Last year, Matty and I decided it would be fun to celebrate our birthdays (4 days apart), by running our average age in miles through the foothills. I don’t recall why we thought this would be fun, but the idea stuck. Last year we did one large loop for all 32.5 miles and almost no one decided to join us. This year, to encourage others to participate, we changed it to be four smaller loops: 16.5 miles, 7.5 miles, 5.5 miles and 4 miles. We had run each of the loops before and they included some of our favorite trails.
The run was scheduled for Saturday and the Tuesday before, I woke up with a cold. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in bed. When Saturday came around, I was still feeling a bit rough, but it was time to run. Matty arrived here at 8:45 and we jogged over to Camelsback Park. I had to pause once in the quarter mile warm up for a coughing fit, but I was determined to do the first loop. We met another runner and started out for 16.5 miles.
Once my body realized that I was running and coughing wasn’t going to stop me, I started feeling a bit better. Climbing the hills certainly taxed my still sore lungs, but we kept running. About 11 miles into the loop, I came around the corner and almost stepped on a bull snake. Without thinking, I jumped. The other two runners saw me jump and they did the same. It was odd, but we didn’t even consciously realize we saw the snake until we were several feet past it.
We finished the first loop, got more water and snacks, I nearly vomited (NEARLY vomiting is, unfortunately, not that unusual for me on long runs) and we headed out on the second loop. Having finished the first loop at a 9:15 minute per mile pace, I decided I was feeling good enough for one more. The second loop was uneventful enough. Matty and I started alone, but another runner met us about half way around and joined us. We finished that loop a little slower.
Back at Camelsback, we got more water and several BAR runners joined us for the third loop. On this loop, my cold and lack of sleep finally caught up with me. I slowed to an 11 minute/mile and started coughing again. It was difficult to finish the loop. By the end I knew I had less than 4 miles to go, but wasn’t sure if I could do it. I found a shady spot to sit and got too comfortable. Finally, Matty said it was time to go and five of us headed out for the last loop. In the first 200 m, I started coughing, had to walk, and fell behind the group. I told them to go ahead and I continued to run/walk/cough for about a mile before giving up. I hurt. It hurt to run; it hurt to breath. I stopped and drank some water. I had 2.5 miles left. I knew I couldn’t run it, but started walking again to see how far I could go.
One of the runners with the group came back to join me and we continued walking. We chatted occasionally, but I felt bad enough to not really want to talk much. The rest of the group had stopped to make sure I was ok and I told them to finish without me. At that point, we were halfway done with the final loop. I knew I could walk two miles, but it might take me an hour. I continued my slow progression around the loop. With a quarter of a mile to go, I was brought to my knees with another coughing fit.
As I approached the finish, Matty and several other runners came out to join me and we all crossed the line together. I was certainly not feeling good at that point, but the support made it not feel quite as bad. Later I was told I looked like a ghost crossing the line. We stayed in the park for about four hours just eating, drinking and relaxing. We had earned it.
The following few days, my legs felt much better than they had after most of my other long runs. My lungs did not. I continued to cough and hack for another week. I’m getting better now and I’ve decided I need to rerun the course later this year when I don’t have a cold to see how I can do. Now, it’s time to start plotting the course for next year’s Birthday Bash. Where to go for 34.5 miles of “fun”? Any suggestions?