June 1, 2011

Break on Through

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.

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