Monday, March 19, 2012

Battle at The Canyon

This battle was not meant to happen. Someone fired the first shot, the other retaliated, and before anyone could blink there was a full on war going down in Sabino Canyon in front of joggers with strollers, tourists, and hikers.

The weekend before I had just done Tough Mudder and the PF Chang's 1/2 marathon (race reports are forthcoming). I invited The Dark Warrior and The Boulder to the canyon for an easy paced run. I told The Boulder that I'd be going slow because my legs were still fried from the previous weekend. This was the intent until someone decided to throw the glove down.

We started the run like any other with a 5 minute walk, and then started the run up the first hill. We got into the canyon and the 3 of us chatted as we ran. Nothing is cheery with The DW, so he of course had to start in with the insults, which caused me to shove him at one of the bridge crossings, since he can't swim. He claimed I re-dislocated his shoulder. He then shoves back, but the laws of physics were in his favor and I went flying. I recovered, thanks to my awesome balancing skills. We then hit the climb just past Mile 3. I said, "I'm going to be taking it easy on this climb...I'm feeling Chang's."

All joking fell to the wayside. My opponent knew of the weakness in my legs and took the advantage. We started the climb and he started to pull a half step ahead. Oh no this was NOT happening! I had no choice but keep up. The pace then drops as we head up the hill shoulder to shoulder. Neither of us is speaking but we both knew what was going down. It was a test before the Surprise 1/2 marathon qualifying race coming up. We climbed up the hill, gasping for air to the point the hikers in front of us turned around and moved out of the way so that they wouldn't get spit on. At this point it was just me and The DW. We had left The Boulder behind for dead. Actually, he was the smarter one out of the 3 of us, opting to run at a reasonable pace. This was MY canyon and I wasn't about to let The DW leave me in the dust on it. He started to drop back. There's a minimum distance to be maintained between runners, and if one slips back out of that range they are officially "dusted." The DW was getting dangerously close to that distance. I wondered if he was cooked before the end of the climb. Turns out he was just drafting and surged forward. "We are idiots" was all I could manage to say in between gasps of breath. After all, we had a race coming up the next weekend.

We reached the top and looped around waiting for The Boulder to finish the climb up. We apologized to him for our stupidity and headed back down. The return trip was not without more challenges. A few of the bridges were flooded over with water. After the battle up the climb, The DW and I spotted the water and apparently had the same idea and sprinted towards the water. We were both timing the stride so that our outside foot would hit with force and splash the other person. The Boulder was laughing at this scene. All this accomplished was getting one foot more wet than the other.

As we approached the last climb out of the canyon, The Boulder announced "I'm walking this hill." The DW replied, "Yeah, I'm with you, Ryan." I thought to myself, "I've never walked this hill and I'm not going to start now." We got to the climb and The Boulder dropped back while The DW jumped on my carnival ride and matched my stride up the hill. We sounded like we were hacking up a lung as we ran up the climb at a ridiculous pace, leaving The Boulder for dead again (I will be surprised if he ever agrees to run with us again). The Boulder caught up to us on the downhill, but the shenanigans weren't over. We usually start the cooldown walk at the road crossing. At this point The DW and I sprint to the end, running an 8 minute mile pace. I started overheating even though it was winter, and removed my long sleeved shirt. The Boulder finished his run and we got our Gatorade. I found The DW under the visitor center ramada, carrying his sweatshirt and wandering in circles like a caged animal. Parents taking their kids to the tram ride were avoiding that ramada and keeping the tram between them and him. I had to laugh at the entire scene.

So that's how running partners turn an innocent recovery run into a battle right before a key race. I must admit I didn't read The DW's point of view before writing this so that I could recount the facts before posting his thoughts on how the battle went down. Just remember, he was probably delirious from lack of oxygen. ;-)

Sabino Canyon – "Third Times a Charm ?" or "Thrice Bitten" by The Dark Warrior

Someone said that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again; expecting a different result." So why would I go running the canyon with Pirate Girl, again, after the last two horrific episodes ? She said it herself: all her running partners are crazy. That’s the only reason that I can think of that would have the three of us back running the same paths at the same time (yes, even our partner of the infamous Phone Line Trail was back – showing that insanity is contagious). Either it was insanity, we were easily duped. It happened on the heels of Pirate Girl having the lack of grace to have qualified for the ascent before I did. I’m sure that she has bragged about it elsewhere, but she and the other poor dupe had run "Tough Mudder" on Saturday and she then went out and ran PF Chang’s the next day; and qualified, before me. Now the pressure was on. Not that she tried to up the pressure by comments like "guess I’m on the other side of the fence ?" So when she said "I’d like to go on a nice, slow, recovery run up the canyon", I was caught (subtext "nice and slow so that even an old guy can keep up"). I agreed to go, even though I no longer think of those particular paths as part of a canyon; "lair" is the first thing that comes to mind (like the giant spider in "Return of The King"). I expect that someday, they’ll find my and the other guy’s dessicated bodies at the side of the road. "I wonder what killed them ? It looks like a giant Black Widow did this !".

The day started out ominously; it was bright and sunny. To my recollection, the worst things happen on days when it is bright and sunny and you run with overly cheerful people – who have just qualified for the race over which you have a challenge going. The first words were a lie "My legs are sore; so let’s go nice and slow " ( like cheetas pursuing their prey). It was cold so I had on what my partner calls my "homeless" attire : this consists of nylon pants, nylon shirt, slightly used sweatshirt (okay, so Salvation Army wouldn’t take it – it’s warm), and jersey gardener’s gloves (contrary to some, the tips of the fingers are not cut out).

We started running and the pace was o.k. Until we got to the first place where the stream crosses the road. In the back of my head, there was a little voice shouting "Danger!". Having read pirate girl’s blogs, I remember that, during a Thanksgiving run, she likes to hit the water in order to drench the people around her. And time slowed down. I noticed where her left foot was (being the one closest to me, it would "accidentally" hit in the deepest part of the stream). I lookded to where the stream was (where was the deepest part of the stream ?). I determined how I was going to have to adjust my stride so that my right foot would "accidentally" hit the deepest point. And we were off. Suddenly it was a sprint (like the opening of Best Buy on Black Friday). Obviously the other guy hadn’t read the blogs, or was wearing waterproof clothes; because he continued at a normal pace. It was a tie. In fact, it is a wonder that we didn’t step on each other’s feet. I’d say that she got more wet than I did, but I don’t thing that it is true,. She’s very skinny – have you ever thrown water at the edge of a piece of paper ?

So, after the water hazard, we changed positions. I was on the extreme right. I should have wondered about this. As it was I didn’t have time, or the concentration. I was too busy trying to stay on the road after a dastardly push on the shoulder (I think that, in hockey, the term is "chucking"). I have a messed up left shoulder (old war injury from tossing a teen ager into a wall during practice) so I innocently tried to step out in front so that she couldn’t hit it again. This was at the base of the long hill that ends the normal trail in the canyon. So, pirate girl decides to catch up (so she can throw another cheap shot). I decide to speed it up to stay out of the line of fire. You see where this is going ? Pretty soon we are screaming up the canyon (ok rasping and choking). We’re so loud people are moving out of the way and staring. She’s starting to gain on me; two thirds of the way up, she passes. Decision time ; slow down and wait for the other guy (and take a load of BS) or keep up the pace. I know that we are approaching the circle at the top and if she gets too far ahead she’ll get an insurmountable lead. I opt for pushing it and staying just behind. At the top, she shows a little mercy (not for me, I assure you0 and begins running circles as we wait for our "third".

Running back is mostly uneventful. Except where we encounter the stream; I guess it wasn’t an "accident". And the place where we encountered the dreaded "walkers". Why is it that, when out in groups of four or more, walkers will line up abreast and take up the entire width of the road ? In this case, it was just as we were coming to a bridge. We were still running at a hellish pace, and I wasn’t prepared to stop and walk behind the idiots. So, I sprinted up and stepped between the last person and the edge of the bridge. There was plenty of room (at least 6 inches), but I may have brushed them a I went by. Apparently, the rest of the group decided to shoot the gap with me.

By the time we came to the last hill, two of the three of us were dying. The other guy says "I’m not running up the last hill’ . I say "I’m with you". Pirate girl just nods and smiles sweetly (like a pirhanna). We get to the foot of the hill and as two of us start to slow down, she takes off. I’m not falling for it; and I half expected it so I take off also. I later hear from our third member that a park ranger took a picture of us (must have thought I was trying to mug Pirate Girl). We made it to the end. By the time we did, both of us were dying. As we came up to the ramada, the third person caught up to us (in his defense, he was never very far behind). The two of them went to their vehicles to get water, I stayed behind and took off my sweatshirt and gloves and started walking around so I didn’t "set up". I must have looked pretty bad because people were avoiding me and mothers were staying between me and their children. Another fine run in the canyon (lair ?)

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