Ruben greets me, and I clearly have some years on him. He's an incredibly sweet and cool cat, and I'm always up for makin' a new friend or three, so off we trotted up the road for about a mile's jog before hitting the TRAILS of the park.
Okay, I'll stop the all caps thing now. Okay, one last one.
The climb was subtle, but there, and I couldn't help but notice we were running at a speed slightly faster than my normal short run pace. Ah well. Things will slow down when we hit those massive climbs in the park thought I, gracefully skipping over road construction pot holes and following my partner into the park.
We get to talking, not necessarily about running at first: School, jobs, loving the Pacific NW, and then the first major climb rears it's ugly, muddy head. I was immediately reminded of an episode of The Simpsons wherein Homer agrees to climb a mountain sponsored by an energy bar. One of the people sponsoring the climb points out the window and it's revealed to reach miles into the sky. The man tells Homer, and I am paraphrasing, "Yes, riiiiight next to that one." The camera pans back to reveal a larger and even more ominous mountain beside the original towering giant. He then adds, "Uh huh. Juuust to the right of that one." Camera again pans back to reveal a monstrous mountain that completely dwarfs the others, stretching into the clouds.
That, my friends, was only slightly less steep than this first climb.
Ruben trots up the trail casually at a pace I myself would label "a slow sprint". I even tell him I need to walk a few seconds, which he happily does with me until it tapers back to something that would remind a human being as not-a-means-of-torture. Winding up and up, we finally hit the top and are on level loops around a central park when we begin talking about ultra marathon running.
Me: "Is that shirt from the local 50k I've heard about?"
Ruben: "yeah! It's really fun. I was in the lead until the last few miles."
Me: "jdhfpunf;oiwhrvudu[dcjnv!!!!!1111eleventy" (as my jaw had hit the ground, I was incoherent)
Me (finally getting it together): "What did you wind up placing?"
Ruben: "Third. I finished in 4 hours."
As it turns out, I was on a hilly training run with, someone I would at least deem, an elite trail runner.
We returned to his place 45 minutes later, my legs burning from the intense speeds (at least for this old man) and enjoyed some snacks while watching Californication.
I bid Ruben farewell and promised we'd run together again, maybe for a long, slow run (please God, please - long and slow this time) and I returned home, muddy and humbled, with legs that felt as though Bruce Lee had swung by and kicked the living shit out of them.
I hadn't noticed the race trophies on his mantel until just before I'd left.
(post script: I just checked the website for the results from the 50k at Forest Park that was run in May. Guess who won the damned thing.)