There are things I have always feared, and avoided.
Cold. I have always avoided going out when it's cold. I'm not sure why. All winter long I would sit inside, stare outside, and eventually Baboo would come home. "I didn't get around to it," I'd say.
Dark. I also have avoided running in the dark.
Cold and Dark. Yeah. Fuck that. Fuck winter. All winter long, I'd only run on weekends, if at all, long after the sun came up.
Hills. I have avoided hills like people avoid going to the dentist. I would sign up for a race that had some, and then perseverate on all the suffering that lay before me. Of course, I would avoid them in training, and then suffer throughout the race.
For 2015, I made a resolution to face my fears. There is an old song, called "wear sunscreen" that is a commencement address speech set to a beat. In it, the speaker says, do one thing every day that scares you. I done a few of those. Staring into the water of my very first olympic distance triathlon. Standing on the shore of Lake Coer d'Arlen at the beginning of Ironman CDA. Crossing a rushing river on foot with nobody around to help. Cutting my hair short. For 2016, it was returning to Bandera.
I did the Bandera trail 50k two weeks ago. Throughout 2015 I ran more consistently than I ever have, mostly on the foothill trails which, I might add, are rarely flat. Much of this occured after a secnd peson was finally hired to help me at work. When I run in the foothills, I usually hike the hills, leading me to believe that frankly, i probably wouldn't get much benefit. So throughout Bandera, I was tense, and looking at the profile I kept on my phone. I knew that at mile 22, the climbing began. Towards the end there would be two monster climbs. At mile twenty, I pulled out a package of Buttered Popcorn flavored Jelly Belly beans, which I love, to chew on and keep my mouth moist.
The challenge of Bandera, you see, isn't just that the are hills. It's that the hills are all covered with loose, base-ball-sized angular rocks. There are also some places where you can't step up, because the next step is waist-high. So you hoist yourself up,as Baboo says, like climbing a very large, very fucked-up staircase. Coming down can be treacherous. To train, Baboo suggested that I do certain trails in the foothills that had similar conditions. I did those.
Also, there is sotol, which is yucca with serrated leaves. There's a couple of thickets of them. It's best to run through them, arms overhead, with tights on. They will cut your legs, arms, and hands, otherwise.
Mile 22 came...and....went. Then mile 23...24...25...i stared at the profile again, puzzled. I'd encountered a few knolls, but not the monster climbs I remembered from the last time I was out here. Not at all the ones I'd memorized from the elevation profile. Where were the monster climbs? I jogged along, enjoying the cool air on my exposed neck,
I finally decided, they must have changed the course.
So, moseyed along, chewing on my jelly beans, surprised by a rather nasty little climb near the very end, but it was short. I trotted past a guy standing still at the top, breathing heavily, leaning over. i picked my way down the final difficult descent.
Eventually I finished, in about 9:15, which made me pretty happy because I'd hoped to finish under ten.
But not as happy as I was when I realized, they hadn't changed the course. My definition of monster climb was what had changed. All because I started working on my fear of cold, and of hills.
I went back to our rental car to keep warm until Baboo finished the 100k in 14 hours and some change. [Freak] We returned to Albuquerque and our lives.
Last week, I went back to the hair dresser. Cut it, I said. It's getting in the way.
Yesterday, I got up and headed out before dawn. It was cold, and it was dark. It was a short run, but I did it. It felt marvelous. I didn't die. It was easier than I thought.
So maybe hills aren't scary. Cold isn't deadly. And armed with this knowledge, I went shopping on ultrasignup.
Gonna be an interesting year.