|Donna Elder and me racing toward the finish|
Onto the final blacktop road and through the mud at the top of the driveway. Now, with 75 yards to do, I wasn't sure if I could hold on. "So what if she gains a few yards on you? Who cares? Just cross the line with a smile. You did good enough," a tiny voice chided. The thought was so appealing. I was red-lined but still moving. But that is not the only voice I heard.
"You tell your runners to give it all they have. To turn it on and leave it all out on the course. You have to see if there is another gear." The dueling conversations lasted for 30 yards. Now with 45 to go, the decision was made. I reached down into the abyss of my will. My speed picked up, legs churning. I was startled by my body's response as I accelerated despite trail-weary legs. Donna and I hurled ourselves toward the cheering crowd, faster and faster. Crossing the line, I was spent. Breathing was difficult. But it was worth it. I would be able to tell my team that I gave it all I had. I had to lead by example even if they weren't there to see it.
I ran smart. I ran hard. I am pleased.
That's how the race ended. But that's not the whole story. With a light rain falling, many runners looked bundled up as we headed up the mountain in the early morning darkness. I pitied them knowing they were destined to carry their long sleeves and jackets for the race's duration. Within a mile, my own arm warmers came off and got stuffed into my pack. My sleeveless tank was all I needed.
|Running with Sophie Spiedel|
Down, down, down to the valley floor. Along the creek, into the woods, running strong. The cold stream crossings felt refreshing. Pick up your heels. Don't step forward. Stay calm and relaxed but don't back off. The mental reminders helped, carrying me through several more aid stations. I mostly ran alone though brief greetings were offered as I passed others. I liked it that way. I embraced the solitude, the gentle quiet of the awakening springtime forest. But it didn't stay that way--and that's okay.
Jennifer Nichols is a rising star. With a blazing fast past in high school and college, this once track and road runner is making quite the impression in the ultrarunning world. But battling a recent cold and cough and being a mom to young ones, she wasn't in her finest form. Bad for her. Good for me. Our paces matched on this day as we chatted about this and that, challenges and dreams, failures and goals. At times, we temporarily separated but joined forces again further down the trail. It was a comfortable and unspoken arrangement that carried us up the grueling Apple Orchard ascent.
|Jennifer Nichols and I approach Sunset Fields|
Yes. Praise God I can honestly answer "yes."