That title should actually be: On Mud And Mud And Mud And Mud And More Mud.
On Friday, Donnie asked me if I was nervous about my race. “No,” I assured him, “I’m just really excited.” And I was. Trail running is just fun to me, so it’s hard to get nervous about it. Especially since I had done the entire course the weekend before, just in two pieces. Those runs were separated by a 10-mile road race, which added an “exhaustion” factor I hoped would simulate putting the two pieces together on race day. In other words? I WAS READY.
It was weird in the beginning. The first mile or so was on a road or a wide trail so you could tell people were trying to figure out their places in the pack and I didn’t really know where to be. When we got to the first single-file part of the course (for the record, most of the course is single-file) it was an extreme downhill run through some muddy slants. That was the trickiest part to me because I’ve learned to embrace the downhill and the mud, so I found myself needing to pass people who were – in reality – faster than me. Either they weren’t used to the downhill or were fearing the mud, but they were slowing down when my body was propelling faster. I passed a good chunk of people there that eventually passed me again further along the course.
Once it thinned out things felt less chaotic. But, about mile 3-8 or so I was having some weird issues. My heart was racing and I was unable to ever catch my breath. I am in excellent cardio shape so that was really weird for me. I starting convincing myself I was having a heart attack or a stroke because it was just so…WEIRD. Then, my right foot started falling asleep and I was like Oh, shit. This is it. I’m stroking out. I told my battle buddy – my running friend who stuck with me and pulled me through all of those rough miles – and she was like, “Maybe your shoe is too tight.”
DUH. Much more logical than a stroke.
I pulled off the trails, loosened the shoe, and gained feeling back in my foot again.
DUH AGAIN. Good thing she’s smarter than me, or I might have called for a medical evacuation for a tight shoelace.
By the time we got about a mile or so from aid station 2 (mile 9.8) I started feeling WORLDS better. And I normally love the last 5 miles of the course, so since I no longer felt like I was dying (SCORE!), I was ready to go.
(SIDENOTE: I decided the heart racing may have been a residual effect of taking so much Sudafed this week for my allergies. Especially considering that stuff makes my heart race anyway. Add that to caffeine-filled power gummies along the course and 3 hours sleep 2 nights before, and I think it was a recipe for irregular breathing.)
After aid station 2 you go down into the Hollow again. I raced down it and had SO MUCH FUN. I was just enjoying myself mile 10-12 or so. It was great.
I know it's gross, but you had to see the mud CAKED on me. And this was even with some periodic trips in a stream to "wash off".
THEN WE HIT THE MUD.
Now, there are chunks of this course that are ALWAYS muddy. You always end up covered in mud after a training run. There’s one part they call “slush mile” because that’s what it is…as slushy mile. But – this last part of the course evidently gets bad after a rain, and after 100+ people before you have traipsed through it all. It was about 2 miles of SOLID MUD. And I can’t even explain what it was like other than saying that I felt like I was walking with 15lb weights on my ankles. The mud WANTED to keep my feet and I had to fight for EVERY STEP. We really struggled.
15 miles does not give me the best finish-line form...
By the time we got to the last mile or so, which is mostly all uphill, the final stretch called DEATH TRAIL, we were DEAD. Our legs and knees and everything from the waist down was SCREAMING IN AGONY. But we did it, and I was even able to run a bit at the top of the trail and heard my family screaming for me at the finish line. It was GREAT. I teared up because I was so proud but trail runners are NOT the crying type so I sucked it in and pushed towards the finish. 4:27 was my official which is great for a first-timer who thought she was having a heart attack for about 5 miles.
It was an amazing experience and I can not wait to do another one. Seriously. I am hurting this morning like I’ve never hurt before. My quads and calves feel like I did a 24-hour boot camp session on Saturday. I did run an easy 7 miles yesterday to try to ease the recovery along, but today? OH MY GOD. I’m having trouble WALKING. If you see me out and about? A sympathetic pat on the back would be nice. The pain of today is nothing like I’ve ever felt before.
But still? I WANT MORE.
You only get a shirt if you come in under 5 hours. I EARNED THIS SHIRT, BABY.
Many trail runners say that it’s addicting. If you’ve made it to run an actual trail race, then you’re probably hooked for life. And I can totally see that. It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s messy, and it makes you overlook the fact that you might be having a stroke.
Which is probably NOT a good thing, I’ll admit.
Either way – I am now more proud of that shirt up there than of anything I’ve ever earned in my life. I may wear it every day this week just so the whole world can see what I did.
Of course, my hobbling around is probably a sufficient indicator.