Nothin’ A Lil’ Stubborn Can’t Fix

If you’re anything like me, you too are stubborn as s#$%. At times, it means driving people – me, myself, and I included – absolutely nuts. Believe me, I have beyond irritated myself on more than a handful of occasions with the extent of my own obstinacy – sometimes cleverly disguised as a ‘type A’ personality and/or a touch of OCD.

Most times, though, it’s what’s helped me to achieve many things in  many areas of life to date. And for that, I wouldn’t trade my temporary self-inflicted annoyance for the world.

Case in point: my first – and hopefully my last – ‘all-out ‘Superman’ face plant into the dirt‘ exactly one year and two Saturdays ago. Exactly two Saturdays ago, I returned to beautiful Elk Meadow Park in Evergreen, CO, to face what had become my trail running nemesis – Too Long Trail – exactly one year before.

I had surely done something dreadfully awful to anger the Too Long gods enough to knock me down not once, but TWICE at what I’m pretty sure was the exact same spot on the trail, leaving a lasting reminder on the exact same spot of my exact same knee:

Then. . .now. Night. . .day!

Then. . .now. Night. . .day. Yet, the scar remains. . .

That injury put me out of running for TWO WHOLE WEEKS – 12.5% of my marathon training plan – an eternity given that I was prepping for my first-ever marathon. I vowed after my second fall there three weeks later to return and to run Too Long Trail fall free. That day had finally come.

I found myself going it solo, fitting since I was on a mission beyond mere miles to check off my training ‘to do’ list. When I first jumped in the car, I felt calm and completely composed pretty much the entire drive. The second I turned off the engine, though, my nerves punched me in the gut full force.

I stepped out of my car, stretched my legs, opened the back door, toyed with my hydration vest and gear in the back seat, radio blaring. I sat in the driver’s seat again, legs hanging out the open door, tied my shoes and finally took my keys from the ignition and removed my car key from the ring. Nothing left to do now but run.

I geared up, locked the car, headed over to the park map to refresh my memory and to do a little math – but failed. Meadow View Trail – point seven – plus Bergen Peak – two point seven – plus one mile to Bergen Peak. That’s. . .about four miles, plus one mile down, plus two point four for Too Long, then. . .

Then. . .my brain stopped working. I tried about three times more to figure out where to go from there to hit 16 miles but never really did. Calm down! You’re fine! Just run. It was then that the realization set in. It wasn’t just ‘ants in my pants’ anxiety. I was scared. I wished Dakin and JD were there too.

The trail was rougher than I remember; but, surprisingly, the first part of it wasn’t as steep as I thought. I knew it would get worse on both fronts a few miles up, though, and so was trying to conserve some energy for it. I stubbed my toe, stumbled, gasped. It’s OK. You’re OK. Just keep going. And I did, occasionally reminding myself of just that. You’re OK. Keep going.

Finally, I made it to Bergen Peak and got my hard-earned view:

Big breath in. . .out with a grin and a 'hmmmmmmm'

Big breath in. . .out with a grin and a ‘hmmmmmmm’

After chatting with a pair of bikers and a hiker or two, I headed back down toward Too Long Trail. As hard as that four-mile climb was, I knew it would be the easy part of the day. Only. . .it wasn’t. I was pleasantly surprised at my focus on the trail, on my footing, on my breathing, and NOT on any fear of a stumble ending in another dusty face plant.

It wasn’t until what I figured had to be the end of Too Long that I even thought of falling, I think because the trail started to resemble that fateful spot. Even so, I was not at all nervous, just focused.

And then, just like that, Too Long Trail came to an end. I stopped running, stopped my watch. Made it! I grinned to myself in my head, then checked my mileage. Hmm. Where to next? Typically, I’d take a left on Meadow View. . .right on Painters Pause. . .right on Founders. . .then retrace Meadow View to the parking lot. But today was different.

I looked left along Meadow View, then over my left shoulder – back at the incline which I had just come down. There was only one option, really. So I headed back up. Back up nearly two and a half miles of Too Long – with not a single thought of an impending fall – then a steep nearly three miles down Bergen Peak. . .a quick, almost flat loop where I could actually run – Meadow View, Elk Ridge, Sleepy “S”, Meadow.

Fifteen point twenty-six miles; just a hair shy of three thousand, six hundred feet of elevation gain; three hours, fourteen minutes, thirty-nine seconds. Had a stumble or two – but no falls – and, most importantly, long-awaited redemption. Sometimes, it pays to be stubborn.

Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy and practice at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.

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