These aren't pictures from the race. There aren't any, I don't think. I just was looking at these pictures today as a reminder of what I've done.
Yesterday began inauspiciously when I stood up in the Porta John and heard a soft thud as my only asthma inhaler landed in the chemical toilet.
I turned around and looked, well, down - I could see it clearly, and it was within reach.
What would you do?
And what do you think I did?
Soooo....the other thing that was weighing on me, so to speak was the day before when I stepped, fully hydrated, onto an impedance scale for the beginning of the 10-week "The Challenge" program.
Weight:178 (clothed)..........BFI: 41%
Yep, 41. As in, "STOP EATING ALL THOSE POTATO CHIPS."
I calculated that (.41 * 175 = a LOT of extra weight to haul up and down those hills) and that's a lot of fat that I don't need given that I'm neither living on the south pole NOR facing famine. So, I have a job ahead of me.
So, the start of the Ghost Town 38.5. The start, which was 25 or so degrees, depending on who you talked to, and 6 am, so it was dark. The first 12 miles were okay. I knew by mile 3 that I wasn't going to be running, but that okay: Even walking I kept a sub-15 minute pace. I was feeling pretty good, thinking, "I can totally do this." My IT Band didn't seem to mind the terrain too much...but I at a disadvantage. Not only have I not really been able to run in nearly 3 months, but was base I have is one that is for hauling 155 pounds or me around, not 175 pounds.
And Then. I hit The Spur, the first really steep uphill and downhills on the course. The way up was short and very steep, but covered with sharp, loose rocks (Baboo says it's like trying to walk on marbles), and when I came down - that's when it happened: my IT Band said, "Nope, no way, not here, I"m not havin' it." When I came out of the Spur I muttered to Baboo, who was corner-marshaling, "I'm in a lot of pain right now."
Prior to that the former last person passed me, a super nice lady who stopped and walked with me for a while, offering me some homeopathic remedy for pain. I'm not a huge homeopathy fan, but what the hell, I'll try anything at this point.
So I said, sure, and as they were dissolving under my tounge she said suddenly, "oh wait--you aren't a vegetarian, are you?"
"Uh, they have bulls' testacles in them."
Chew on THAT.
Anyway, Homeopathy notwithstanding, the pain would get so intense that it would bring tears to my eyes. But only on the steep downhills, you know? So when I came out of the spur around 15 miles, and by mile 16, I was still hoping that I could do this. All I had to do was get through the next 8 miles, and I'd be back on road that I could continue to walk.
I had a thought, which I'll share at the end of this, but the end result was that even though I was crying from the pain and pissed off, by mile 18, I'd set a new goal.
See, by then, I knew I couldn't finish. I knew that as bad as the terrain was, the return was going to be worse (I found out later that this section of the road is, essentially, a stream bed) that had climbed steeply uphill would have to be returned going downhill and I FURTHER knew that as much pain as I was in now, I just wouldn't be able to take it.
I can push past pain, and I can push past tired, but bundle them together, and they wear me down. By mile 18 my pace had climbed to 19 minutes per mile, and I wanted to get to the turn around before the cutoff time. I didn't want to be pulled. I wanted it to be my decison to sit down.
So I did. Followed by Sheriff's posse on horseback, I finally hobbled, dead last, into station 4 at the turn around, and asked if I'd made it. It's a small race, and mine was the only drop bag left so they called out my name when I rounded the corner into the station. "You made it!" they said. I'd cleared the cutoff time by 5 minutes.
I said, "Good! I quit."
They were expecting that, because apparently the posse had radiod ahead with things like, "she's doing okay on the uphills and the flats but when she gets to those downhills she starts limping really bad." I wanted to get to mile 20 because it was a nice round number, and because I wanted to pick up my drop back, and because I wanted to leave, not be pulled. So, I did. I left.
I was driven back in what can only be described as the most terrifying pickup ride I've ever had in my life, and then I stopped and picked up my other drop bag, and met Sweet Baboo at mile 12, who felt bad and thus was very, very nice to me. I should have taken full advantage of that as in, you know what would make me feel really good right now? lots of new clothes but by the time I saw him I'd had the time to reflect on everything, and I was disappointed and discouraged, but feeling a bit better.
At first I was telling him, and DP, "Maybe I'm not supposed to be a runner. Maybe it's just not my thing," and they were all, "Oh, pish, posh" and had many other encouraging words and advice for me. Baboo, especially, had a lot to say to me given that he had similar experiences in the past.
So, I've had a night to sleep on it and here's what I've come up with:
1. I went 20 miles. 20 rocky, mostly uphill miles, climbing from altitude of 5000 up to about 7000 feet. Not only that, but in the last 12 months I've completed 5 marathons, 2 trail ultras, and an Ironman. So, it's not like I'm a slacker or anything.
2. I'm starting The Challenge New Mexico, which is a 10-week program designed to lower your body-fat ratio and build lean muscle. You will see a marked difference in my attempt at the 50-mile Rocky Racoon next month. Yes, you read right. I'm still going.
3. Nothing hurts, other than my IT Band. My feet don't hurt, my calves don't hurt, and my thighs don't hurt, despite hauling me up and down a very challenging course over 20 miles.
4. The race director told me I would be considered an "alumnus" anyway, and would get early registration for coming back next year, if I wanted. (I do. I've never DNF'd on a race that I could finish.)
5. Let's face it. When you attempt to do extraordinary things, sometimes you will fail. Sometimes, though, you succeed; it's for those moments of success that you keep going. When you fail, well, you learn from that, and you go on to attempt other, extraordinary things.