Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trotting on Terrapin

Photo by Seth Trittipoe
Yowzah! The muscles in both my calves instantaneously drew up into tight rubber-band balls. It brought me to an abrupt stop, grabbing for a nearby tree. The spasm drew both feet in directions not intended for a natural cadence. Using the tree for support, I stretched out both legs and gingerly proceeded on my way. I had been doing so well. But when I spoke to a young runner who had taken a headlong plunge into the woods, I lost my concentration and caught my toe on a relatively smooth portion of trail. I guess I can't talk and run at the same time. If it hadn't hurt so bad, it might have even been funny. Down the hatch went electrolyte drink and capsules and a handful of pretzels in an effort to save the day. It did. . .just at a little slower pace.

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
Still, hope springs eternal. Arriving at the last aid station, I handed off my pack, downed some fluid, popped a few electrolyte capsules and shoved those pretzels in my mouth, all amidst wiping my runny nose on my sleeve. Yes, quite the picture of beauty and grace. Not. Off I went up the mountain, taking tiny steps so as to not wake and annoy the now quiescent calves. I forced myself to concentrate on my footing, knowing that another lurch forward would bring on more spasm. The cold, rushing water of the last creek crossing was greatly anticipated not because it signaled the remaining two miles, but because it might settle the muscles.

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.

Did you run Terrapin 50K or Half-Marathon? Click here to see 850+ professional pictures taken at the creek crossing.

6 comments:

Rick Gray said...

I can't wait to look at Seth's pictures. Tammy says she went in pretty good, so I am hoping there is a good one of her. I just love Terrapin. It is a race that has it all. It was great being able to hang out with you at the finish for a few minutes. Always a joy to be able to talk with you. I am glad I did not have to run in with you this time. Poor Sniper. I know running with those quick kids all week might not help your distance legs, but they sure have put a spring in your step. Hope the calves have mended and have decided to be quite for awhile. Rest up as Promise Land is just around the corner!

Rick Gray said...

Forgot - I love the picture of you making the face at Seth. Priceless!

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Haha about the pic. Sabrina Moran said it was hilarious. Good thing I can laugh at myself!

Not sure how Sniper and I always end up in the same zipcode. I got away from him before the last aid station but he caught me at the creek. Oh well... :)

Craig said...

Great seeing you, albeit briefly. I didn't mention you by name, but included you as the "fast women" in the blog called, "Fast women and buzzards". That was an awe inspiring 50K. It was fun seeing how you and the others look. Being next to last one doesn't always get to see the faster runners,

continue being blessed,

Craig

James I said...

Thank you for sharing your comments. I was fortunate to run the half and be able to see the fist of the 50k finishers. I remember you crossing the line. ...Maybe see you at another race. I'll introduce myself next time.
My race report for the half is listed with the others on the eco-x blog.

Rebekah Trittipoe said...

Thanks, James. And please do introduce yourself next time!