This week I resumed my battle with the canyon. During the first attempt, I did well during the initial mile and a half then could not muster the strength to keep any worthwhile running effort going while I remained on an incline. I eventually struck a deal with myself and agreed to put forth stronger effort on the way back down. Unfortunately, I had neglected to negotiate a clause detailing my course of action in the event of wind. Upon turning around and finding the wind at my face, I realized that all prior contracts, verbal or mental in nature, were deemed null and void in the presence of wind. My nose and eyes were spurred into emergency response mode. As I tended to my face, a young, fit military man, passed by in the uphill direction. He maintained a decent clip without perceptibly breaking a sweat or altering his breathing during his morning jog. His shirt spoke equally to both his military affiliation and the size of his bulging biceps: he was Army. At the time, I barely noticed him. I was fighting to breathe through some tissue that had blown into my mouth during a failed attempt to wipe my nose.
One would think that with the amount of time I dedicate to this maneuver while on the run, that I would have figured out some means to keep the tissue on the outside of my face where it is more useful. Unfortunately, no matter how carefully orchestrated, when there is anything close to a breeze I end up with a mouthful of tissue just as I’m trying to inhale. I am left with a partial breath and an insufficient nose wiping situation and global impairment of all my faculties.
Anyway, it was only a matter of seconds before Mr. Army man was back. Having found the turnaround, he passed me on the downhill slope as well. Annoyed he could so quickly beat me in both directions, I promptly drafted his pace and tried to ride back down the canyon on his heels. He had his ear buds in, but he still caught on to my attempt to trail him because he shot a glance back at me after we had only gone another 50 feet. He was no doubt surprised, and possibly somewhat frightened, to see that this middle aged mom had suddenly sprung to life and attached herself to his shadow. For a few moments I was fast and proud in my downhill element, trying to race Mr. Army man back to the base. I lasted about a quarter of a mile before the floodwaters from my eyes entirely obstructed my view of him and the world, and I had to stop. Also, my dreaded side stitch was back. The side pain took most of the way back to my car to fully resolve, and Mr. Army man was long gone. He is likely immune to side stitches. Army men probably walk around punching each other in the gut to build organ strength so they become impervious to that kind of pain. In any case, I had fun on my one-sided race, and I look forward to more mini-races with all sorts of unsuspecting joggers.
My second run at the canyon happened on Tuesday. I was feeling lucky as I pranced around the canyon parking lot in my warm up. Call it intuition, but I had an inkling my tinkling and tissue issues would hold, and my canter would conquer the canyon once and for all. It felt like a perfect day. I remember focusing on a near-sighted running style: not looking too far ahead, scaling one square of pavement at a time. Somehow my strategy worked, and I made my way to the port-a-potty finale without stopping and only falling behind my 12:00 pace by 1 minute 28 seconds. Usually by the time I turn around, I am so many minutes behind my anticipated pace that it’s ridiculous to even consider the statistic. Fortunately, I had the frame of mind to snap a photo of my running app.
I needed photographic evidence of my accomplishment. No one would believe me otherwise. My phone’s battery was at 10% and the prospect of it lasting for the return trip was grim.
I quickly celebrated in the port-a-potty and headed back downward. I was hopeful of making it back to the bottom without stopping as well, and I was on track to set a new personal record for my run. After all, the downhill section usually works in my favor. I made it a mile, then my phone died. As though viscerally linked to my phone, I simultaneously became debilitated to a point just shy of writhing on the canyon floor with my recurrent downhill side stitch. I was forced to walk the next three quarters of a mile before I was able to resume a wimpy shuffle back to my car. So close! One day, my canyon, one day! Hold up–I made it 2.25 miles up a freakin canyon! That’s a far cry from my heart failure and rather than dwell on what could have been, I choose to exult in my uphill success! V is for Victory! Woot Woot!