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Training Day

by Emily Gindle » on Nov 08, 2010 3

I got this crazy idea about a couple of days ago that I wanted to run a trail circuit in a mountain range north of town: Pima Canyon to the summit of Mount Kimball, and from there take Finger Rock Canyon back down. 12 miles, roughly 4,000 feet of elevation gain (and then loss): it comes close to a half marathon, all on steep rocky trail, in my Fivefingers. It’s certainly not a big feat for some, but for a girl who until a year ago had never run more than a mile, this is huge.

Today was Training Day. Though I’ve fallen in love with trail running lately, I still hadn’t strung more than a couple of miles together, so the goal was to see how far I could get comfortably. I went out to Pima Canyon and dragged myself up the rocky, stair-stepping start, and I want to make it perfectly clear that when I say I’m “running” up it, that term is used as loosely as possible to describe an upward movement that may very closely resemble walking, even if I’d like to pretend it’s faster. It always takes me a long time to get into a groove with this trail. Usually I start at a slow pace and ramp it up after a few hundred yards, but this trail starts in a nice flat sandy wash and then as soon as I’m ready to kick myself into gear, the bouldery stairs start. I go into it enthusiastically, with the idea that I’m going to kill it, and quickly burn myself out. My heart rate soars, my face goes beet purple, and I have to trot/limp the next half-mile of rising ridge line before it goes downhill into the wash again. This day when I’m trying to be a badass is no exception.

But however struggling and out of breath, I make my way to the spot a mile in where I usually turn around, and I keep running. A mile later I make it to the spot where I usually turn around on hikes, and I keep running. What I expected to be a four-mile out-and-back jaunt turns into six as I add another mile. And up here, deeper in this canyon than I have ever been, the view opens up with an expanse of grey and white marbled granite making up the canyon floor, rock walls on all sides towering above to the blue cloudless ceiling. I’m really only a few miles from home but the distance between here and my little guest house in the city seems huge. It normally takes hikers two hours to get here and I have done it in one and it feels amazing to have arrived someplace so different just by running.

Worn into the rock slab at my feet are five bedrock mortars, deep round divots, each a bit bigger than a fist. Hohokam Indian people ground mesquite beans in these. It’s like I’ve run into the mountains and back in time.

On the way back I encounter what will probably be the biggest obstacle in my trail half-marathon aspirations: a sugar crash. I brought a little goo (liquified sugar packet) with me for just such an occasion, but I wait too long to use it and as I run down the mountain waiting for it to kick in, my feet are definitely not on their game. They’re tired and floppy, and they start catching on rocks. I take a couple of huge nose-dives, landing spread full length down the trail. One trip sends me rocketing face first toward a head-sized boulder, which I catch in my hands, landing in a narrow push-up. I give silent thanks for all the push-ups I have ever done in my life. And then I take it a little easier until my feet stop throbbing.

As I run up to the parking lot and stretch out on the side of the pavement, I have the realization that I just had an incredible experience, despite the laundry list of factors that could have interrupted my day: seasonal allergies gave me a constantly runny nose, wind kicked dust in my eyes, I was consistently out of breath, my blood sugar crashed, my feet were bruised, I had to walk more than my ego wanted me to and my pacing sucked. And yet, I would give this Training Day a five-star rating. The communication between my body and brain is getting better: my body tells me what it needs and I give it; I tell my body what I want to do and it finds a way to make it happen. Sometimes we have to take it easy, but my body and I are becoming a great running team.


  1. Chris Lee

    November 09th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Congrats on a killer run! Just starting the process myself. Sounds like it’s getting fun!


    • Emily

      November 13th, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      Thanks, Chris! “Fun” isn’t always the word that’s stuck in my head, but at least it’s always an adventure. I love adventures. Hope yours goes well! – Emily


  2. Alan

    January 05th, 2012 at 1:04 am

    Awesome story! I had fun reading it. Keep up the good runs


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