Monday, February 6, 2012
Beauty in the Mountains
"Damn, there he goes" I murmur to myself as I drive my hands into my sore quads and push my legs into the steep switchbacks just past Bear Flat. Like so many other competitive trail runners in the world (Geoff and Kilian included), my limited talent has allowed me a front row seat to watch Tony pull away up the steep incline. Like yesterday, I keep up through the first couple warm up miles, but as the trail shoots sharply upward, my mortality and Tony's mountain goat nature is exposed. I look up as he is dancing up the trail that has consistently humbled me for the past month.
Admittedly, I shouldn't feel bad as I'm still just beginning to develop my mountain running. I've only been running steeper mountain miles for four or five weeks, and it's still a painful learning process every weekend in the San Gabes. I improve my time up the Mt. Baldy Trail by a couple minutes, but Tony shatters the FKT in 1:37. He put 27 minutes on me in 6.3 miles and 5700 feet, and didn't even "feel all that good."
As demanding as the climb is, all I can think of is how amazingly beautiful everything is in the morning light. I snap eight or nine pics on my phone on the way up. It's absurd "LA in the winter" weather that makes even 9,000ft warm and keeps my 4oz jacket tucked away until the last wind swept 500ft. Tony's waiting, and getting cold in his split shorts and nylon shell (sans shirt). We snap a few pictures before we head back down the mountain.
-Last little pitch to the summit
-Same trail, different angle (Photo by Anton Krupicka)
Just like yesterday, I tell myself on the ascent that I'll run with him on the downhill, and once again, he's the first person in months to make me cramp on a downhill. When people ask me how to run downhill, I say to imagine a stream flowing smoothly down the trail. However, Tony moves like he's in a high speed water slide, smoothly descending at break neck speed. He's like a Super G skier naturally transitioning around steep corners in smooth fluid lines (in 7 oz trail flats).
It's a beautiful weekend in so many ways. Exactly a year since his last race, Tony has overcome two painful injuries that took him out for the Spring, Summer, and Fall. He's watched Western, Hardrock, Leadville, North Face, and Rocky Raccoon crown champions with winning times than his or times he could've strongly challenged. When I saw him at Hardrock, he was on crutches and reserved. Eight weeks ago when he had to hike every step up Baldy, he was happy to get out, but still not exactly excited. This weekend, he's grinning, excited, talkative, and full of ambition for his 2012 campaign. It's only two 150 minute runs, but they're very strong performances on some demanding trails, and Zegama is starting to look like it's going to be "awesome, I'm definitely amped for Europe."
The day before on Saturday, he led the steep descent from Manzanita Ridge to Orchard Camp. I followed 20 yards behind as he whooped and hollered flying by groups of bewildered hikers. I follow soon enough to hear the ancillary comments, "what the hell was that? Tarzan of the trails-oh shit! Here comes another one!" After reading so many updates of shin trouble and knee pain, it's amazing to see him flying like a bullet through the trees grazing the backpacks of the Asian hiking mafia like The Flash. As a fellow mountain runner, a friend, and a human being, it really made me happy to watch his return to what he loves so much and does so well.
61 miles, 17,500ft, 10:30
I was feeling some deep soreness in my lower quads after the 30,000 ft. week, and decided to make a little more focused effort on shorter, faster runs, and it worked out well with Tony's visit giving me some small PR's on Mt. Wilson (:91) and the Bear Canyon trail (2:04). This week should be a bit higher totals.
-Tony on Mt. Wilson Trail
-Beach House cover by Toro Y Moi (download)