PRs are hard to come by at my advanced age, though I do have a tried and true way of always getting one: run a new course. But that was not the case today. I ran the Green Mountain Loop, which I've run more than 100 times. Granted most of those have been in the last few years, but still...
My lifetime goal on this loop was to break an hour. Once I sort of did it, but it was tainted majorly by stopping the watch while I hiked back to find a Microspike I lost. So that doesn't count. My fastest real time was 1:01:??. I figured I had to have perfect snow conditions to break an hour and that on a dry trail that would not be possibly for me, though I vowed to give it a go if I ever broke 38 minutes on the ascent, which I viewed as the slowest ascent time that would have a shot at a roundtrip under an hour.
Homie had mentioned the other day that he had been having trouble breaking 40 minutes on the ascent lately. I responded that I was fearful of trying a hard ascent because I was afraid my time would be so slow that it would discourage me. Nevertheless, I decided to find out where I was at. So today when I took off I was not even thinking about the roundtrip, but was hoping I had it in me to break 40 minutes on the ascent.
I tried to start off at a sustainable pace and not blow up no the steep Amphitheater Trail. I ran some sections here, a lot more than usual, but that still amounted to only a minute or two at most of running. To break an hour the split at the Saddle Rock Trail junction needs to be around 8 minutes. I got there at 7:22 and immediately thought that it was too fast and I'd now probably blow up.
I got to the little wood bridge at 13:22. I wanted to be in the 15's here at worst and possibly under 15. Either I was having a great day or a blow-up was still coming, but it hadn't happened yet. I got to the Greenman Trail junction at 21:25. At that point I knew I could break 40 minutes, though it would still take some serious suffering.
I was doing the mental calculations, of course, and knew I could break 39 minutes. When I made the "10 minutes to go" switchback, I knew there was an outside shot of breaking 38 minutes. My all-time ascent PR is 37:30 or so. I pushed, did the direct scrambling on the summit boulder and made the true summit in 37:50.
At that point I was in a serious amount of pain, but I made a deal with myself about the roundtrip and had to continue to hurt. I immediately descended off the boulder and started down. The first couple of minutes of descending, as usual, where uncoordinated and didn't flow at all. Despite this I made the saddle and the junction with the Ranger Trail in 40:00. I pushed on the descent but was very focused to pick up my feet and to not take chances. Five minute down my playlist stopped and I even took the time to walk and switch to another playlist. I wondered if I'd regret taking that time later. Wondered if the the tunes would really help me enough to make up for that last time. No matter, I did it.
I went by the cabin at 48:55 and made the junction with the Gregory Canyon trail at 49:55. I pushed on the slight rise there and then went as hard as I could whenever the running was non-technical. I was very careful in the technical sections and slowed down there. I didn't take unnecessary risks there. It wasn't worth it to me to take too big of a risk in that terrain. But outside of the nasty sections, I pushed and I hurt.
I made the "4 minutes to go" bridge at 55:10. I knew I had my first sub-hour loop at that point. Did I ease up, be really careful and cruise in? Not my style. Probably not any competitive person's style. I had a shot to break 59 and only had to hurt for four more minutes. The worst technical section was still to come and I was once again very careful there. I went as fast as I dared in the last minute and hit the trailhead in 58:59! What a shock. I'm thrilled with this result.
Homie was standing there, having just finished his run (where he PRed as well to Green's summit via Flagstaff's summit). On the 15-minute drive to work my body continued to pour out sweat at a tremendous rate. My engine was frantically trying to cool itself. On the drive to the trailhead that morning I turned on my heart-rate monitor and never saw my HR go below 60. That is usually an indication that today wasn't a day to push things, but mentally, I wanted to see where I was at, so I ignored that data point. I'm glad I did.