Mt. Lukens 3-peat.

Mt. Lukens summit

Mt. Lukens summit

46 miles. 11,1024′ of climbing. 14 hours. This is one of those runs that ends up being really demoralizing.

The original plan was a good strong charge up Mt. Lukens, repeat 2 more times. As we started, I just didn’t have it in me. The first loop – 14.25 miles, 7.12 and 3,641 feet of climbing up, and then the same back down – was painful. Recent speedwork had left my bad foot swollen and tender, and the metatarsalgia – which is the fancy word for fucked-up-in-a-general-way toe – was bad. I declared myself officially injured at the summit. The climb back down was rough.

I don’t particularly like feeling like a pussy, and I was beating myself up pretty badly for this. I also don’t like having witnesses to my being a pussy, and as we reached the bottom I’d concluded that I was going to need to seriously scale back my Chimera crew. There’s no rationality behind it – I sure none of my friends would be anything but supportive – but I couldn’t bear the thought of having them witness my failure. If I’m going to have to live up to that “you’ll never amount to anything” / “you’ll never be half the man your father was” stuff, I’d rather do it out of sight.

Pier was waiting at the bottom with sandwiches, which was wonderful of her, since she was unable to run. Luis was only up for one lap and he and Pier left. Maggie and I began the second lap.

The second lap went better than the first. I’d taken a couple of advil, and my foot received a needed massage at the pillbox, halfway up. It was not a fast climb, but much stronger than the first.

Darkness hit once we reached the pillbox on the third climb. There were birds – it looked like the same one, actually, a baby owl from what we could tell, who just kept flying awkwardly up the hill every time we passed. We passed him at least 6 times. About 2/3 of the way up, we encountered a guy coming down – Drew, he said – who had finished ac100 this year for the first time. Maggie thought she recognized his voice. We stopped and chatted for a bit. He said the only people he ever meets up on the trails at night are ac100 runners. It makes sense. It’s also odd that in a race with only 71 finishers this year we should keep running in them in a city/urban mass that has some 6 million folks.

The climb down was slow. It was dark, the trail is rocky and rutted in spots, and trying to charge down it was only going to lead to bad spills. Both of us have been getting a bit too close to the ground this summer.

The pillbox is the landmark for the turnoff, which is a hard right, about 4 miles down the trail. Because it’s a hard right, it’s easy to run right past the turn, and with the pillbox off the trail and out of flashlight range, missing the turn off is exactly what we did.

The trail narrowed and became steeper than either of us remembered. We were starting to wonder when we would hit the pillbox. Surely it must be just around the bend. We came on a mailbox and a chained-off bit of fire road. We both noted that we’d never seen the mailbox before. We ran a little further. It’s hard to see in the dark, even with flashlights. Landmarks like hills are only the vaguest of silhouettes against a night sky. We concluded we were lost.

We turned around and headed back up the mountain. The good news was that in this direction, the turnoff would present itself as a fork in the trail, so it would be much harder to miss than on the way down. The bad news was “where the f*ck is it?” The other good news was that if it didn’t turn up soon we could just turn around and head back down the trail, which looked as though it would take us to the 2, just above the city, and from there we could maybe call Maggie’s husband Bob. The bad news is Bob doesn’t get cell reception in the house, and might not receive the call. The good news is we spotted the fork, and then could just barely make out the pillbox with our flashlights.

We headed back down the right trail, relieved. There was a nice, almost hot breeze that had been blowing – maybe a Santa Ana was coming in – which kept the temperatures comfortable. It was also getting near 10pm, and we’d been out on the trails and on our feet for 14 hours.

I pretty much blamed myself for this debacle. I’d been slow and sore and it was taking a long f*cking time – much too long. Maggie was actually in a bad enough mood by this time to agree. We discussed Chimera. The discussion was basically should I drop altogether or could I deal with a DNF? And then we remembered the 100K option. The conclusion was to drop down to the 100K, and that would also solve the crew problem – I would not need much of a crew for a 100K. A 100K should be more than doable – I’ve run that distance before, albeit not on as hard a course as Chimera. We’ll find another 100 miler for me to do before ac100 in July.

Some runs just don’t go well, but when that drags on for 46 miles, it’s just f*cked up. The next morning, my legs are sore, and I am still disappointed in myself for a really miserable run.

Mt. Lukens Road, April 2011

Mt. Lukens Road, foggy morning, April 2011

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