In Pennsylvania I considered myself a respectable rookie runner.
I started running a short time ago, and in seven months of training I progressed rather quickly considering I hadn’t been very active for 24 years. But in a whirlwind of changing jobs and moving across the country, my training took a backseat in August.
So after nearly a month off, yesterday I ventured out for my first high-altitude run (after a fair amount of research to make sure I don’t, you know - die).
I settled on Bear Creek Park, which in-turn was a terrible introduction to running in Colorado. Don’t get me wrong, the park is beautiful and the running trails are great - but boy, was I in over my head.
Mile 1: Less than a quarter mile in I discovered a crossroads - one went downhill, and one was a steady incline. I was up for the challenge and veered left up the mountain* and slowed my pace. After nearly a mile of huffing and puffing I reached the top. The view was worth it, but the burning sensation in my chest was not.
I paused to take in the view and I continued on my second mile after a short walking break, which I promised myself I would take often.
Mile 2: Once I got going again the downhill was refreshing, aside from the fact that I almost literally ran into a pair of horses, and nearly tumbled down the mountain* on a few occasions.
At this point it was around noon (which in-turn was another silly mistake - running mid-day) and the sun was blistering.
I struggled for another mile and a half before I found some shade at the base of the mountain* and plopped down on a log as my muscles screamed in relief.
Mile 3: At this point I was frustrated. I knew my pace would suffer, being that I’m used to flat terrain and low altitude, but my mile times had literally doubled from my last long-distance run in PA. Running in Colorado, I realized, is more mental than on the east coast. I constantly had to remind myself that I could not kick out on the same pace I’m used to, and as a newbie to the high altitude, I forced myself to stop and take a breather, rather than push through the pain like I would in PA.
While my legs were exhausted, my ego also took a beating.
Mile 4: After my heart rate returned to normal I trekked back the way I came, dreading the incline ahead of me. I trotted past the skidmark I made in the dirt after my fall a few minutes earlier and tried to control my heavy breathing as I passed a pair of composed cyclists zipping down the hill.
Finally, I reached the top with wobbly knees and took another much-needed break. Unfortunately, though, my legs were still screaming as I forced myself back up and jogged down another hill, praying my car would come into view soon.
12 hours post-run: Never have I been in so much pain.
Long story short - I think I need to find a flatter running trail next time.
*Disclaimer: The mountain I was referencing is probably what you Colorado natives call a “hill”