I reminded myself this morning that I am competitive. I've known this to be true from an early age and this morning on the Mt. Humphrey's Trail it was, yet again, confirmed.
The story starts with me taking a friends dog that I'm watching up to run the Mt. Humphrey's trail. I was feeling up for trying to break my PR on the trail and had a young, energetic dog to share the effort with.
We got to the trail head about 5:45 am and the conditions were perfect (cold, crisp and dry). I felt great after a good nights sleep and was psyched to put in a good effort.
On the way up, man and dog really went for it. I was moving well, hitting landmarks along the trail equalling or coming in faster than previous runs. My dog companion was, darting back and forth with explosive power and quickness, checking out every possible smell and movement in the whole forest, leaving only a handful of trees unsniffed.
We arrived on the saddle in 58 minutes (not really faster than my other fastest attempts but with more energy) and was ready to attack the scrambly upper ridge to the summit. I left my water bottle on a rock at the saddle to give me that much more freedom to push it.
The upper ridge went well and I reached the summit in 1 hr 20 minutes on the dot, maybe a minute or two faster than in recent summits. I knew with this time I was in gear to break 2 hours if I really went for it on the way down and I felt like I could because I had more energy than in any other summit push this year.
I touched the summit rocks and bolted back down the ridge ready to give a sub 2 hour effort.
The only thing of concern was my dog companion seemed to be slowing. He was most definitely in conserve mode (the exact opposite of on the way up). This was not going to help me on my PR bid.
As I slid, jumped, sprinted and shuffled my way down the ridge I encouraged my companion to "let's go!" and "you can do it!" It seemed to be working and we both stayed in eye sight of each other.
Once I made it past the saddle and into the trees things started to change and I should have seen the writing on the wall. Dog friend was definitely slowing. I cheered, encouraged and called his name pretty much the rest of the way down the trail but he couldn't keep pace. A few times he gave a bursting effort and started to catch up but by half way down the trail I had to slow my pace ever so slightly and still only saw him on big straight aways or open switchbacks. I was starting to worry about coming in under 2 hours...
Poor companion was not up for this and I was pushing him to or past his limits (whatever they may be...) or he didn't feel like moving fast. Whatever the reason, he was really lagging behind and near the bottom of the trail I really couldn't see him anymore.
I really belted out the yells and hoped he had a big burst in him to finish and catch up but it was becoming obvious that if I kept going the same pace I was going to loose him and I wasn't sure he would know where to go at the end.
Even with the slowed pace, I was about 3 1/2 minutes under 2 hours when I came out of the trees and hit the last short stretch to the car (this section usually only takes a few minutes). I got really excited to still go for it and turned to yell at my companion and no sooner had I opened my mouth I had tripped and face planted into the dirt. I was completely stunned and stumbled to my feet still trying to yell out his name and continue. I got going a few more steps and then caught a toe and went down for the second time, falling harder and with more pain. I gave out a loud scream, yelled the f-bomb as loud as I could through the pain in my toes and knee, which was now bleeding pretty good, and chucked my water bottle as far as I could. Once I got myself under control (took a minute or two) I just sat there defeated and waited for the dog. After a minute or so more, he trotted up to me and laid down. We were both wrecked. What a sight that must have been.
I gave him a pet, got myself to my feet and stumbled the last bit to the trail head and stopped my watch. 2 hrs 4 min 58 seconds.
Reflection: I really wanted to kill the dog while I was crumpled, face down, in the dirt on the second fall but also knew that the dog had nothing to do with this fiasco. This fiasco was my own creation; bringing a dog that I had no idea if he would be able to do the run, pushing the dog all the way down the hill when I made him chase me and then being angry that I didn't make it under 2 hours.
My competitive self really does like to push it and doesn't do well with setbacks along the way. In the end this is an obvious lesson in not pushing things too hard if things aren't flowing (like a dog not keeping up). No matter how hard I wanted to go down that hill and break 2 hours, my companion wasn't going to get me there. I needed to realize that a bit earlier and give us both a break and take a slower pace. Hmm...
Then again...oh so close!!!
Note: Dog name had been left out to protect the innocent.