Tuesday, March 03, 2009


Here's is what I did last Saturday as if anyone would want to know:

I woke up at 5:30 AM this morning. Why would a retired person get up this early, you ask? Crazy my wife says. I mean, the squirrels haven't even raided the bird feeders yet. Today is The Thrill in the Hills 21K Trail Race. I know thiswould normally motivate me, a morning run in the woods, but it is pouring down rain outside and my stomach was hosting a virus that it was determined to eject. I crawled to the shower to wake up the rest of me with steaming hot water. I dressed for the weather, poured myself a big glass of chocolate milk, and was out the door before six. Not many vehicles on the road at this hour on a Saturday morning, only thing you have to do is avoid the loonies feeling their way home from a Friday night to remember. When I reached Winder and turned onto the road to the park, I saw blue flashing lights in the rear view mirror. I pulled to the side of the road to let three Winder prowlers zoom by, probably heading to an accident caused by a possum crossing 316. It had rained all night, meaning the trails would be slippery and perhaps flooded, but I didn't imagine just how bad it would be. I passed the time waiting for the race to start listening to CCR and trying to decide what-to-wear. At last it is time to go to the starting line. The hardest part of a race is waiting for it to start. Before me was a long, half mile hill with a clearing for the power lines full of tall grass with a narrow trail in the middle. As I was feeling the ions being sucked out of me, the gun went off and about 300 of us brave souls headed up the big hill, jockeying for position. I quickly established my place in the pecking order toward the rear of the pack and dared any stragglers to pass me. By the time I reached the top of the hill, I felt like I'd already run 4 miles. The thought of doing another 13 miles made me wonder about my decision making capabilities. It didn't get any better after we turned right into the woods where the same narrow trail was now bracketed by tall pines. The overnight rain had done its damage, the trail was wet and sloppy with plenty of puddles. These puddles caused an immediate backup, and the task of packing 300 people onto a trail wide enough for maybe two people at most, turned the race into a social stroll until we sorted ourselves into a single file. Still, the novice runners who thought they were here to view the natural surroundings and sniff the flowers, kept trying to avoid the puddles and keep their newly bought trail shoes pristine. I felt like throwing mud balls at them, but soon found that it was easy to pass by running through the puddles, leaving a big wake that soaked the squeaky cleans who opted to avoid getting their feet wet. Unknown to them was that. The most solid footing was where the water runs off, while the sloppy goo lies to the side of the trail. These people would pay me back later, when they passed me lying face down in the mud. Three times I slipped and fell! After the third fall, I decided to throttle back and enjoy the scenery. Falling down consumes much needed energy, and after 7 miles the hills became taxing. Each one took something out of me even at a slower pace. My legs remained strong, but my heart rate started to max out every time I thought about a hill. The rain kept coming, turning the path into a small creek in places. One mud hole came up to my knees, still I push onward. All the From 7 to 13.1, I averaged 4 minutes a mile slower than the first 7. I passed a poor girl at 10.5 who had the chills, but the water stop people had her wrapped in blankets, not giving me the benefit of an excuse to drop out of the race to assist her. I saw no one in front or behind me for the last two miles of the race. This allows your mind to work on you. You start to think that maybe you took a wrong turn which leads you to test your tracking skills, examining the shoe prints in the mud to see which direction they are going. When you discover 4 going one way and 1 going the other, it is time to panic, choosing the majority direction doesn't ease the paranoia. Soon, you think that you may be running around in the woods for another week or so. When all hope of reaching civilization again is lost, you see someone waving a flay at the top of a hill. As you draw closer you realize that the wording on the sign says FINISH. After an inspired dash to the finish, I try not to pass out as I remove my chip. Only then do I see that the clock guy and the flag guy are the only two people left around. Walking down to the awards building where the bananas, PowerAde, and medals are given out, I find it empty. A Dirty Spokes truck is outside already loaded and ready to go home. Am I the last finisher? The last person I saw was the cold chill girl at mile 10. Did the rest of the runners behind me also drop out? We all paid to be tortured. Should slugs be discounted because the super fast have all been accounted for. In addition, the T-shirts for these XTerra trail events have become generic. Two years ago, there was a big frog on the shirt and it said, "Thrill in the Hills." The new ones just say, "Terra Series." How many of these do you need? I don't know whether I got an age group medal or not, no one was around to tell me, and there was supposed to be a medal for finishing this run in the quagmire. No one around to give me one of those either. Back at my car I wipe off the muck with a towel, somehow manage to reach my shoes to untie them, and peel my sticky wet shirt off and replace it with a dry one. I head home empty handed, dreaming of a long hot shower to rid myself of the mud and blood (left knee bore the brunt of the three slip downs). Next race, the INGA half marathon ON PAVEMENT!

No comments: