It was during mile 26 that the course channeled us upon a towering snow-covered mound. At this point, the staggering of 33K racers were my waypoints for the final stretch of my 55K slick rock journey. Three racers ahead of me were in the midst of a navigational nightmare upon the 30-foot high mound. They made measured contemplations of footwork and balance. I, on the other hand, took a long-legged approach to the slippery mound and surged straight up toward its summit. I executed brilliantly for three-quarters of the way up, when suddenly momentum and traction lost their respective battles with gravity and ice. Balancing on all fours, I slid two body lengths back down the slope and for the first time in 3+ hours my body was rendered motionless. My brain seized-up, unsure of which combination of movements could execute forward progress. Only to realize that others had forged a traverse zig-zagging to the top of the mound. Crisis averted.
As I rounded over the mound, the majestic slick rock landscape was unveiled, encouraging me to embrace the moment, the beauty, the opportunity. “Wild and freeeee, baby!!!” I exclaimed to the sky, to the trail, and to my competitors within earshot. I didn’t care. I had wings.
During my race prep, I had identified this turning point that would/should/could happen at mile-26. Here marked the end of a navigationally complex scramble over 6-miles of steep rock face. I had been patient and calm through the first 26-miles: keeping true to my running form, respecting the bounds of my endurance, and sipping an energy gel every 20-minutes. All of these calculated actions were to ensure that I could attack the final 8-miles with a vigor, confidence, and wildness that I didn’t know I contained.
It was at this point of exuberance, when I broke away from the 4-pack of 55K racers that I had played leap-frog with throughout the technical climbs. My legs had life, my body was well-fueled, and best of all my mind was excited to be uncorked.
Racing through those final downhill miles, I sheepishly eyed my watch giddy as I surged for sub-6-minute pace. Crossing the finish line to the screams of Julia, my parents, and my friends, I was overcome with pride, gratitude, and, much to my surprise, strength. I felt great! I had raced 34-miles over unforgiving terrain in 4-hours and 22-minutes. I had finished in 4th place, and I wanted to keep going.
There is magic in racing.
Check out my race here: https://www.strava.com/activities/492823939
Every story has two sides. A few days after racing, I had an ah-ha moment to get checked out by a doctor. I love running, I live for racing, yet I had been ignoring a few nagging foot injuries for quite some time. Perhaps, these pains have been keeping me from reaching my full potential? Perhaps it was just in my head? The time had come to pay the piper. I knew full-and-well that going to a doctor with any running-related injury can only end in an order to stop running for a period of time. I swallowed my pride and made the appointment. It is only February and for once in my life I don’t have any “must-do” races on my calendar. Diagnosed with minor arthritis in the big toe joint of my left foot and a possible stress fracture in the middle-toe of my right foot, it’s easy for me to see the big picture and rest for a lifetime of running ahead.