Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Philmont Story from 2002

I was driving back into Cimarron from my Santa Fe Trail explorations today and Paul McCartney came out of random play on my iPod. It reminded me of something I had written a few years back in my Albuquerque days wrapping together running, Philmont, and even sort of a love story. 


My wife is getting a little jealous because I’m in love with my shoes.

The notice popped up on my on-line running log that my Asics were approaching retirement age.  Dr. Caesar, upon referring me to the good running shoe stores had said that you need to buy new running shoes every six months or so.  The time was running out and so were the miles on the Asics 2060’s.  The running books and magazines all said that 500 miles was about the limit.  After that they break down and do not have the cushion and form to keep your feet comfortable and safe from injury.   And I was getting an occasional blister on that thin part of the toes where they attach to the feet.

One Friday after work I was drawn into Fleet Feet running store again to check out the shoes.  It was after Fathers Day and before my birthday but I had talked both my wife and myself that it was time for new ones.  There were a couple of young people working the store, a boy and a girl.  They looked like high school track athletes with their good looks and youthful energy.  The girl asked if she could help and I showed her my old Asics that I had brought in to check how they had worn.  She glanced at the soles then lined them on the counter side by side and looked at the back.  She said they looked OK.  That caught the interest of the storeowner, a wiry thin man with the attitude that she didn’t look hard enough.  He came over and carefully studied the shoes pointing out, particularly to the girl, that the left one had worn a little down on the left backside indicating the overpronation.  So, the stability control shoes were necessary.  He quietly went back to other activities as the girl led me over to the display wall of shoes.  I recognized and pulled down a bright, new Asics 2060 and happily noted it was on sale.  She asked if I would like to try on any others and I willingly obliged.  Maybe I would find something even better. The boy immediately produced several pair of fancy Asics.  They appropriately assumed I was now brand-loyal.  There were some nice shoes that went on my feet, the Gel-Nimbus, Preleus and Kayano.  The boy was lacing them up and handing them to me.  Somehow it came up as it started to pour rain and hail outside that I wasn’t going to run that day because I was planning on a 16-mile run the next morning.  He commented that that was farther than he ran making me feel a little proud of myself.

I felt like a prince being outfitted for a fancy ball.  After tempting me with several beautiful and expensive pairs, I slipped on the new 2060’s in my size 9.  My foot went in smooth like Cinderella’s into the glass slipper.  “This is my shoe!” I blurted out.  And of course it was.  I was used to the fit and the feel and it did feel so very good.  It also looked good to have a spanking brand new pair now that my old ones were worn and dirt-stained.  I excitedly stood up and waltzed around the floor and said I would just have to stick to what was I was used to.  And they were on sale, which meant the shoes were loyal to me too.

The next morning I went down to the Bosque for a 16-mile run.  The Tramway Trail was getting a little old and the path along the Rio Grande is so green and enjoyable.  The best part is that there are no cars.  When the path comes to a roadway leading to a bridge over the Rio Grande, there is an underpass for the Bosque trail.  Bosque is the Spanish for “grove” or “forest,” the only native greenery of any significance except for the pines at higher elevation up the slopes of the Southern Rockies.

I drove and parked at the Central Bridge.  As I was sitting in the car lacing up my brand new Asics, extra tight as I like to wear them, the car stereo was still playing Paul McCartney from Red Rose Speedway.  The song amazingly was celebrating my shoes!  

           I've Waited All My Life For You
                        Hold Me Tight
                        Take Care Of Me And I'll Be Right
                        Hold Me Tight, Hold Me Tight
                        Hold Me Tight, Hugga Me Right

                        Hold Me Tight, Squeeza Me Tight

                        Hold Me Tight. . . .

As I headed out south, the levee road was still damp from the hailstorm the evening before.  My shiny new shoes crunched on the wet sandy soil that had billowed up in clouds of dust on my previous Bosque runs.  It was great to be alone with my Asics.  One half hour into it I saw a fresh bike track on the road and then one set of foot prints south of the bridge at appropriately named Bridge Avenue.  But there was not another soul in sight the whole four miles down to my turn around.  On the way back I started to see a few people.

Another good thing about the Rio Grande levee road in the Bosque is the regular markers at every half mile.  They indicate the distance either northeast or southeast of the Central Bridge.  This comes in very handy with my basic math impairment.  I suppose the levee road on the west side is marked northwest and southwest but I’ve only run the east side of the river so far.  I run south to a turn around point and then north back to the car where I have a mid-run break switching out my drink bottles.  Then it is north for an equal distance, under the I-40 bridge, on up past the Rio Grande Nature Center near Montaño Bridge where there are usually a lot more people.

On this day’s run I took it easy, lazily enjoying the explosive power of my legs.  My shoes felt so good:

I Can’t Get Over Myself
Falling Into The Hands Of Love
Just Can’t Imagine Myself
Falling Head Over Heals In Love
But When I Saw You Last Night
I Knew For The First Time
That You Were the One I'd Been Dreaming Of

While still loyal to my Asics my store allegiance was shifting.  During the summer I discovered another store, Sportz Outdoor, on Montgomery near Louisiana Boulevard.  It has bicycles and hiking gear along with running shoes and clothes.  The best part is they sell Power Bars and Gels for only 99 cents.  I try to swing by there the end of every week to buy three Power Gels in preparation for my long runs on Saturdays.  While there I try on the beautiful blue and black Asics jackets I can’t afford to buy and check out the other running merchandise.

Late in the summer I noticed that my Asics 2060’s were on the clearance table at Sportz Outdoor.  I picked up the display shoe from the top of a pile of boxes, two of which were marked in my size 9.  A salesman came up and asked if he could help.  I asked him if the 2060’s were being discontinued and he said the Asics 2070 replaced them and the 2070 would be followed by the 2080 next Spring.  But he said the 2060 were a great shoe and he didn’t understand why they had to keep upgrading what was already good.  I noted it would probably be smart to buy them up at the discounted price.  Then I asked him about the swelling in my tendons on the top of my ankles from having my laces so tight.  He took the 2060 from my hand and showed me a couple of alternate lacing tricks to avoid the pressure right at the top of the shoe.  I thanked him and said I would think about buying up the clearance table.

On the Labor Day Weekend sales flyer Sportz Outdoor advertised a bag sale.  That is everything you can fit in a certain bag you could have for an extra discount.  We were busy with family activities and tight on cash as usual so I didn’t go down there.  I thought for sure some smart guy would be buying up all my 2060’s.  But they were still there when I went back the next Thursday during lunch break for Saturday’s vanilla Power Gels.  I called my wife that afternoon and decided to buy a pair of clearance shoes to make sure I had some nice, fresh ones for the St. George Marathon the next month.  I went back on my way home from work and grabbed a box although I did check three times to make sure I had both a right and left shoe in the right size.  A large, careless, shoe store chain had sold two right-footed, New Balance walking shoes to my wife a few weeks ago.

I took the new shoes home and placed them boxed up high in the closet next to my original box.  I had already marked my first pair with a number “1” on the inside top of the tongue.  I now marked my current pair with a “2” in the same place.  I only marked the outside of the new box with a “3” keeping the shoes themselves in pristine shape.  I’ll wear them a time or two before the race to break them in but they need to stay nice.  I was so lucky to get them on clearance.

There May Be A Miracle
And Baby I Love You So

My old original Asics 2060’s went with my two oldest boys and me on a Backpacking Trek to Philmont Scout Ranch earlier in the summer.  The equipment list required “light weight sneakers or tennis shoes.”  What better fit than my retired running shoes.  And I thought I might just have the chance to get a run or two in on the days we had layover camps to rest from our hiking. 

It didn’t work out that way.  The 65-mile trek with a 60-pound pack was enough of a challenge to provide adequate cross training without running on top.  But the shoes sure came in handy after a rough day of hiking when we got into camp.  As they went on my feet, light and airy, pounds of weariness left me.  It was like walking on billowing thunderclouds after the heavy hiking boots and thick socks.

They were on my feet for the adventure of our last morning in the backcountry. We camped on Tooth Ridge at the foot of the Tooth of Time, a large, granite bicuspid landmark high above the Mountain Branch of the Old Santa Fe Trail in northeastern New Mexico.  Our crazy Ranger, Drew (we never did learn his last name and we couldn’t read his handwriting), had suggested that at the last camp we get up at 3:30 a.m. and climb the Tooth of Time to watch the sunrise.  I thought 3:30 was a little extreme but nevertheless, I woke up around 3 a.m. that morning and just dozed until 3:30 when I got up, dressed and woke boys up at 4, then started on my own up to the Tooth.  In the dark I lost the trail a couple of times just getting out of the campsite but followed it most of the way up to the base of the Tooth.  I lost it again here and there and then lost it for good in the final rock field.  There was a little over half a bright moon left and that light was generally better than my mini-maglite.  I got clear to the top about 4:30 a.m.  It was still dark and I felt the breeze coming over the other side where the darkness opened up into nothingness.  Vertigo got to me and I crouched down between two boulders holding onto the rock with my arms.  Slowly and gradually I acclimatized and noticed the brass cap from the U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey right next to me.  I shined my light on it but could not read much with all the chipping and battering of the metal since 1919 – the date being the only clear indicator I could make out on the marker. I had a real terror of throwing myself off the cliff and falling into outer darkness but I gradually calmed and felt the Spirit and the beauty of the place.  I could see the lights of Cimarron, Springer and the Philmont Training Center.  There was the thinnest strip of lighter sky marking the eastern horizon.  Two shooting stars and a satellite went over above me.  I prayed.  I thought about a lot of things.  I did not think about my shoes.  I thought about my wife.

             Hold Me Tight.

[If you want to read more of my running stories, you can click and start here. Or, you can continue on to Part 8 of my Marathon story here.]

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