"What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
|Night before NorthFace Marathon|
I hear the the loud belch from "Mindy the Foghorn" and I think "thank Dog we haven't hit any rocks yet".
I had been rabbit hunting "Mindy" or as I like to call her "Rabbit One" since around about mile 6 or 7. Rabbit hunting consists of keying into runners that run at about my pace or a little stronger. Most of these rabbits (my title for them) end up being 20 to 40ish age women. Guys that run my pace most times tend to be weary of me and seem to know or feel they're being hunted down in fear of being vanquished which varies their pace too much. Woman I think feel less intimidated with this friendly old fart seemingly trying to keep up with them. The conversations are better too. The chattier the better. The banter keeps my mind off the pain in my body and is somewhat soothing like listening to music. I guess in almost 40 years of marriage I've grown accustomed to a woman's voice in one ear at all times. Women in a most consistent way have a metronome like rhythm which helps me stay on pace. At least that's how it feels. Woman are better to look at too, of course. By the way when these woman "chick me" in the end, they get the title "Raven" which means they've become warriors and choose to slay me! Such are the games I play in my head to get me through the many miles. I've met many, many Ravens in my year of running...
Around the first half Marathon split I passed Mindy for the 10th time and mentioned that we were making really great time for what we had already had to endure. Our split time was around 2:25. I told her to keep up the pace and we would do a 5 hour finish. She exploded with glee over the information!
"I was figuring I'd be out here for at least 7 hours"! she exclaimed.
Within the next 2 miles I realized how "Core" of a chick Mindy was.
She was a multiple "Leadville 100" Veteran mountain biker/runner from Colorado and began rapid fire list of her athletic accomplishments, her passion for her dog, outdoor life and good friends. As we moved along she would stir up conversation with many people we passed and just had a beautiful colorful personality.
We talked about racing diet and how I was now again suffering with nausea which seemed to be ebbing at this point after drinking some warm chicken broth and potatoes with salt. She laughed and said that most things just make her belch really loud! Around that time she let one rip which could easily be heard by every mariner within 100 miles!
Even though I would gain on her on most of the climbs, (I have a pretty long climbing stride). I could still keep track of how far she was behind me as she periodically signaled everyone around her.
As we finally crested the endless climb and began our descent down to what I believe to be "Pirates Cove" the real trail running began. Slippery, muddy and treacherous and this was just the beginning of a many miles of slop running.
Mindy would just be going on about how much fun this was which finally began to make me laugh and lose some of the anxiety about getting through all this. Before the turnaround there was a long, long descent which was just plain ridiculous! It was bascially a river of endless mud and moving water which we had to negotiate our way down with many runners returning up! I then realized how tough this would be on the return trip.
I had a high point on my way down when I looked up and saw the great "Sarah Lavender Smith", Bay area famous Ultra Runner/Writer. "Sarah's Blog Here"
I called out "Hey Sarah"! as I careened down the chute. I heard her say my name but didn't catch what she was saying as I turned my attention back to saving my own life.
One observation at this point...I noticed a lot of runners had that "dead look" coming up the mud trail. A telltale sign that my wall was coming soon. When I finally made it to the bottom and the Muir Beach turnaround, I spent some time making sure to fill up on more chicken broth, potatoes, and some fruit. I also started hitting the cola, knowing I was soon going to be in need of sugar and caffeine.
In the time that I spent at the rest stop my rabbit Mindy was long gone back up the chute. The climb was intense and long and every step and foot placement had to be correct. At times I actually had trouble pulling my feet out of the mud suction. I also noticed I was developing hot spots on my left baby toe and under the ball of my foot. Obviously blisters from my Cascadia running shoes that I chosen to wear. I'm glad I did just for the fact of the fortified tread and extra sole protection. Just wish I had had another week or two to break them in before this run. The other issue I had in which was driving me crazy was that my shoelaces kept coming untied. Unlike my Pure Grits the laces were not crimped on the Cascadias and the moisture was allowing them to slip loose and now they were just covered with mud.
I'm learning more and more about these little things that need to be learned and the little skills you develop from experience. Trail running is an "art" and I enjoy this aspect of it. There are so many things to learn in so many way's. It makes me feel like how I feel when I'm writing music. It's all about details and creativity unique to oneself.
Let me change direction a little and mention someone I met earlier in the week...
I watched a trailer for a movie about Nikki Kimball that was truly inspirational. As I explored her resume...Shit! Amazing and it really hit me the balance of Mind, Spirit, Science and Reality!
I have so much to learn about life, people and human spirit and in this running, as like when writing music, I'm just seeing the tip of the iceberg...
I thought about her words, Dean Karnazes, Scott Jurek and so many more athletes that have inspired me in such a short time. A Universe and I'm in it now with both feet, like this viscous pudding in which I'm now up to my ankles in as I stand here...and begin again, chasing Mindy...
...After what seemed like an eternity I break away from the crowd behind me and push to the top and there she is! My silly wabbit!
At this point I become self-centered and the pain is breaking me down. My hamstrings scream, my blisters are now full blown volcanoes of pain...I put the pain in it's place. I know what I need to do and I center my focus into the core and push harder. I'm not even sure of the conversation with Mindy and somewhere through the running river of mud I lose her but when I finally get to the last major rest station i quickly go for exactly what I need and go!
There she is! Rabbit number two. Since my brain is shutting down now I develop facial aphasia and for the life of me, I cannot remember her name so, I'll call her pink! (Pink jacket, with braids like Sarah Lavender Smith).
I strike up a conversation and I see in her very young face the "Death mask". She's finished and ready to be done with it. Her tempo is excellent as she negotiates the mounds of mud already traveled so many times.I talk to her about the wonderful future she has and at such a young age to be this focused this intently on her passions.
I tell her about Sarah who she reminds me of and my kidding Sarah about her braids with the catch phrase "Be afraid of the braid"!
I sense I'm melting down and lose track of what I'm talking about as I push even harder now as I pass the running zombies and "cat and mouse' them. Anything to keep me moving forward
I glance at my Garmin at the last water break, 4 miles, I grab two cola's and hammer down the last 2 mile descent as fast as possible. Flexors, hamstrings, blisters, back and ankles scream for me to stop. All the rabbits are gone and I'm on my own...
I think about my younger brother who is gone from this world, my wife who is wondering if I'm OK and the feast that awaits, my dogs waiting to greet me and lick off all the mud, my older brother, my Dad who is so proud of his middle son and I push. "Do not stop"..."Run"!
Maybe if I'm lucky I'll win my age group?
I see the road to the finish, the people cheering...Don't stop!
I'm a basket case, all systems begin to fail but I sprint with whatever I have left and I cross the finish and bow my head as the medal is slipped over my hat and around my neck.
I'm "shell shocked"...I made it.
I limp like a lobotomized Lizard through the slop to get my bearings. The idea of hanging out to meet some of the Ultra finishers, pick up my race shirt and converse with anybody is far removed now. I'm done. All I want is my free beer, by drop bag, the warm shuttle bus and cell reception...FINITO!
I finally track down my bag and realize I'm wearing my coat around my waist already. I zip up and struggle to the beer tent.
Suddenly I hear "HEY"! It's Pink! My rabbit two. She jumps up and gives me a huge hug!
Wish I could only remember her name. I think to myself. "I hope she has a wonderful life" and that short time we were together in a moment in time sharing our humanness will stay with me to my final day in this world...I'm so grateful. I wish her well and point to the beer tent...we snap a moment in time.
"HEY"! It's Rabbit one! Mindy! Again, I'm lucky twice. I think, this is so cool. I just wish my mind was clear and I wasn't so trashed and able to think of something to say and I think she's feeling the same so we hug and snap another moment in time...
I love these "Rebel Girls tearing it up".
What I expected from this challenge and what actually transpired are so far removed from what my mind was telling me a month ago.
No matter what your expectations are in life. Open yourself up and just let things happen the way the Universe intends...relax and just let things flow.
Onset of hypothermia at the start. Ankle deep in mud soaked to the bone.
Dean Karnazes counting down.
Tiny Hispanic girl who I kept running into for the first 12 miles and lost her soon after I met Mindy. Hope she made it OK. So many of her family there for her send off.
How beat up some of the 50 milers looked.
Realization of how ridiculous the climbing is in "Real" trail running.
The guy who beat me in my age group. Hated him for it till I read his resume! Holy Crap!...
He kicked my ass Big time!!! I am humbled before you. I wanna be like you when I grow up...in two years!
So much more I could tell you...
Race results link