That Time I Almost Finished Last In A Race….

Um yeah….so that happened this weekend. Technically I wasn’t last, I finished 30 minutes before Clint who had an injured foot and a 20ish year old girl with bad knees, and then about an hour before a 50-something and 3 60+ year olds….so by all accounts I was pretty much last. Granted those running the trail marathon had only had 4 finishers and I was a good 45 minutes before the first 50K finisher (those races did have an hour head start on me) so I’m just thinking that all those cheering people at the finish line just assumed like I was finishing the marathon and not the 15 mile trail race….

It just wasn’t my day. Some days are good running days and some days just don’t go well, and some are just horrible. Saturday was one of those days. My last two long training runs of 10 and 12 miles felt great even better than ever before, which never happens, usually I feel terrible for one of them. And I felt good and rested, ate well, and did all my training runs and felt ready. However less than a mile into the race my legs felt like concrete and that’s always a bad sign. And they never really got over it. Granted it didn’t help that we were basically going straight uphill. And by uphill I mean UPHILL.

I told the really nice guy at the aide station (whose wife had cooked nutella cookies for racers-if you ever need a reason to do a trail race, the aide stations are reason enough) at mile 5.7 that I think my legs forgot that they were suppose to run a race that day.  I knew a couple miles before that we were bringing up the rear of the pack as I could see no runners behind Clint who was a bit behind me. Luckily at that point in the race we joined up with the marathoners and the 50K runners who were at that point some 13 or 17 miles into their runs plus they had started an hour earlier….but at least I knew that meant that people would be running up behind me and along side me from then on. That actually kind of helped.

The downhills that followed also helped as did the amazing views. And really if one is going to do a trail run the views and the chance to be outside in nature is really the reason. Granted the aide stations are amazing…but when I train I don’t eat nutella cookies, M&Ms, pretzels, PB&J sandwiches, skittles, potato chips, or oreos….so I’m not real eager to try them mid race. Although Saturday I’m not sure anything could have made me any worse. Maybe I just need to work an aide station….problem is that I would then eat all the goodies which is probably frowned upon. But back to the views. I forgot to take many photos along the way, but it was gorgeous.

I may have said some choice words at a couple of the big climbs but I trudged up them and then back down and eventually made my way back to the start/finish line. I was all smiles as I crossed and then headed back out to wait for Clint to finish. I had felt and known the nagging and accusing voice about how poorly I did and kept stuffing that down for quite awhile after the race but it kind of reared its ugly head in the evening. As someone who struggles with a lot of self doubt and WAY too much self critical thoughts finishing basically last adds a lot of fuel to those fires. I even asked out loud “why do I even try?”. Why do I spend hours running, loose sleep and time from other things, feel myself get faster and stronger, only to fail miserably?

I kind of had to let those questions and doubts and self loathing hang in the air for a bit….but I also knew that they would ultimately destroy me and so I had to either face them head on or stuff them and allow them to eat me from the inside.

And so why do I run? I run because its what keeps me semi-normal. Between 5 kids and my work where I literally balance life and death in my hands and decisions I need something that lets me just let go and go. I run to worship, I can get out and see the beautiful creation that God has made and just enjoy and soak it in….whether its a summer sunrise or the crunch of fresh snow under my shoes in the frosty air. I run because I have a healthy body and legs that work and I know and see and care for many that don’t have that or have had that taken from them to early in life and I know that we don’t know the number of our days and so I want to make my days the best that I can (with a couple marshmallows thrown in…).

And so yes, I came in last or very nearly last Saturday and I see it as kind of a T in the road….do I continue to run or do I walk away from all this forever? Choosing to run again and sign up for another race or even just maintaining where I’m at means ignoring those voices of doubt and self destruction that I often listen to, and instead choosing to forge ahead. It does mean working a little harder on my training plans for next year…while I had the miles and thought I had good hill runs I need more HILL runs. And also understanding and knowing that everyone has off days and days where their legs and bodies just don’t come together despite everything that they do….some days our legs just forget to show up for a race. And someone always comes in last. This weekend it was me…and so I’m going to learn from this and grow from this…..and I already have my eyes set on a race for the spring to help me get there.