Sunday, August 22, 2010

Notes from a Slothlike Ultrarunner - Part 4 of 4

PCTR Montana de Oro 50K--Aug 15, 2010

On the Bluffs Trail, I met up with some hikers. I forced a hello. I'm taking cue from one of my other running friend who taught me to be friendly on the trail. The old guy said, you don't look like you're tired at all? That lifted me up a bit. It was hard going the second loop. For once, Claudia was gone. I was entertained by her chatter. I wondered how she does it, she can run and talk comfortably without missing a beat. I on the other hand, have to catch my breath. I just can't do it. I got up to the turnaround point at Valencia, my second loop. I saw the arrow sign pointing to the return trip. It was about 10 minutes approximately to the top. Mr. Negativity popped out, usually when I am tired and hungry. What if I take this short cut? Nobody would know.  I recognized what this is all about. I pulled out another gel and I pushed on. Surprising what a gel can do to perk up a tired runner. I look down to see who was below me. I see Steven, the 24 year-old from San Diego doing his first Ultra. He does not look good at all. He told me earlier that he ran out of water coming down from Hazards' Peak. Luckily he was close to the aid station when that happened. He also said he was sick. But now he was going up the trail with his head and shoulders down. The classic look of defeat. I hope he finished. (Later, results would reveal that he didn't make the 9 hour cut-off.) At the top, I caught up with knee brace lady and asked her if she would take my picture. We took a moment to look at the view. The fog was still thick. She broke the silence by saying, "This was the hardest thing I've ever done." I told her she looked pretty strong. I bid her good luck, and she was off. She moved so fast downhill, I never saw her again. Later, I would find out that she finished 10 minutes ahead of me. She hobbled to the finish line, but more importantly she finished. I can just imagine how hard it must have been for her coming down Hazard's Peak with her sore knees. What a feat for her!

After that lady, I never came across another runner, except an occasional mountain biker here and there. It was quiet throughout the second loop, just me, my ipod, and the trail.  There was a lot of time for introspections. Claudia asked me earlier, what the difference was between trail running and road racing. My answer was more evident in this last 8 1/2 miles of this 50K. In trail running, you don't have the time factor, as in road racing, where you are pressured by time to sprint to the finish. Trail running is time on your feet. (Not to be confused with the cut-off time which is a conservative 9 hour finish for this particular course). If you enjoy the scenery, the peaceful surroundings and you don't mind sidestepping roots, rocks, uneven trails, that's trail running. It is the total opposite of the asphalt jungle of road racing. In a marathon, you are competing with others. On the trails, you are competing against yourself to push on through the low points. Physically and mentally you are drained. Your body hurts, your legs feel like lead, cramps may come on, your stomach might revolt, but you push on and know that they will pass. Believing in your training that you can continue and you WILL finish. Even with small steps, one foot in front of the other, no matter how slow, forward motion is your friend. The utmost goal is to finish. As I approach the finish line, my pace quickened. I have my second wind. I will finish! I saw my husband sitting on the fence with his camera. I was so happy to see him. He was smiling, a sight for sore eyes. I waved to him, I blew him a kiss as I picked up my feet. I wanted to hear that familiar cow bell. Finally they 're going to ring it for me. The many trips to the aid station I heard cow bells ringing, signifying a runner's arrival to the finish line. I was sure that sometime today, they will ring it for me when I finish, so I thought. I realized I was among the last few to cross the finish line because when I got there, the cow bell ringer had gone home and the recorder was out some 50 yards away schmoozing. But he rushed over to greet me and record my time. I finished in 8 hours and 16 minutes. No cowbell was rung for me, but you bet I'll be back next year. It'll be a shame if I don't; the course is practically my backyard.

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