Friday, August 2, 2013

Santa Catalina Ascent

Back in May, I decided to run up Mt. Lemmon. We would start in Sabino Canyon and end at the beginning of the Mt. Bigelow Trailhead at Catalina Highway, at least 14 miles up. The hard thing about this run obviously wasn't the mileage, it was the elevation climb: Almost 6000 feet of change! And had I completed the entire challenge (26 miles to the top) it would have been a lot more. 

We started out at 6:00 am at the Sabino Canyon Parking lot. I signed in, grabbed a map and dropped off my drop bag (Mt. Lemmon can get cold at the top, especially after all the sweating I would be doing) with the run director. I recognized some people, but I'm still too shy to say hello. I'm always the youngest on the runs and I feel as if I am not yet fully accepted. It's just a feeling, but I usually have good instincts about things, as silly as that sounds.  

We walked down the road together so we could all start together at milepost 0. And then we were off!
I will be honest, I wasn't keeping up my fitness, so I was really slow.
My goal was to make it to the top, alive, and not beat any records. That's it.
So, when the TTR group took off in front of me, I wasn't surprised. I was worried that I would be the last one, but I knew they wouldn't leave me out there alone. :)

Starting out early in Sabino Canyon, TTR runners out in front. 

A little farther down the road,
Thimble Peak in the background. 

Feeling slow, but good. 
 I finally reached the end of the road. I looked up and saw how far ahead the other runners were (there are a few switchbacks on the trail above the road). And they were booking it! They were running at such a great pace uphill I was amazed as to how they were doing it! I guess I need to train on hills more. :)
The end of the road and heading up Sabino Canyon Trail.

Looking back down at the road.
 I was already winded going up the trail so I had to slow it down and power hike it for awhile.
I knew how far I had to go (and how high) so I didn't want to completely wear myself out).
Heading up the trail. The blue mountains in the background
are where I need to be. 
I kept trucking along and finally got some energy from the gel I had eaten. I crossed paths with another trail runner (I think she was part of TTR) going the opposite direction and I wondered where she ran to. Did she make it to the top and she's coming back down!?! Holy crap!
I'm pretty sure that's not the case, but I have to keep myself entertained on these runs. :)

Take the East Fork!
I finally reached another trail sign after worrying that I may have missed it and was going in the wrong direction.  I looked at the map and decided the East Fork was the way to go. I had almost taken West Fork. Ugh, that would have made me really sad, with the way I was already feeling. 

Rounding another corner, going deeper into Sabino Canyon. 
 Sometime after the trail sign, I started freaking out. I had remembered reading about all those recent deaths from africanized bees here in Tucson and my mind started to race:
What if I get attacked today? I'm alone, no one would know until later. It's almost summer so no one is hiking this far back in Sabino Canyon because of the heat. And I'm the back of the pack of the TTR runners. Thankfully they would come look for me. But it'd be too late. I can't outrun bees when I'm this tired! Ugh, RUN FASTER! 
Seriously. This was what I was thinking. I am so paranoid sometimes!

 And then...I started thinking about mountain lions and mountain lion attacks. I was not doing a good job of motivating myself to run faster. I was slowing down, looking behind me, trying to be as quiet as possible, etc.
So, I didn't get any photos during this part of my run. And it was actually really pretty! There were large, shady trees and lots of green-ish plants (a big deal here in the southwest). But I was too busy thinking off mountain lions...

You should have seen my face when I heard noises some distance behind me. I literally froze.
Thankfully, I wasn't the last TTR runner!
Two women had taken the West Fork trail and go backtracked. So they were coming up behind me.
I was thankful because it gave me a reason to go faster...I didn't want to be passed!

Out of the canyon, heading
up some steep hills. 
 After I got another energy boost from the women behind me, I left the cool, shady trees of the canyon and started by ascent uphill. And it wasn't an easy uphill. It was some serious uphill trail

I kept pushing myself, and continually looking back to make sure I was still far ahead of them.
Unfortunately, they were going pretty fast. And those uphills were killing me!
So, I had to let them pass. We all stopped on an overlook of the city and chatted for a little bit. I asked them about mountain lions. They said they never saw one...ever. I think they thought I was a little crazy for my paranoia but they definitely helped ease my worry. 

However, it was too late. I was already drained from all the worrying I was doing.
Like...sleepy drained. I literally wanted to go to sleep. 
My drained self, wanting to take a nap. 
So, I did. I think. I can't really remember. I was so tried!
I remember sitting down on a rock and I think i put my head down for what seemed like a few minutes.
And I'm pretty sure it was a few minutes. Because I remember frantically texting my boyfriend telling him I may die and I needed to be saved. But I eventually just settled with telling him to meet me at the Mt. Bigelow trail-head on Catalina Highway. 

I forced myself to get up and walk to the end if I had to. I wasn't going to stay out there. 
So I pushed myself. I ate a gel, hoping to get some energy. I mostly walked, and sometime I got a minute of jogging in. But it was mostly an uphill battle, literally. 

Looking out over Tucson.
Thimble Peak, from the other side. You can even see Phoneline Trail if you look close enough. 
 I started to climb even more. I passed some fairly high cliffs and if there was running water, I'm sure there would be waterfalls. 

Looking over some cliffs on the Palisades Trail.  
Thimble Peak disappearing in the background
as go farther up the trail. 

 My next goal was to make it to Mud Springs, the farthest point I had been coming down the Palisades trail from the other direction. I was going to cover the entire trail today, something I had been wanting to do for a very long time! 
The second I hit the mud, I was ecstatic! I was so happy I got another burst of energy. I was impressed with what I had just accomplished. I never thought I would be doing anything like this 2 years ago.

I was almost there!!!

The mud from Mud Springs. The name doesn't fool you. :)

It was actually full today! If I needed some water, I may actually drink it too.
It didn't look nasty as usual. 
So, I was almost there.
I knew I had to keep going.
And I still had to keep pushing myself to get there.

Just after Mud Springs.
I knew this part of the trail well. 
 I was so happy when I saw the pine tree line up ahead!!

 I was a little delirious at this point. I was elated to be so close and so happy to be outdoors and doing what I love to do most! 

A few more uphills to go. 
 This part of the trail was really tough for me because I knew exactly how much more ground I needed to cover. My childhood summer camp is just above this trail I hiked it a lot as a kid and as a counselor a few years ago.
When I got to the top of a particularly tough climb, I met two elderly rangers sitting down and enjoying the view. They were so cute! The woman was asking where I had come from and she was amazed at my answer. I was too. :)
Looking back from where I came from, feeling
impressed with myself. 
 I came near an intersection in the trail that I used a lot as a camp counselor and I saw Shower's Point.
I have probably hiked there over a hundred times in the past 15 years. It brought back a lot of good memories.
Shower's Point! Oh, how happy I am to see you!
I was getting really tired again. My legs were cramping up and I just ran out of water. I hoping to see Chance out on the trail somewhere (not sure why I thought that, but I did) so I was disappointed when he wasn't there. I finally reached the end of the Palisades Trail and I guess who was there?? Chance! He was waiting for me!  

He gave me some Gatorade to finish the last mile and he drove alongside me for a few feet until I told him to meet me at the aid station. 

Organization Ridge Road: The final mile.
 I made myself jog even though I hurt. I rounded the corner and there was the aid station!
The TTR volunteers were happy to see me. They said they were getting worried. They were so welcoming and happy to see me. What a nice thing to arrive to. I ate some snacks, picked up my bag and told them I wouldn't be going any farther. They told me the women who passed me had quit early too. Well, at leat I wasn't the only one. :)

I jumped in Chance's truck and we went home. I felt so sick on the drive down the mountain! I wanted to throw up! Thankfully, that feeling passed and I arrived home sleepy and ready for a nap. 

The elevation gain. 
As soon as I finished, I told Chance I would never run this trail again.
But to be honest, it was quite an adventure! I hope to run it again next year! :D
We always seem to forget about the pain, don't we?

"We take these risks not to escape life, but to prevent life from escaping us."

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