious port-a-potties. I love this trail!
Shortly after exiting the parking lot, I began to question the sanity of my decision to start my uphill training with something called a “canyon.” Why not start with a mere “hill” or “some stairs?” Too late to debate. My canyon proved a worthy adversary and I had to stop 4 or 5 times on the way up, when my body refused to humor me with this foolish enterprise any longer. To heighten my sense of defeat, my running app mocked my performance along the way by announcing every 5 minutes how much farther I’d fallen behind my usual pace. When I finally made it to the end, my spirits were at least lifted by the comforting sight of the port-a potties. Like being greeted by a good friend who knows the hardships you’ve endured, they were a reassuring boost to my confidence because I didn’t need them. With renewed enthusiasm I was ready to tackle the return trip. The downhill jaunt back to the car was much easier and at times I even felt fast. Tissues in hand, I bravely smiled and nodded reassuringly at other runners still trapped on the uphill leg of the trip. I chose to ignore the downhill runners who easily passed me like shooting stars rocketing through the night sky. I was fast for me and I have my pride. While I made significant strides in recapturing my desired pace, the damage done by my uphill efforts proved too vast a margin to overcome.
I dragged my son out to the canyon with me on Saturday, lured with the promise of swimming after we finished my run. He was not amused. He claims I tried to kill him. The worst part about the experience for me was when he’d give up and just slow to a walk. This wouldn’t have bothered me if he had dropped behind my pace, but he quickly discovered he could speed walk and still hang beside the uphill me. I told him to stop doing that, and that it made me feel really bad to have him walking beside me instead of even trying to run, but it was a futile plea. He was a kid who had just discovered the irresistible new game of embarrass the parent, and he was bound by the universal code of children everywhere to uphold his duty and humiliate with abandon. Carpe Diem, my son! Much as I would have done in his shoes, he lost no opportunity to show off his walking strut to every car and passerby we encountered. His enthusiasm made me proud. Not to be outplayed, I found myself shouting a mixture of my iPod lyrics and inspirational phrases at him, like “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!” and “Move like Jagger!” and “Can’t nothing bring me down–I’m a room without a roof!” I even tried to prod him forward with my tale of the port-a-potties at the end, but he was underwhelmed. All in all, he actually did great and ran about half of the way up and back. I ran slightly more, but as I value my alone time with my son more than my running career, and I was not fully in the mood to scar him for life, I had to abandon any serious canyon training until I can fly solo another day. We took some photos along the way and went swimming at my gym. He shared my lap lane with me and took to swimming underneath me, making silly faces in my direction as I swam above him. Best. Laps. Ever!