Sunday, June 6, 2010

Trails and Tribulations

At mile 19  I found myself on the ground, crying, frustrated, lonely, exhausted.  I had been running out on these trails for four and a half hours.  Tearfully, I assessed the damage.  I was muddy and had grass sticking out of the fingers on the hand that held my water bottle.  My other arm and hand hurt from where I had caught myself going down but other than, that I was intact.  This was the second time of the day I had tripped and ended up sprawled across the trail.  My fatigued shuffling legs found a solitary rock protruding from an otherwise flat, muddy section of the trail and down I went.  I couldn't bring myself to get up to run the last two miles of today's run.

What was I doing out here all by myself?  I had woken up at 5AM, left my slumbering family, driven 45 minutes out of town to spend the next five hours running by myself in the middle of nowhere.  What the hell?  Why do I torture myself like this?  I was missing out on hanging out with my daughters and my husband.  I missed them with the very core of my being.  Am I selfish for spending a day of each precious weekend training for these crazy endeavors?  If I couldn't manage to run 21 miles now, how would I ever manage to run 31 miles, at altitude in five weeks?

For the six miles prior to my fall, my mind was doing a number on me.  My mantras went from HTFU, HTFU, HTFU (Harden the fuck up) when my legs hurt and when I felt too tired to carry on, to "I am strong, I am strong, I am strong. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this."  Hands down (no pun intended considering my current predicament) this was my hardest trail run ever.  The original plan was to pick the easiest, flattest trail within an hour of my home that would be safe for me to be on by myself.  This led me to Fall Creek Trail in the Willamette Forest Wilderness which, without a doubt was the most technical trail that I had ever run. After running 13 miles there, I fled to Lowell to buy potato chips and Oreo cookies before running my final eight to ten miles on the North Shore trail at Lookout Point.  I am familiar with this trail.  It would be easier and faster. 

Albeit, beautiful, both trails had a myriad of obstacles through which I had to problem solve and navigate.  From streams trickling down the center of the trail, to mud, roots, rocks, branches and fallen logs littering the already narrow and uneven trail, to prickly vegetation encroaching upon the trail entangling itself around my bare legs, there was never a dull moment out there.  It was as if nature was conspiring against me.  So much for easy, two solid weeks of Oregon rain had turned the creeks along the quaint North Shore trail into angry rushing rivers that at first I tried to circumnavigate or rock hop around.  Eventually I got so tired I just waded through them.  Water up to my shins, mud trying to suck my running shoes off my feet, eyes on the lookout for sneaker roots or rocks, I was constantly thinking about my motion, my surroundings and what I needed to do to get from one place to another.  There was no meditative hum or state of bliss that I am so accustomed to and thrive on while trail running.  Today's run was pure, unadulterated, self-imposed work.

Here I was, on the ground at mile 19, four and half hours into my run.  My dog Japhy, who had not strayed more than three feet in front or behind me was concerned.  He started licking my salty face, urging me to get the hell up already and get back to it.  I brushed myself off, wiped away the tears and put one foot in front of the other until I found myself running again.  Two more miles, two more miles.  All I had left were two more miles.  Thoughts of walking kept creeping into my head.  If I had to walk, I'd walk.  When I couldn't walk anymore, I'd crawl.  Isn't that what the hard core ultra athletes say?  One more mile, one more mile.  All I had left was one more mile.  I thought about my husband running two 24 hour relays.  The spent look in his eyes.  His state of primal exhaustion.  The lack of coherence during the last fifteen miles of his first hundred mile race.  A half a mile, a half a mile.  All I had left was a half a mile.  I was so very tired.  I  could see my car.  I could see the reservoir where I'd soak my weary legs.

 Snarling barking dogs were held by their fishermen owners as Japhy and I ran right by them.  There was the dock.  Glanced at my Garmin. 20.92 miles.  I needed to keep running.  I wasn't going to stop until it said 21 dammit.  I kept running, much to the surprise of the on-looking fishers on the shore, I ran as if my life depended on it until the Garmin beeped right at the edge of the dock.  21 miles.  I hit stop. I made it.  I had been running for four hours and 49 minutes.  This was the most time I had ever spent on my feet running.  I allowed my momentum to carry me straight into the lake where I stumbled on the slippery rocks fully clothed and planted myself waist down into the frigid water.  There I sat in a daze for the next fifteen minutes and thought about what I had just done.  Shivering, rubbing the dirt off my legs and arms, I was eternally grateful to be done with the run.

1 comment:

  1. Dude!!! You're awesome, but you already knew that. What an accomplishment, what guts, what spirit. Nice job, girlfriends. Hats off.