Friday, August 19, 2011

I Had No Choice But To Finish: Part 1

During June and most of July this year, I was a fairly unpleasant person to be around. This was due 100% to my first big injury. 

There are several races that I look forward to all year. One of them is The North Face Endurance Challenge which has several different locations throughout the year.

This year I signed up for the Endurance Challenge trail half-marathon outside of Washington DC, whose route boasted mostly flat, mostly single-track on the Potomac Heritage Trail. I felt pretty good about my prospects of finishing well (relatively speaking) since I had done a brutal (I thought) and pretty technical trail half marathon a few weeks earlier. 

At the starting line, there were lots of excited people! There was also a good share of nervous boasting in the form of I-just-did-such-and-such-marathon-at-altitude, blank stares, and a very long line for the port-a-potties. And there was me, anxiously looking for any Clydesdale/Athena types who might also be taking the plunge with me. Nope-just some taller, big-boned people who could probably run like gazelles and do like, 7 minute miles in a trail race.

I do this at every race, look for the fat people. I always wonder what their journey is, and how it has been for them. I wonder what running means to them? Is it a means to lose weight? Are they intent on changing their physical and ultimately emotional lives? Did someone drag them here? And most importantly, will I be able to PASS them and leave them in my fat dust?

I line up near the back of the pack, not kidding myself about my expected pace. I'm hoping to try to maintain at least a 14 minute per mile pace, given that it's, you know,  a TRAIL race. The announcer counts down and we're off across the parking lot, down a hill, and onto the Potomac Heritage Trail. The first 1.5 miles are a breeze; I run a little faster than normal, because apparently that's what you do in a race, but it still feels good. I was pretty far in the back, but not dead last and pretty confident that I would be able to pass some of the more smug runners. You know, the ones that go out entirely too fast and burn out by mile 3! Still feeling pretty comfy, I run through mildly technical sections on the trail, along with some absolutely gorgeous and peaceful single-track. 

I'm used to being in the back and running alone-this way I don't have to pretend like I have enough breath-control and cardio-conditioning to hold a conversation with anyone. I run, and enjoy being in nature while simultaneously listening to Ludacris, Nicki Minaj, Cat Stevens, and The Indigo Girls on my iPod. They help me pass a few struggling skinny runners. AHA! I catch myself thinking mean thoughts-which I won't share...Anyway, at around mile 3.5 a steep incline COMES OUT OF NOWHERE, complete with switchbacks. UGH. Ok, I still got this, right? I had already passed about 4 people, so I was feeling a little smug myself. I had done a lot of hill work with my cross-country girls in the spring, so although the hills were still difficult, I didn't feel as though I was dying. I kept a steady power-hiking pace and got to the top of the mountain-hill. And then I started the series of steep descending switchbacks. It felt awesome to power-run down the descent, leaving yet another runner in my fat dust!
And then, somehow without falling, I rolled the outside of my left ankle a good 90 degrees.

1 comment:

  1. My BIGGEST fear with trail running. I have a weak ankle due to a bad sprain way back in '89. (senior year prank. TP the high school. Run from the cops and land in groundhog hole. Karma is a b*tch!) Anyway, I roll about once every 2-3 years. Thankfully, I've avoided that on the far. (knocking on wood!)