I was anxious on race day. I haven’t felt anxious before a race in a long time. I have done so many races that I have lost track of the number and that feeling that sits in your gut and gnaws at you before the gun goes off is, for about a year now, not something I feel anymore. I remember a quote, and it was probably from someone now infamous, but it went something like “When you stop feeling that nervous energy before a race you have lost the passion for it”. I don’t think I have lost the passion for running but perhaps just needed something new. I was happy to be feeling that on this particular race day.
It was my first “international” race and I told Kyla months ago that I wanted to “kill” this particular trail race. On race day, however, I wasn’t feeling so confident. I had been nursing an injury, my mileage was low and I had self-doubt. Doubt about sleep, about diet, about my sore leg/s and if the leg injury was going to come back.
Kyla had left early to the race site so I didn’t have to hide my doubt. She had volunteered that day to help coordinate parking. Even on her “off” days she is on. She keeps me honest and grounded and makes me strive to earn her respect. She motivates me to be the best I can be and that includes running better and smarter.
I had our rustic riverside guest house all to myself while I contemplated the race ahead of me. I have a routine before races. I have two cups of coffee and 2 liters of water with nuun when I wake up. Three hours before the race I have steel cut oats with nuts and raisins or cranberries and maple syrup. Then I have my shower. I know it may seem weird to shower before going out and racing but it is my routine.
My race kit has been packed the day before so I didn’t have to think about that on the day. Then I wait. Sometimes Kyla and I go early to races but usually, we will arrive right on time to pick up our race bibs and do a quick warm up then race. On this day, I found that I had time, time to kill. Time to make my head start thinking about failure. So I put on a movie “The Dallas Buyers Club”. I recognized the title but didn’t realize I had seen it until the opening credits. Heavy stuff first thing in the morning, but it was a great distraction.
0840 I was in the car and headed to the race site. The race started at 10 and having driven the road to the site the day before knew how long it was going to take. The road is a perfect driving road. The twists and turns were no match for Chewy and I reveled in the burp the turbo made each time it geared up and down and then hung on to the revs until the last second only to grind through each turn and blast out the apex. I connect with that car and imagined me running the groomed trails in the equally perfect fields of the Methow valley.
I arrived at the race site and looked around for Kyla. I gave her a hug and started my warm up. Really, I just needed to pee so I made my way to the outhouse. Then I did my warm up. I have found now I have to thoroughly warm up my legs and in particular my hips. I LOVE getting older.
The race has a “grassroots” feel. I don’t think though that I am a “grassroots” kind of guy. There were no timing chips, which is fine as people have been timing things since the invention of stopwatches and I didn’t think a photo finish was going to be an issue. There really was no start line. I mean there was, but it was like an impromptu race at a family reunion. There was no pre-race pep talk, warning of the perils of trail racing. No introduction of elite racers or history or really anything that I have come to expect at running races. I don t know if I need those things but I was seriously wondering at the time what my 75 bucks paid for?
Just shy of 25k later and I have to admit the race was amazing. No, I should say the course was amazing. It had ups and downs and twists and turns like all the trail races but it was different somehow. I remember a particular instance reaching out as I was running on a foot-wide trail with waist-high yellow wildflowers and running my hands along the tops of them. I remember the view of the lake and the yellow, green and red hills painted in the background, daring me to look away. I remember having an actual conversation with a guy named Stephen. I remember being completely overwhelmed at the aid station… Actually, I don’t really remember anything but chaos at the aid station and that my water bottle, miraculously, filled itself. I remember a climb that had no business being in this amazing trail race. I remember perfectly placed pink ribbons outlining the course. I remember the yellow signs that guided me to some absolutely amazing single track that twisted its way downhill to the finish. I remember my legs burning and my head spinning and my heart pounding and eating dirt and swatting mosquitoes. It was perfect.
I crossed the finish line in two hours and five minutes andI hugged Kyla. Then it was over. Just over. No medal, no awards, no “atta boy” t-shirt. Just a high five and a couple of beers and pizza… and it was worth every penny. Maybe I am more grass-roots than I thought.