The Old Coyote pauses on the shoulder of the hill before turning to follow the trail uphill to the ridge top. He is satisfied with the day, and with his plans. There’s no training plan, no required miles or workout today, just a trail run for fun. The runner enjoys the scenery. The early season grasses have gone to seed and give a red-brown cast to the meadows. Recent rains have the wildflowers blooming in purple and blue and orange explosions. In the gulches, red willow shrubs are dark green shade for chokecherries forming on the bushes, food for bear and four-legged coyotes come fall.
A sudden flash catches his attention; something at the edge of his peripheral vision. A mountain biker has fallen behind the rest of his pack on the climb to the peak. His foot turnover and respiration quicken instinctively, followed by his heart rate. His focus is now on the prey ahead.
The cyclist disappears around a bend in the trail, but the runner is not concerned. He carries a map of this mountain in his head and knows that this trail is the only option for another 2 miles. In fact, the runner toys with the idea of shortcutting straight up to the top of the ridge but decides to conserve energy in the heat of the morning. He’ll catch his prey soon enough, and he recognizes by his body’s signals that he’s warmed up now and ready to kick up the effort. The trail winds up, and the rider goes in and out of view. He never looks back, though. The runner chuckles. A scant 1300 yards later the runner rounds the final corner before the trail reaches a minor summit and sees his prey just ahead. Timing is on his side this morning. As the cyclist sees the top he slows down in anticipation of a well deserved rest, while the runner sees that same summit and increases his effort and pounces.
4 yards separate the hunter from the hunted when the runner allows his footfall to be heard above the labored breathing of the cyclist. The rider stiffens in surprise, looking wildly left and right, but there is no escape. The runner inhales deeply and passes the cyclist with an easy “Good morning!” It’s another notch in his coup stick as the thoroughly beaten rider wobbles to a stop under the shade of a small tree and the runner picks up speed across the flattop. The rider knows that today the runner has been the more powerful warrior.
And yet…The runner later sees the rider behind him, still pedaling, still going uphill, still maintaining a relentless forward progress. This rider stays mounted when to walk would be both faster and less work. This rider knows that you don’t learn to ride uphill by walking uphill. The runner grunts in respect, knowing that the tables may be turned next summer, if this rider stays focused. He turns to follow a deer path down the gulch, narrow and overgrown as it is, as well as steep and rocky in places, no riders take this path. The runner howls with glee as he descends the barely visible trail, twice misstepping and nearly sliding ten yards into the creek at the bottom of the gulch, but never slowing down. Today he is champion of these hills. On this summer day, the Old Coyote is king.