- I heard on the radio this morning that today was the midpoint of the year: 182 days have gone by, 182 days yet to come, and then there is today… unique, standing between past and future – which made me realize that every day is like that; the moving terminator, the razor’s edge, dividing that which was from that which can be…so why shouldn’t we take advantage of such a powerful opportunity?
- I was reading today’s post from my friend Melissa, about how hard training routines require a special kind of grit to endure, how you have to find something inside yourself that gets you to the other side – and it occurred to me that this is what separates runners from non-runners: we are the masters of delayed gratification; we sweat, strive, and struggle because we know the rewards will be worth it…even when no one else understands or believes it!
- I’ve posted a couple of times on social media about how I am struggling with the demands of my job right now, and the havoc it has wreaked on my training plans and running schedules over the last few weeks – I have missed two weeks of sessions with my personal trainer and run practically nothing for a month – but I still managed to run a spontaneous 30K trail race last weekend (more about that in a minute); I was really shocked at the feedback about how inspiring I am to others – Really? Me? – and this made me think that each one of us can be the person that helps motivate another, and so we have a real obligation to share our ups and downs, if only so they can know that they are not alone in their personal battles.
All of this is by way of introduction for my recap of the Capt’n Karl’s Trail Series race I ran over the weekend at Perdenales Falls State Park. I signed up to run the 10K here a few weeks ago, when many of the folks in my trail running club started posting in our Facebook group about their plans. I have been trying to be a more active member of the group, both online and in real life, but work and life often interfere with my plans..I miss a lot of the group runs due to last-minute obligations, or simply the need to get some rest after the demands of the week. I came very close to skipping this one, paid registration or not, but on the Thursday before race weekend the decision made itself: I came home from work with a blinding stress headache, went to bed with head still throbbing, woke up with the same headache – and decided to hit the reset button. I called my lead guys on the job, gave them direction to start the day… and then sat down to drink another cup of coffee. I went to the office instead of out to the job site, and told them that if I did not get some time away I was going to have a meltdown. I give my supervisors credit for recognizing that I was serious, and giving me the greenlight to take off and have a good time!
The races in this series are all run at night, in deference to the Texas summer heat – how in the world anyone runs a long distance race in the daytime between May and October in the South is beyond me! I had to go by the job for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, but by 9:00 I was out of there, to head home and pack for the weekend. I met up with three other guys who were also running, to carpool the 4 hours west of Houston to the park where the race was being held – of course, we stopped to eat a hearty pre-race meal on the way 🙂 (I always wonder what the waitresses must think when a group of runners eat together; between us I bet we demolished 10,000 calories!)
We made our way into the beautiful Texas Hill Country (I may be the worst blogger ever, because I neglected to take one single picture to share with you…I was sleeping much of the way there, to tell the truth!) and set up camp near the start/finish area. About a dozen club members were there, and we chit-chatted while waiting for the pre-race meeting. It was around this time that peer pressure got the best of me – they kept saying, “You didn’t drive all this way and stay here all night just to run for only one hour, did you?” – and I went back to the registration table to upgrade from 10K to 30K…I just happened to have the exact amount of cash in my wallet to cover the difference, so I took that as a sign that it was meant to be! I did, however, completely refuse to entertain the idea of running 60K, I might be gullible but I’m not nuts!!!
I went into this with absolutely no expectations – I had not trained for this distance, I didn’t even have a pack or enough gels; but I had a 16 oz. bottle on a waist pack, and my friends had extra fuel so all was well, Plus, this race director puts on epic events…the aid stations are fully stocked with everything you could ever want, and at 5-mile intervals you are never too far away. The 60K runners lined up at 7pm, and as soon as they were gone, I lined up with the 30K group to be ready for our 7:15 gun…and then we were off!
I really tried to hold myself back, but after getting caught behind a large group of folks walking up the single-track first hill, I couldn’t take it any more and broke away, dodging around and through the rocks and cactus to get into the clear. The first several miles passed by easily, making conversation with others as we worked up and down the hills and ravines; I held to my regular strategy of running easy on the uphills, blasting the downhills, and catching my breath of the (short) flat sections. I have gotten into the habit of starting my tracking app and then ignoring it, choosing to run by feel, and this was no exception. The only time I looked at it was when I got the low-battery warning after only 90 minutes…so much for technology! (I really need to get a Garmin, instead of depending on my phone, anyone got a deal for me?) At that point I was about 7.5 miles in, and looking at a sub 4-hour finish, and I felt pretty good about that! Alas, ’twas not to be 😦
My first real trouble came around mile 10, when a rock slid out from under me in on of those downhill bombing runs; I did not crash, but I did hyper-extend my knee a bit, and from then on things only got tougher. My ankles began to sing their own chorus of agony after a couple more miles of favoring the sore knee, but by this point nothing was going to stop me! I walked when I had to, ran when I could, and through it all had a fantastic time! I traded laughs and encouragement with dozens of other runners, and the hours and the miles rolled on by.
The last two miles were the most fun, and the most challenging…it was full dark, a new moon and cloudy skies held the darkness complete and the humidity close. Everywhere my headlamp shined, I saw the reflection of hundreds of little green insect eyes looking back at me 🙂 The spiders and scorpions scrambled to get out of the way, and I did not personally see any snakes, although I heard reports of them from others. My running partner Jeremy caught back up to me about a mile from the end; he was on track to beat his PR at this course by over an hour, and totally stoked by that fact, so I committed to run with him all the way to the end, pushing each other all the way with shouts of “What would Killian do?” I don’t know that answer, but I do know that we sprinted the last 100 yards or so, and crossed the finish line at the same moment, with identical finish times of 4:05:35, and a hearty hug and laugh as we received our medals!
I was tired, I was sore, I was starving…but most of all, I was FINISHED! If you have ever run a race you weren’t sure about, you know what I mean, and if you haven’t…I want you to know that you CAN outrun your doubts; your body is capable of far more than your mind will tell you it is, just keep going.
That’s a great metaphor for life, too, isn’t it?
Have you ever run a spontaneous race?
How did it go?
I’d love to hear from you!!
(I will be running the whole series over the course of the sunner, with the next race at Muleshoe Bend State Park in July…and this time I am signing up for the 30K from the get-go! Stay tuned for that recap when it happens! Between now and then I will still be working on the details of my fall training plan, which gets started in earnest the first week of August…I hope to have something concrete to share with you by next week.)