Sunday, January 10, 2010

Running Hamilton Mountain

My buddy Mark invited me out for a nice afternoon trail run.....what I got was my ass handed to me and a close call with death.

Mount Hamilton - 6.5 miles 2100 ft elevation

There was no warm up, unless you consider running up steep vertical warming up - Mark does. 2-3 minutes in I'm forced to walk. WTF?! Not sure if I've ever been anaerobic so quickly before. I gave myself a good 30 seconds and started running again. I was forced to this run/walk pattern for the the first 20-25 minutes.

Mark waited for me at the fork. The fork has two signs "Less Difficult" and "More Difficult". Really? Not an "easy" or a "moderate"? Nope, just less or more difficult. I should have known at this point I was in for a world or hurt. Actually if I had any common sense at all I would have Googled the mountain before I opted to "run" it with Mark. I know his sadistic ways. But they say train/run with those stronger than you, so I did. I'll just have to make sure in the future I train with those not as crazy as I, because two people who lack fear and drive for goals can be a stupidly/deadly combination. At this point Mark and I parted ways as he choose the "more" difficult route and I took the "less" difficult route.

I was warned that I would run into snow a short bit into the trail. Snow is no big deal, I've run in it many times before. I would have been lucky if there was snow. Instead of snow I ran into ice and lots of it. Soon I was running a trail that looked like a page out of The Chronicles of Narnia. The tree branches were shalacked in ice, maybe up to 1/2 an inch thick. Soon I was running on what looked and felt like an ice machine. Inches upon inches of rock like ice. It reminded me of the crystals from fantasy theme movies. I wish I had my camera because my words truly do not give vision justice. It was absolutely breathtaking.

As I ran along the ice thinned and thickened out. Things got really difficult when the chunks of ice went away and I was faced with a 1/2 inch sheet of ice. I would run (still vertical) and my legs would slip out from under me. I'm pretty such there was a great time that I just ran in place, it was almost like a stupid treadmill. At once point I slipped up and "ate it", landing sideways on my hip. Thankfully the fall was not too hard. I got back up and started again. I was forced to walk here and there as I just couldn't get any traction. It all started to get demoralizing. I'd turn corner after corner and be faced with the long, no traction icy vertical. I slowly became overwhelmed with anger and fear. I was worried about getting back down. I didn't know how it would be possible if I was having issues getting up. I was worried about becoming hypothermic, all I had on were thermal Craft tights, a Craft baselayer and a wind resistant vest. I was dressed properly for a vertical trail run, not a vertical trail run on ice that would force me to walk a great deal. All of this broke me down and I cursed a mad furry.

As I start to hit another crest I see a man, not just one man but 5 men, they were mountain men! Quickly I became ashamed of my cursing fiasco and apologized. Then fear set in as all 5 men looked like they had lived up there for ages - great they're probably cannibals and I'm going to be dinner. I shouldn't have picked up those extra holiday pounds, it's just icing on the cake. I asked how far I was away from the summit. Not far at all but I wouldn't be able to reach it. I informed them that I was meeting my friend at the crest and I had to go. They asked if my friend was dressed like me, and in the same type of shoes - IE run shoes. I said yes. They all laughed and said he would not be making it up the summit. Too much ice. I was then advised to go to the "saddle" to check out the view and to quickly come back. I did so, and they were right. As I reach the saddle I am now in the clouds, the sky is gray, the wind is fierce and the mountain looks demonic yet breathtaking. Then there was the saddle - a 2.5-3 ft wide ridge about 20ft long. There was NO way in HELL that I would have survived crossing it. I'm very fortunate that I ran into those man as my stupid ass would have probably attempted it. The wind hurt and I quickly turned back thanking the LORD for the warning. The men gave me some hot tea to help warm my core and gave me a few descending tips before I started my trek back down. I thanked them and slowly started downward. A few feet down I hear one guy say to the others "That girl is hard core or really f***ing crazy".

The descent down scared the daylights out of me. I kept telling myself "It's ok, go slow... (Rob Schnieder's - "YOU CAN DOOOOO IT!" Positive words and visualization was all I had. I stayed off to the inner side of the trail going down sideways and keeping to where the grass or trees would be, grabbing and pulling when needed. And then it happened - Fall #! Landed on my right palm -OUCH! Not too bad, I knew it was going to happen. I tried to get up and could not find the traction. Soooo, I decided to stay on my tail and utilize it as a sled, and slide down! HA! This was so much fun, then I hit a rather large rock - right on my tail bone. Oh the humanity! This was I think the second time I started crying. I was really scared. I didn't know how I was going to make it all the way down. F***ing MARK!!!!

Somehow I get on my feet and start my sideways descent again. Then it happens - fall #2 Mother%@$#@!!! I landed on the same palm and this time it hit hard and inflicted pain all up my arm. OMG. At this point my hands were pretty numb and the pain was immobilizing. I sat there for a minute and then again, started to cry like a little pussy. The crying didn't last long as I turned to anger and started cursing like a sailor who had been out to sea for far too long. ##%$%&*^(*&^&%^E%^&*&!)(*)(*(!(*&@#^&@(&$^*&$^&*@$^@&$)(@*$)(*@(*$()@$_)@()_(!)(@)!(#()&!$*(!!!
I was in pain and desperate to get down. Again I try the slide down on my butt approach. This time was better then the last and I was able to slide down a great ways until I considered it "safe" and try to get up again. Up I go and lasted for another 5 minutes before I fell again, hitting the other palm this time. The landing was soft and I realized the ice was getting thinner.
My mantra was now HTFU and get my tail down to start.

Finally I made it back to the ice blocks where I was able to run again. And run I did. At this point I could care less about falling. I had fallen 4 times all ready, what's another? I ran across a few wooden bridges. It brought a smile to my face at one of my darkest hours. I was reminded that I wasn't alone :)
Now I was mostly out of the danger zone. I was going to be ok :).
As my spirit grew the mountain continued to beat down upon me. Upon the descent I was physically assaulted by falling ice which felt like rocks landing on my head. I was also greeted with the occasional face slap by an ice covered tree. But at this point nothing could faze me. My shoes came untied but I could not tie them. My palm palpitated and I feared removing the glove I would find something horrific and I couldn't deal with that mindf*** for the rest of the descent. Pain - out of sight out of mind. I tucked my laces into my shoes which made do.

Alas I approach The fork
"Less difficult - aka HELL or "More Difficult aka Hell on steroids"- I made it. Now all I had to do was fly down!

I reach the car and see Mark. I was overwhelmed with the desire to knock his ass out or give him a hug. I was REALLY happy he was ok. I was REALLY grateful I was alive - we both survived. Come to find out these conditions were VERY rare, it's usually just snow, not life threatening ice.

So I didn't reach the summit, but I did summit in my own mind.
My longest 10k ever.
2 hrs - 6 miles with over 2000 ft of elevation gain in the first 3-3 /2 miles.
BTW, palm is purple but OK

I've always said "What doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger - or leaves ya crippled on the side of the road."
Nothing replaces mental toughness. It's probably my number one strength, even when I cry (I'm pleading PMS on this one :))

Thank you Mark

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