So tonight was the first in the aforementioned trail race series. There's still lots of lingering snow on our local trails, so they had to re-route the race, resulting in a shorter and less steep course. I wasn't complaining.
When the start gun went off and I began running, I felt terrible. Heavy, achy, slow. Got passed by dozens of people. I started feeling a little sorry for myself, wondering, why does this feel so much harder when I'm doing a race versus a regular everyday run? My arms felt heavy and started to go numb. What the hell?
And then I just ... let it go. So I'll be slow. Whatever. I might come in DFL (dead fucking last). It's okay. I just want to make it the whole way without walking. That's my goal.
When I got to the first steep hill, something clicked. I started feeling stronger, faster. I passed some of the people who had passed me. I pushed a little harder, and soon I was at the top of the hill. My lungs were burning a little, but I kept pushing, knowing a big downhill was ahead. The downhill is my happy place. I'm not hesitant going down steep, rocky hills; I fly. I flew.
At the bottom of the course, I caught up to a woman who had passed me early on. We were on a single track, and every time I thought about passing her, she sped up the tiniest bit. When the trail spilled onto to the road, I dug deep for a last bit of energy and passed her, sprinting toward the finish. I sensed her gaining on me again and saw that she was sprinting, too. She caught up to me and for a moment our arms pumped in perfect unison, legs flying. We crossed the finish line at exactly the same time. Afterward, we looked at each other and grinned.
I'm not a terribly competitive person. I don't much care if others are faster than me. I do like to challenge myself, however, and get a lot of satisfaction out of doing better than I did last time. For the past two years in this series, I've been solidly in the middle of the pack (or below) for my age group. This year, I promised myself I'd break that barrier and finish in the top half.
They posted the results at the end of the after party at a local restaurant. I scanned the list, looking for my name. There were about 16 people in my age group. And then I saw that I'd tied with my finish-line friend for ... sixth place. I did it. I kicked the ass out of that top half.
It's gonna be a great season.