*warning: if the title didn’t already give it away, some slightly crass language ahead. Sorry mom*
All photos credit Movin Pictures.
I’m #112 and that’s Jason right next to me looking all hot in his running shorts.
The Possum Kingdom 20K put on by Endurance Buzz Adventures was all set to be the best race ever. The weather was perfect with highs in the upper 70′s, the scenery was gorgeous and the trail turned out to be my favorite trail to date: a perfect mix of hilly and flat, rocky and smooth, with amazing scenic overlooks of the lake, mostly shaded with some sunny patches.
Plus Dave from Endurance Buzz seems to put on a good show based on my previous experience so I was ready!
Here’s the thing. Dinner from the night before didn’t…uh…SIT WELL with me. By the time we hit the park, I was still feeling off, despite having spent some close personal time in the bathroom but I was still trying to stay positive, thinking I would shake it off once I started running.
After the first mile, I had to do some serious re-evaluating of my race strategy. The first sip of water I took from my hydration pack let me know that my stomach had most definitely NOT shaken anything off and was threatening a revolt. I began to get concerned that I wasn’t going to make it through to the end and started thinking of ways I could counter act the way my body was feeling.
Slower. Yes, I could do that. Don’t even try for any gels or chews. Fine with me, I wasn’t up for anything remotely food-like anyway. What about water? Crap. 12 miles with no water? Okay fine, I’ll take tiny little sips of water and tiny little sips of HEED, which will give me some calories and hope for the best.
By mile 2 there was no more hoping for the best. I was down to a walk and even that hurt. My stomach up-ended with each sip I allowed myself and I had very legitimate concerns about having a blow out (EW) in the middle of the woods with runners passing by me. My muscles were cramping and sore (probably little from dehydration but also probably just from stomach issues as well).
I had never been that miserable in a run or a race and I quickly came on the realization that I was going to have to drop.
So there I was at about mile 4 and my inner dialogue can be summed up as follows:
‘I am going to die.’
‘DNF, DNF, DNF.’ (Did Not Finish-the term used when a runner has to drop from a race).
‘Where the hell is the aid station so I can drop this stupid race.’
‘I hate runners.’ (as yet another runner passes me)
‘I might seriously have to go in the bushes over there OMG. I AM GOING TO DIE.’
‘Seriously, where the FUCK is the GODDAMNED aid station????’
‘Oh goodie, a photographer. Isn’t that just peachy.’
I happened to stumble on the photog at pretty much my lowest point in the race and I think it shows in the photo. I couldn’t even muster the energy to run for a few feet for the photos. Hell, I couldn’t muster the energy to lift my head. I was tired and sick and sore and still had way too long to go and the reason I’m showing you this is because I think many of us want to present ourselves in the best possible light on the internet. We want the photos where our thighs look the slimmest and we’re smiling and our skin looks the smoothest.
This is very obviously not the case in this photo but it is honest. It shows that sometimes things are hard but you don’t have a choice but to keep forging ahead. And I would hope that anyone else that has a bad race or a bad run and maybe are down on themselves would see this and know they are not alone.
Because there is good news in this race report! So I finally get to the aid station and am all ready to tell the nice volunteer that I’m dropping but for some reason instead, I ask, ‘how far are we in?’.
‘Six and half miles.’
I was halfway done. Crap. I’d made it halfway, I couldn’t back out now right?
‘Are you okay?’ she asked.
I mumbled something and walked to the side of the aid station table and just…stood. Well first I used the facilities (which were an actual bathroom in a building! With toilet paper! And a sink!) and then I stood for a moment and watched the other runners come in and head back out.
I don’t know how I did it-I certainly wasn’t feeling any better-but I started off down the trail too. I figured I could at least try to finish and if things went downhill, I would hit that aid station the way back and could drop then.
But then something happened-I looked at my watch. I hadn’t looked at it before this moment because things were going so slowly and poorly I didn’t want to see how badly I was behind my usual pace but after doing a double take, I realized that if I could just pick up the pace a little bit, I could beat my previous 20K time.
And that did it, you guys.
I moved as fast as I dared and drank as much as I dared and soon I found myself catching up to and then passing people that had passed me a few miles back. Turns out that when you spend 4 of the first 6 miles walking, your legs still have some steam in them.
The course took us on about a 4.5 mile loop before spitting us back out at that aid station and I was a different person by the time I passed it again. I stopped quickly for more HEED and then hopped back on the trail. I look at my watch and realized I’d done those 4.5 miles in about 40 minutes.
Ya’ll, that’s my road pace. I NEVER hit that on the trails.
But with about 2.4 miles to go, I wasn’t stopping. Run, run, climb. Pass a runner. Power hike a hill. Pass another runner. Forget about your stupid stomach. Run, run, run.
I read somewhere that there is actually something to a runner being able to ‘smell the finish line.’ I know that with each race I’ve done, I’ve felt myself pick up the pace even before I could see it and this was definitely the case here.
I was even able to sprint the last few hundred meters or so. Two hours, 47 minutes. Six minutes faster than my previous time.
Jason had come in about 10 minutes ahead of me and was there to greet me and offer me food (uh…NO).
I debated how much I wanted to share this race because frankly, bathroom talk is just super embarrassing but I want to pass on my experience to share this: Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Keep going, it might just turn around for you.
I’d also like to take a second to thank Dave at Endurance Buzz Adventures for putting on yet another terrific race, for the kind and enthusiast volunteers who asked if I was okay and rushed to get my bottle filled and for every runner I encountered who offered words of encouragement and support. You guys rock.