I had not run since I stopped my streak. Then Friday afternoon I took the boys for a hike in Aliso/Wood Canyons. Back at home I napped a good three hours. I went to bed with a sore throat, feeling a little slow (you know, a tad dim-witted and slow moving).
I woke at 5AM for Big Baz’s 21k trail race in the Cleveland National Forest this morning (Saturday). My throat burned. After gargling with diluted hydrogen peroxide, I took two motrin, drank some coffee and drove up the mountain early.
Still, I felt confident, confident especially that I would beat last year’s time. I hoped I’d beat it by about 15 minutes. Thing was, from the beginning of this trail race, I NEVER felt strong. I thought it would come though – my strength that I felt for so, so many days in a row during the streak.
So many people passed me going up The Main Divide. The main crowd got further and further away. At that point, my strategy became to powerhouse down Trabuco. And that isn’t easy. There’s so many rocks and boulders, it’s an easy and dangerous place to fall.
I ran right past the aid station at the top of The Main Divide, leaving a few people behind. Then I ran as fast as I could down Trabuco, repeating to myself, “kick out the back, kick out the back.” I knew that the only way I wasn’t going to fall was if I didn’t drag my feet. It’s impossible to drag your feet when you kick out the back.
I passed 3 or 4 runners going down Trabuco. Still I didn’t feel strong, especially when one of the trail workers who were cutting branches threw a branch onto the trail. It hit my leg. Simultaneously, the thin branch stuck into the ground in a way that the other end jabbed into my skin then cut down my shin. It wasn’t a bad injury. Still it altered my mood some in the negative way. Yet I kept on running. Really, what choice did I have? I could have “chewed-out,” the worker. But he didn’t do it on purpose. I doubt he even knew what happened.
Horsethief got me again!
All along (meaning days leading up to this race and even this morning), I felt pretty confident about going up Horsethief. I thought that I’d probably run all of it, taking it nice and easy. Just like I had run it in training.
The trail’s beginning only has a slight incline. And it was shady and leaf-littered. A gorgeous sight. When the climb began, I continued running. Then, less than half way up, I began sucking air. About that point, I got a nagging side stitch. Finding it difficult not to focus on this pain, I concentrated on proper breathing, that is breathing from the diaphragm. Then one of the runners I passed down Trabuco passed me going up Horsethief. I felt pretty low. Not only because another runner had passed me. I also felt low because I didn’t want to come in last, I continued to focus on the side stitch pain, and I wanted to quit! But I can’t quit. I just can’t!!! So instead, the negative thoughts overcame me. I thought to myself “You suck!” This was very bad. Really. I said it to myself more than once, AND DID NOTHING to stop this terrible self talk.
I could feel or hear other runners I had passed coming up on me. Every time I turned a corner on this hellish switch back, I ran as much as I could. I figured if the runner behind me couldn’t see me when they turned the corner, they wouldn’t try so hard to catch me. That seemed to work.
The last time I ran up West Horsethief, I couldn’t believe how short it seemed. It rained that day, perhaps the rain helped in preoccupying my mind. Today, I COULD NOT stay in the moment. Instead, I seemed to focus on my suffering. I staggered a few times. Even stopped to take a few photos. I wanted nothing more than that hellish trail to end.
And then! About 50 minutes later, I finally reached The Main Divide. That’s right about when another runner passed me.
I ran all of The Main Divide. But I didn’t love it, that’s for sure. What I did enjoy however, was the snow. What I didn’t enjoy was not being able to the catch the lady that continuously ran just about a quarter to a half mile a head of me. Though tempted, I did not stoop down and grab a handful of snow. Perhaps I should have delighted in the snow more.
When I finally reached The Trabuco/Main Divide Intersection aid station, I stopped for a swig of Pepsi. Then I grabbed a Styrofoam cup of Gatorade and ran downhill the remaining way. My pace, as far as I know, never dropped below a 10 minute mile. Even during the Saddleback Marathon, at this very point on the trails, I was running an 8 minute mile. I could see about 5 runners down the hill some and tried to catch them. But I COULD NOT. I kept tripping and stumbling. Obviously, I wasn’t kicking out the back. Holding onto my now empty Styrofoam cup, I ran on in those last few miles, finally giving up on catching any runners. I wanted more than anything to toss that cup, it bugged me so much. But again, I JUST COULDN’T.
I finally ran across the finish line, completing this 21k two minutes slower than last year (3:17 / 3:19). And as soon as I ran on in, Baz was hollering out my name, and my friends where pushing me through the crowd to pick up a prize that I had won – a $50 gift certificate to the running store, Snail’s Pace. I had no idea how I won this. This is what I said in my delirium, “Why did I win this? For carrying this cup for 3 miles?” Baz laughed and said, “No, for being the nicest lady here.” I was kinda shoved in front of the camera and a photo was snapped of me and Baz (I’m kind of afraid to see this picture!)
Ahhhhh though. How nice. I’m sure I wasn’t the nicest lady there. But I can surely use that gift certificate.
As a side note, my running friends did great: Lisa, Judi, Matthew, Doug, Rich and many others. Though some of them may not have felt they did great. But compared to me, they did. I truly felt defeated.