Imogene Pass (13,114ft.) is located between the mountain towns of Ouray (7810Ft) and Telluride (8820ft.), in the southwest corner of Colorado. The gravel road that connects these two towns is a serpentine remnant of the long abandoned mining industry. Now, tourism is the economic engine that puts paint on old buildings. The abandoned mining roads see the tire treads of rented jeeps and high tech mountain bikes.
Since 1974, Ouray and Telluride have hosted the Imogene Pass run. On the first Saturday after Labor Day, 1500 runners come to Ouray, eager to test their legs and their lungs on the rocky road that winds into very thin air as it connects these two towns.
The road from Ouray to the top of Imogene Pass is 10 miles long as it gains 5,310 feet in elevation. Along the way there are aid stations for the runners to replenish their dwindling resources. There are also a number of cut off points. These points are time checks for the slower runners……if you do not keep a minimum pace than you will need to turn around and retrace your steps. This is for the safety of the runners and the volunteer workers. Afternoon storms are quite prevalent in the high mountains and it is best to not be in an exposed location.
As I mingled with other runners at the beginning of this run….I experienced more than my usual anxiety. I was keenly aware that I had never run this much, up hill. I was not sure my mind and my body were up to the task. I was also aware that I had never run this much….. downhill! I was not sure if my joints were ready for this abuse. I was keenly aware that the cut off guardians might tell me to turn around. Failure would be clearly defined.
People who have successfully completed this run talk about a concept called IFM. Incessant Forward Motion is the key to success. As long as you continue to move forward….you will be successful. I was convinced that I could keep moving. It might not be pretty, but I would keep moving.
The other thing that people told me is that when I run down hill, I need to keep my weight ahead of my feet. If I experience a ‘falling’ sensation, than I will know that I am running in a ‘joint friendly’ manner. Most of my downhill running has been about my heels striking the ground first and my joints absorbing the shock. Being a heel striker might work well on a flat surface but it is not ideal for old joints on 7 miles of rocky downhill.
The starting gun sounded and I started to move. My mind was asking the question….can I make it? Then I asked….can I make it in style? What are the style points in such a difficult endeavor…….do not whine!
Then I focused on the critical application points. IFM……keep moving, even if you have to crawl. Run downhill like you are falling and link your recoveries.
I finished that run in the town of Telluride. It was fun, beautiful, painful and life giving. I am more committed than ever to practice IFM and to link my recoveries. I want to do life in style….I will not whine!