AC100: The First Is The Last

Pre-training run espresso, Islip Saddle, June 21 2014.

Wrightwood: Mile Zero

When Uncle Hal was finished doing the Saturday pre-training run advisories, he said “Larry’s gonna be sweeping, got anything to add?”

“Yes I do. If I catch up to you, then your training sucks”

Nervous gusts of laughing followed. As it should be.


The herd is being thinned. There are runners who are not prepared, coasting on some kind of delusional fumes. If you haven’t learned that showing up without a real cap, wearing dark clothing, eating crap food and carrying insufficient fluids are not sustainable methods for surviving the early summer heat, you’ve got problems. Insufficient mileage? Got injuries you're not letting heal? That too.

The main pack thundered off into the distance. I’m left with my own unspooling colorful adventure; the business of getting back into shape. And the Acorn Trail pitches straight up for the next two miles up to the PCT.

The last five weeks have been exercises in recovered memories, mental and physical. You can kid yourself, but the truth of the matter is that forgetful is the default state of human consciousness. And all that shit is getting burned off with that muffin-top and rollover, mile after mile.

14-25

The first and only aid/assistance on this training run is at Vincent Gap, 14 miles in, at the base of Mt Baden-Powell. On Race Day, the aid gap before the next is precisely the same: 12 miles. It’s in the RaceBook, but nobody reads that anyway. You and your handheld are going to be empty recriminations very shortly.

The trail up Baden-Powell is a fistful of switchbacks up to the 9,200’ turnoff to Islip Saddle. Halfway Rock, 2 miles in; found me leaning into it face-first, enjoying its indifferent coolness. That was as much love as I was going to get, ever.

Since these are the mountains, surprises are also the default setting. A light cloud cover has moved in. The early-season roasting-lite you got five miles earlier is now chilled with a breeze, making it a June October Surprise.

My thoughts are now all about getting back to my car, curling up and going to sleep. The last five weeks of ultra-reentry are catching up to me. If I’ve got the yawns its time to eat something. Squeezing out a weasel-jizz GU puts some tinder on the fire. An Italian sausage or a pork chop would’ve been nicer, but there are no food trucks up here.

More surprises. I hadn’t been on this section completely in years. The multiple burns of 2002 and 2009 torched entire sections into moonscapes. The trail is littered with massive toppled trees, sawn to allow passage. Technical sections demand your attention. This is no place to fuck up.

What was once down rears up. Hit it and keep moving. Ridge-running and contouring are the order of the day, and I’m still freezing. After a series of false Windy Gaps, the real one emerges, and I know that I’m down to short-strokes. Little Jimmy Spring still produces ice-cold clean water out of the depths of the mountain. I sink a quart in less than 10 seconds, and am brightened.

Two Miles And Done.

The remaining mileage is rendered in the topo-map of memory. One mile to the access road, then the last mile through the trees, then open chaparral prior to the steep drop down to Islip Saddle, Mile 25. The parking lot below is completely shaded. My sun shower will be tepid. As I get closer I see a runner who’d obviously been stood up by his promised ride. I knew that my eventual arrival back in La Piñata would be delayed by another 90 minutes. That’s mountain running, and mountain time. 

Postscript 

On June 23 I learned that author Daniel Keyes died. His "Flowers For Algernon" was made into a "Charly", starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. The plot hinges on gains and loss of intelligence, and yeah, I think he got something started with Claire Bloom. In my process of rediscovery, I remember what I used to do, what I lost, and what I can do now. I'll still take it.

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