|My carefully-planned race outfit|
I promised myself to be happy all day--or at least I would try. When I wasn't accepting compliments on how fashion coordinated I was, I made sure to look around at the leaves stubbornly gripping tree branches and the mountain tops above. And, with the sun still en route to it's peak, the dappled light made for interesting shadows. It was pretty, I suppose. But honestly, I was much more interested in checking off aid stations to get further into the race.
I moved steadily along the first twenty-seven miles. But steady wasn't getting me anywhere fast. Few spectators huddled around the aid stations. The crowds of crew had already moved onto the next one in support of their runners. What was left was a handful of faithful followers for those moving at a more pedestrian pace. They were pleasant and encouraging but I noted a stark difference from when I ran as a contender.
In general, I was pleased with the way my legs were holding up. When called into action to run, they didn't rebel--much. But I was baffled on the uphill climbs. In the past, I've zipped right along, as if pulled by a ski tow. Now, it was like everyone but me was holding onto the rope. No matter what I did, nothing got me up those hills any faster. My only recourse was to glance at the hot pink flowers on my skirt and mutter, "It's you and me all the way." I forced myself to relax my face and smile.
It was good to have Caleb, my oldest son, out there helping me for the last half of the race. He never complained about all the hurry up and wait shenanigans. When I saw him for the last time with fourteen miles to go, I suggested he download War and Peace on his Kindle. He was likely to get most of it read before I got to the finish. He drove off and my skirt and I flitted away toward the beginning of the end.
Now, I have to admit, I was having long conversations with my inner self. Though I was getting queasy, nothing was really wrong. I was just slow. I was impatient. I thought about how many people had already finished the race, soaking in the afternoon sun and spectator praises. But not me. While I mixed in trudging uphills with running downs, I decided I was through with ultras. After seventeen years of competition, I no longer enjoyed solo training. I despised the time it took away from my growing list of other interests. I even decided to give up on the wicked Hellgate 100K in five weeks. I would let go of my status as the female with the most finishes. But then, someone would ruin my quitting plans and compliment my skirt.
"Great skirt. My girlfriend would love that one. She refuses to wear anything but. Where did you get it?" And with that, things seemed to get a little better. I can't say I liked being out there at that point. My burning desire was to cross the line and go home. (And if I could puke before that, it was an added bonus.) I was dizzy from not being able to eat or drink and really didn't care if I was passed in the last mile. I was tired of running. All I cared about was finishing my fourteenth Masochist so that I could earn my fifteen year jacket next year. Though I crossed the line with a new PW (personal worst), my skirt made the journey just fine.
You should see the outfit I'm planning for Hellgate.