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.

-Steep stuff

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.

Weekly Total
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)



Thank you Dom for this blog. Its written with a great sense of humility and depth. Keep up the great work and running with so much heart. from, Bodie

Anonymous said...

When Anton passed me going on up Wilson on Saturday, it reminded me of what he said in the Unbreakable movie, when he referred to a downhill move by Kilian as a thing of beauty or something like that. That was how I felt about his form and motion for the moments I saw him running up hill, really just floating over the land... it was a thing of beauty. It is amazing to see someone move up a steep slope like that so gracefully and with such seeming effortlessness. I know it is not effortless, but he does it so well that it looks that way.

rhenrijr said...

My buddy told me about your blog and I have to say...great job! I'm sure Tony used to run with Scott Jurek in the same fashion you ran with him this past weekend once upon a time, wondering how in the hell a man can run like a gazelle...look at him now. You're doing great. Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Use this experience to fuel the fire! I'm so regretting not going up Bear Cyn on Sunday but I was hurting from running around Cloudburst on Saturday--damn weak legs! Would have been awesome to see you guys in action. Awesome job last week as well on the double ascent. I did a double once and was SPENT--big time. 9 peaks in the Spring! Thanks for sharing. Keep up the GREAT work! Robert H.

Dominic Grossman said...

Thanks Bodie! I try to use this blog to share the best experiences I have each week. Thanks for the love.

Dominic Grossman said...
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Dominic Grossman said...

I agree Marcus, it's a elevated level of atheticism. He has very quick and strong feet, and excellent coordination that allow him a much faster cruising pace in technical terrain. Hopefully some talented photographers can catch him on film and do a better job of documenting..

Dominic Grossman said...

Thanks Robert, I was really inspired by Tony's visit. I think when you're doing something challenging alone, you think of yourself as strong on a local level. However, there's always faster runners out there on the global level, and it's good to be reminded of them and inspired by what you can achieve if you work hard.

june said...

Dom - awesome post!! Love you guys tearing up the big boy and big girl trails, looks like a total blast!

Macaux said...

great stuff man, thanks for sharing. great shots as well, looks killer

Dominic Grossman said...

Thanks June! Mt. Baldy says it misses you.. (I haven't gone down that forsaken fireroad since you came out with us)

Thanks Billy and Viper, it's a wild world we live in