In less than 48 hours I was about to find out how it would feel to run again.
Flying into Denver’s airport on June 22nd, I couldn’t help but notice how dry things looked on the ground. On the drive down to Colorado Springs there were signs about banning fireworks and open fires due to the dry conditions. The hopes of getting a break from the Midwest heat for a few days was traded for temps in the 100s and dry air.
Tired from traveling all day my first run would have to wait until the next afternoon, after I got back from fly fishing up in the mountain’s west of Colorado Springs on the South Platte river in the morning. It had been more than two years since I had been out west and I was a little anxious about my abilities to handle the challenges the river and trout would throw my way. After a long drive through the mountains I arrived at the river and decided it might be smart to tell my family my location, but there was no cell phone coverage which meant that if I got into trouble I was on my own.
I started out being cautious for the first couple hours, staying out of the faster rapids, but after seeing a large trout rise on the other side I slowly waded out into the faster water using my staff to hold my position.
I had just started to make a cast close enough to the trout when a strong gust of wind caused me to lose my balance and left me floating downstream, scrambling to find something to grab onto.
Getting soaked by freezing water on a day where it was over 100 degrees felt kinda good but with the winds getting worse I decided to call it a day and head back over the mountain.
As I was heading east towards Colorado Springs I noticed large dark clouds ahead of me. Stopping in the town of Woodland Park to have lunch I checked my phone and had a few voice mails from my family and before I got a chance to check them my phone rang and that’s when I found out that the smoke I saw was the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Because of the fire and evacuations, Rt 24 was going to be closed soon and I would be stuck on the other side of the mountain and would have to find another way back that could take four hours or more. The traffic was bumper to bumper with everyone trying to make it over before they shut down the highway. While moving at a snail’s pace I couldn’t help but notice several dozen firemen running up the switch back paths up the side of the mountain to stop the fire from crossing the highway, and in the air helicopters were dropping water on the flames which didn’t appear to make a dent in the fast growing fire.
Two long hours later I finally arrived back in Colorado Springs and with the temperatures over 100 degrees and smoke in the air, thoughts of going for a run outside didn’t sound like fun, but with the images of firefighters running up the mountain still fresh in my mind, I had to give it a try.The plan was to walk 5 minutes then run 30 seconds, repeating that four times. On paper it didn’t sound like much, but I still wasn’t sure if my right leg was going to be up to the task.
The first 5 minutes of walking passed by quicker than expected and before I could think too much about it my Timex beeper was going off and it was time to run.
My left leg pushed off and lifted like it has on thousands runs but the right one didn’t know what to do so I slung it forward making it move trying to keep some semblance of a running form. Thirty seconds ticked by slow and I was so glad to hear the timer go off and it was time to walk. My first run didn’t feel like I thought it would, but at least there was no pain and I didn’t fall down. During the next three runs I tried to focus on my form, (which did improve some) but still not like it used to be. After finishing that last 30 second run I had that warm, tired feeling I use to get after finishing a tough run but I realized that the road back to running was going to be one of the biggest challenges in my running career.
My plans on Sunday to climb Pikes Peak Incline were cancelled due to the fire and evacuations in that area which meant I would have to come back another time to test myself against the mountain. Mondays plans to go back over the mountain to fly fish with a guide looked doubtful, but ended up happening anyway with a long day that started at 5:30am and finished at midnight, driving on twisting, narrow, mountain roads that gave me a ride I will never forget.(That’s a whole other story)
After returning to Illinois, I tried to do three run/walks a week increasing my runs by adding extra 30 second runs until I was up to doing eight of them when gradually a pain in my hamstring/glute insertion point forced me to stop. My physical therapist agreed that I should hold off on running until we can strengthen the leg and give it a try in a couple of weeks.
To be continued……….
Note: The Waldo Canyon fire was declared 100% contained on July 10, 2012 with 18,247 acres damaged, 347 homes destroyed with one death.