|Photo by Seth Trittipoe|
The race was Terrapin Mountain 50K. With somewhere between 7500 and 8500 feet of both gain and descent (reports differ), the race is not for the light-hearted. Quad crushing downhills and relentless climbs make an impression on even well-trained and behaving muscles. I had been doing my share of long runs and was consistent in daily training with my track distance runners. But not all those runs were substantial in mileage even if they were done at quicker paces. I didn't how I would fair in this race. And I sure wasn't confident enough in my training to push to the red line and hold it there. I was afraid it would quickly become the dead line.
Upon waking in the inky pre-race darkness of 4:30 a.m., I felt a peculiar calm. The sense of dread so familiar in previous years was absent. Rather, sipping my coffee on the way to the start, I smiled just a bit as I prepared my mind for the task. I just hoped the body would prove equally prepared.
Run when I can. Walk when I must. Drink often, nibble frequently, get in the electrolytes. Repeat over and over again. That's as simple as it gets. Occasionally, I chatted with those around me. Pleasant enough and a welcome distraction at times. But most often, I liked to be alone on the trail, able to set my own pace and mull over my thoughts. Sometimes I prayed for others. Sometimes I prayed for myself. Sometimes my mind wandered to planning projects on the home front, outlining upcoming speeches, or merely taking in the soothing sound of leaves rustling or gravel crunching beneath my feet.
Before the starting gong rang out it's rich tone, someone asked me what my goal was. Hum. I guess it was to be the first grand masters woman to cross the finish line. The problem was, a friend of mine had just recently slipped into this age group, bringing strong legs and many training miles with her. Early in the race she had pulled away from me. But I knew she was never far ahead. I wanted to catch her and with five and a half miles to go, saw her coming at me on an out-and-back section. My heart quickened and my pace wanted to. Unfortunately, the cramping calves incident had happened just moments prior. Plus, I knew our passing would be all the motivation she needed to keep the lead.
|Photo by Seth Trittipoe|
Then, with half a mile to go, my left calf cried out. I stopped dead in my tracks. I could hear the noise from the finish line and the pitter-patter of approaching feet from behind. Gosh. I shook my head, briefly stretched my leg and continued on. What else could I do? I failed to meet my goal, finishing about ten or twelve minutes back from the women four years my junior. It happens. My tenth place finish for the women was good, not great. But the day? More than acceptable. The temperature was about perfect and the rain held off. I was happy, content, and grateful I could be out there. Conversation was good, old friends seen, and new acquaintances made. No blood or lasting injury for me. Post-race movement is decent and determination for future endeavors is growing.
Couldn't ask for more.
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