Yesterday we headed up to Buena Vista for another run with the lovely Curtis Imrie, Amber (Happy Birthday, Amber!), Brad, and Jim. We took out Big Chief (one of the most beautiful animals I have ever seen), McMurphy (the most vocal burro I have ever met), Gypsy and Sabina (the wild BLM girls), and Jewel. Chief is a total ham, and doesn't realize that he weighs over 1000 lbs. He just wants to cuddle.
It was a beautiful day and I was SO happy to get out of the city heat. On Wednesday I did Apex (the trail in Golden) in 90-degree weather and it was just so sweaty and hot. So the mountain air felt nice and cool. Anyhow, yesterday's trail was through the San Isabel National Forest. It was a 2600 foot elevation gain and an 8 mile trek. This means that 75% of our run was uphill. Which for me meant I was not running the whole way. I was out of breath, struggling, huffing, wondering why I am not in better shape. I kept wondering if the entire trail was uphill. The answer? Mostly. But I got through it. I was even able to get Sabina to pull me part of the way.
The highlight of the day was crossing a stream - a big feat for these big animals, who had not encountered moving water before. The jacks (Chief and McMurphy) were tough to get across, but the girls were quite cooperative. They were trusting us. The ice-cold mountain water felt great squelching in our running shoes. Really.
Then we got to do some downhill! I couldn't quite get Sabina to move while I was in front of her, so I broke the cardinal rule of burro racing and got behind her on the downhill. Sure enough, I tripped on a rock and did a big belly slide downhill about 15 feet. I was holding onto the rope and I wasn't in danger of losing any teeth or anything, so it was actually sort of fun. The funniest part was Sabina - she didn't realize I had fallen, even though I was dangling onto the lead rope behind her. Finally she stopped and look back at me like "Oh! I lost my human!" She actually paused and waited for me and let me use her to get up. Besides some skinned elbows and a bruise on my thigh, I'm just fine (here's a pic from last night - evidence that indeed, I am fine, and just as deranged as ever).
The rest of the downhill I pulled her - with the lead around my hips she took almost all the pressure off my knees, which was ideal.
Another highlight: Sabina loves kisses. Every once in awhile she would stop and refuse to go further. I'd circle back and give her a kiss on the nose, and we'd be off again. What a sweet little girl.
SO. I have been training for over a month. And you know what? Maybe I am getting a little bit of ego. Let's call it pride. I am learning how to handle these animals. I am learning to be tougher, run longer, whine less. I am learning how to bring enough water, how to get my donkey to pull uphill, how to put a saddle on, how to tie a good knot. I wake up early to make these runs. Sometimes we don't get back until late. And I feel so damn proud of myself. This is my dream, and every day brings me closer to the finish line. I know, I know, you are getting sick of the metaphoric comparisons, but I can't help think this is good life training. That these skills are transferrable.
And you know what? I think I have earned a bit of ego in the last thirty days. Does this mean I can gloat and brag? No. But it does mean that I am proud of how far I have come and I would not give up this experience for anything.
Yep. Skinned elbows and big egos, y'all. That's burro racin'.
And it is changing the fabric of my soul.