So, here’s how I know I’ve been spending just the right amount of time on the trails.
I went for a four mile run through my neighborhood yesterday. Wandered my way over to the more high falutin residential area.
Had to pee pretty bad throughout.
And I had to remind myself. Repeatedly. We don’t pee on the side of the road. In residential areas. Don’t pee. Don’t pee. Don’t pee.
Like, I had to physically stop myself from stepping to the side and pulling my pants down.
To be clear, I didn’t. I didn’t pull my pants down in the classy neighborhood.
But I came really really close.
And I’m pretty sure Bel Monte is to blame.
Damn near 35 miles.
You know I peed on the side of the trail.
More than once.
I haven’t told y’all about Bel Monte yet.
Lemme fill y’all in.
Last Friday, nine of us traveled to Wintergreen for this race. Five of us ran the 50k+++. Two ran the 50 miler +++. And two were in charge of support. Cooking and alcohol provisions.
So, we got there Friday evening. After the entirety of the country lost its fucking mind. Justifiably. But still.
I mean, it was a long, exhausting, emotional day. Particularly for those of us working in education. (Not as exhausting as those of y’all working healthcare and food service and shit. Y’all stress is next level. Ima stay down here on my education level stress.)
And maybe due to lack of beds, some of us were sleeping on couches.
And maybe we just really wanted to sleep before running 34 dumbass miles.
Except you know that song “Broken” by Seether?
I sure as fuck do. As do the rest of the folks in the house.
I won’t name the culprit.
But we were treated to a live concert version. On repeat. At top iPhone volume. For hours.
I still have nightmares about the opening of that song…
You remember how if you mention GJB falling in the shower, Finn’s Dad starts giggling?
Yeah, he’ll do the same if you WOOO! like one of the fans does in the opening of the live version of “Broken.”
Around 3am, after not having slept at all, I hear the coffee pots click on.
And Tiny Brazilian shuffling as quietly as possible. In the dark. Whispering.
Oh fuck no.
If we ain’t sleep all night, ain’t nobody fin to sleep now. Turn those mother fucking lights on. Speak at a normal volume. We all up in this bitch.
But also, you know how there’s always one person in a group that will try to talk everyone into saying fuck this race and just hanging out at the house drinking beer and watching movies all day?
That’s me. I’m that person.
I tried. Multiple times. To talk everyone out of this race.
No one listened.
So I begrudgingly packed my pickles and chips into my pack. Downed several cups of coffee. Kicked back some ibuprofen. And pulled on my damn trail shoes.
We drove to the start line, cheered our 50 miler chicks off and then spent the next 30 minutes whining about the cold.
That was me. I was the one whining.
And because our race started at 6:30am, it was still dark for the first several miles of the race.
And I didn’t bring a headlamp.
Because I have no idea where my headlamp is.
Because of who I am as a person.
And it was fine. For the first two miles. Of bullshit road.
But when we turned onto the mountain two miles in. I was operating solely off of the power of the force.
How I managed to run. And I did run. The first five miles of that race. Over rocks. And roots. And switchbacks. In the dark. Is fucking supernatural.
Those lights are the headlamps of runners climbing up the mountain switchbacks.
(Finn’s Dad took that pic. I wasn’t bout to photograph shit. I was just tryin to survive.)
At first, I tried chasing GJB down so I could run off of his light. But I was unwilling to push myself hard enough to catch him. For I would have surely busted something wide open.
But eventually I was able to position myself just in front of K-Rob-D so I could use her light. Kind of. Except for those moments when my ass blocked the light and cast highly misleading shadows across the rocks and roots in front of me.
Meanwhile, behind me, K-Rob is working out the lingering mucous that had taken up residency in her head in the weeks prior. Because we don’t not run just because of a sinus infection. Or whatever ick she was recovering from.
And behind her. Overly chatty dude felt compelled to explain the course to us. Repeatedly. And not in, like, a helpful way. But in a “Hey, did you think we were done climbing? Because we’re not. Look! Here we are climbing again!”
At one point, he told us we could tell him to fuck off if we wanted.
“Hey dude, fuck off.”
And he fucked off. For about a second. And then returned to telling us exactly what we were running at that exact moment.
“Dude. Didn’t I just tell you to fuck off?”
It’s cool. One really solid snot rocket from my girl shut his ass right on up.
And by the grace of god and light, I survived the rock strewn climb. Only rolling my ankle about 10 times.
In time to see this.
Sure. Worth it.
But if I thought the rocks were bad on the way up, I was completely unprepared for the rock garden from hell that would follow.
The fuck is this bullshit???
At least we had some light here, though.
Descended back down the other side of the mountain. And ran a few miles along the bottom.
And I was done. I was so done.
I decided that I’d drop when we hit the 25k turnaround. No shame in running a 15 mile mountain race. Instead of 34. Right?
Where is the damn turnaround??
Where is the fucking aid station???
Why haven’t we seen any 25k runners passing back by us in the last hour????
I’ll tell you why.
Because the 25k turnaround was a teeny tiny little sign. On the ground. At the bottom of the mountain. In a curve.
If I had been registered for the 25k. I’d have missed that bitch. And wouldn’t have realized it. Until hitting the next aid station. 14 miles in.
That’s how people end up on shows like “Snapped.”
So I didn’t drop.
I just slowly fell off pace.
On the next 3 miles of road.
And watched LeBBQ run past. Then GJB. Then K-Rob-D.
Before finally hitting the mile 17 turnaround point myself.
And then I felt the life slowly start to drain from my body. As I retraced the three miles of road. To get back to the trail.
But a well-timed text. From Branch and a Half Military. Telling me I was amazing. Kept me going. Because fuck. He was right.
Being able to do this kind of shit is a certain kind of amazing.
And you don’t just quit when someone just told you how amazing you are.
And also, yay for trail.
But also. Trail means rocks. So many rocks.
And my left knee and hip were taking turns telling me to fuck off.
And my ankle rolled at least another 5 times.
I tried to distract them with food.
Two pickles and three bags of chips. Some gummies. Ritz cheese crackers.
And they were ok. Kind of.
Because, thankfully, we had the climb back to the top of the mountain. Which only pissed off my lungs. But pacified my legs.
Those fucking rocks.
And this time. Downhill.
And holy hell. My knee and hip thought they were pissed on the way back over to the mountain. They were in full on revolt trying to maneuver their way back down.
Some people think that downhill running is the easiest.
Those people are either superhuman. Or not runners.
Because the only thing that hurts worse than a downhill at the end of an ultra is flat. Flat always hurts. Just always. But downhill at the end of an ultra is the devil’s spawn.
But the last aid station told me I was still under the cutoff. Which I was certain I wouldn’t make. Because fuck those rocks.
But I was miraculously still in it.
So I picked my way back down the mountain. And lugged myself back up the two miles of road.
To the fucking finish line.
Where my people were waiting.
Yelling at me to smile.
I could not.
I could not smile.
Not until we’d collected Finn’s Dad. And headed back to the house. Stopping for a beer at Devil’s Backbone.
Then I smiled. Because that beer was delicious.
And then. When we got back to the house. I smiled even more.
Because hot showers. And old, unattractive sweatpants. And beverages. And Everyone’s Favorite Husband and Franklin County Moonshine made sure we were fed.
And LeBBQ pulled another AG award. And GJB made a new best friend. Dustin. Or Dylan. Or something. And Beautiful Beastie and Tiny Brazilian killed the 50 miler. And we all said never again…
Except we all know that means maybe.
And I’m not even sure how this happened…
Because I don’t even know how to play guitar.
But at least I was sleeping.
And the race shirt was awesome. And my people were excellent.
And we’re all so thankful we managed to squeeze in one more race before the Coron started turning all the races into virtuals.
Because these times are the best times.
And one of these days, I’m gonna actually train for an ultra before I run it.