Thursday, July 31, 2014

from hell to paradise

I had a hellroaring run today. No really, that's what it was called. But let me back up.

I'm on a dream trip this week to Yellowstone National Park. This trip helped me finally meet my goal of putting my feet in more states, completing the lower 48. Alaska is next in November. I could write volumes on that and my dreams but this is a running blog and today's post is more to share my crazy run today.

Today was my second day at Yellowstone. I entered the north entrance and was amazed at the difference between that and the west. I could have spent both days at the north side. I didn't have a plan. I am happy anywhere in nature, so I was just going by feel. If something drew me in, I stopped and looked and took pictures. Today I was headed back when I impulsively stopped at Hellroaring Creek Trail. I had no info on it. I had no plans to hike it, let alone run. Mostly I stopped because I was almost back out of the park, and I had time, so why not?

I wondered briefly if maybe I could do .4 miles on the trail. I knew I could not do the 1.4 I had left for the month on a mountain trail, but maybe I could just knock out that tiny bit for fun. I grabbed my waist bag to hold my rental car key, and I took my phone--which has zero reception anyway, but the GPS on RunKeeper works. I walked a bit of the trail, and I could tell it was steep. In fact, it led two miles down to Hellroaring Creek and it was easy to see from way up there. I didn't mean to, really. But I started running a bit for that .4--and it felt great.

Before I became a Distance Runner (sarcasm toward myself fully intended), I loved trail running. I would have told you that was my favorite. But trail running is harder, riskier, subject to weather--and it takes longer. How could I train for road races on a trail? And what if I got hurt? But I remembered today my love for it. I flashed back to the two holidays I spent hiking in Arkansas (where I am booking my next trip even tonight--already in the plans before today). My last hiking trips I was only beginning to run, so it wasn't hard to walk. But now I don't walk really. And so today I didn't either. I figured I was already there so why not hit my mile to keep up my streak? I could go to the suspension bridge.

So I flew down that mountain--stepping carefully, but with no experience. I just kept running because I could. It was unusually warm today. I had on running clothes, but that's it. No trail shoes. No water. I went on a hot and steep mountain trail without water. "I'm crazy!" I kept saying. And I was. But I was living. And so I ran on. I went all the way to the bridge--an awesome (literally) sight. The bridge and the roaring creek below filled me with awe. I ran on to another steep incline before I turned. I knew a warm and steep as it was, I could not go too far without water. At this point I was about a mile and a quarter in, still running hard. I was dripping, literally dripping, with masses of sweat. I realized my body was so hot that it was constantly trying to cool me.

The way back was all uphill and I knew by my breathing because I was so thirsty, that I could not attempt to run that. I walked back, but it was a tough walk and the sweat never stopped just pouring out of me as if a faucet were turned on. It was one of the toughest runs I have ever done. Yet it was one of the most life-giving runs I had ever done. I realized for me a vacation in the mountains doesn't mean quiet rest; it means wearing my body out so my mind can process. That's just how I do it, I suppose. There I was huffing my way up a mountain in the heat with no water, and I felt life pour into my heart.

I'm surprised I ran down that far and expect my quads will feel it tomorrow. It was steep, down and up. But I knew I needed to get back because my body needed water. "Crazy! You're crazy!" I kept saying aloud as I pulled my shirt up to wipe sweat and left it up, essentially walking in my sports bra because, heck, who cared? I was alone on a steep mountain trail.

And then I heard it. Thunder.

Seriously? I was alone on a mountain trail and there was a thunderstorm coming? When I have adventures,  I have them all the way. So there I was, my dehydrated self, walking uphill as fast as I could. Because what if it's a bad storm? I had no cell service. The trail could get muddy. I could slip. I saw the lightning flash and counted the seconds. I had a few miles til it hit me. I made myself walk faster. Half of my thoughts were on planning what I would do if a storm hit me and it was a downpour. There was nowhere to take shelter; there were no upcoming flat places to perch while it passed. I decided I just had to move as fast as I could so I was closer to the trailhead. But the other half of my thoughts were focused on the adventure. I mean, I ran down a mountain alone, and now a thunderstorm was in the distance. It was kind of cool, actually.

I was parched. Adventure or not, I was pretty happy to see the gate indicating the trailhead. I took a selfie in front of the sign. It might be hellroaring, but I conquered it! I was still dripping. I went to my car and inhaled most of a large bottle of water. It was a hard run (and walk uphill); I felt utterly gross. Just gross. I was much grosser today than after three runs yesterday. I was crazy. But I did it.

Later I found out that on the rankings of hiking, "easy," "moderate," and "strenuous," that Hellroaring Creek Trail is considered strenuous. That made me feel even better, of course. And it was all an accident. I just happened upon it and before I knew it was running. Because you only live once. 

On my way back I stopped to finish up the running portion. A former pastor of mine has been posting pictures this month from Montana, where he is with his family. They all show up in Paradise Valley. That was part of my drive today. I knew they were somewhere over there. I thought it would be fun to run there since I had been oogling over their pictures. So I found a spot to do a short run and take myself over the 100 mile mark as I finished July (and have a run-in-two-states day too!).

And then it dawned on me. I went from running a place called Hellroaring to a place called Paradise Valley.

I suppose I was destined to be an English professor. I live in symbolism.

Here are some pictures from today's runs.

First, the shots from Hellroaring Creek Trail:

And these are the Paradise Valley shots:


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