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I have been training ….just a little…. getting back into a shape (other then round)….so maybe I should do an event for motivation? I’ll start with something easy, like a 5k …right… WRONG…. 10k trail run…. no problem… and then….

It’s February 5th, 2012. My alarm clock sounds @ 0530. My wife, who for all intents and purposes of this blog shall be referred to as Mrs. MuddyJ, cracks me on the shoulder and tells me to get up. Holy Christ, I haven’t woken this early FOR ANYTHING since I got out of the service. I look outside…it’s cold and raining. This is going to be a blast….NOT… boy was I wrong in that opinion. I get up, don the running shorts I bought last week, a pair of sweat pants, a compression tee, a hooded sweat shirt and my trusty Nike Lunars (how little I knew about trail running then)

I kiss Mrs. MuddyJ on the forehead, and sneak out the door into the garage without waking the kids. I fire up Zooey, my trusted steed (a 350z Roadster) and head out into the cold wet morning, with NO IDEA of what I have signed myself up for.

The race venue is easy to find, parking is not an issue. The rain slows and stops as I make my way across town. I go inside and pick up my packet around 0615 and head back out to sit in my car and wait for the race to begin.

Somewhere around 0645, I make the cold (and ultimately correct) decision to run in shorts, a t-shirt, and a skull cap.

There are three races going on at this event, a 1/2 marathon (which starts INSIDE the cave), a 5k  and a 10k, with the latter two starting in the parking lot. I am signed up for the 10k, because,….well because i am an idiot.

Runners for all the races have gathered inside the lobby, which has turned into a packet pickup area. I spot a dude with a “Tough Mudder” headband, and make my way over to him to ask him about the “Mudder” I overhear him talking to a woman about competing in THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST MUDDER (she had competed) At this point I remeber thinking, Holy #@@$, what have I gotten myself into?”

We start to trickle outside into the frigid morning. Thankfully the rain has stopped. The MC respectfully asks us all to bow our heads, and offers a prayer of thankfulness and protection for us all. AMEN.

I line up with the other 10k runners in the parking lot, the 5k has already left….. man it’s cold…everyone is hanging back from the starting line… the MC, a jovial and loud man, coaxes several of us up to the start. I start my phone playing a medley of US Army running cadences (for pace..yeah right) and the gun (siren/bullhorn) goes off.

I take off like a bat out of hell….HOLY $h!t IM WINNING, for all of 5 seconds. Then reality kicks in. I slow, I am passed. we get through the parking lot, and start the trails and I distinctly recall settling into a pace and thinking “hey,  this isn’t too bad, I can do this EASY”

Then we got onto the main trail. It rose in elevation on the horizon with no visible end… all uphill, or so it seemed. I would have been happy had that been the case.

I settle into a pace I feel like I can maintain uphill, and glance at the first water point as I continue past. Runners are passing me left and right and I am starting to feel a little sorry for myself. Then I remember reading that someone, somewhere wrote the advisory statement “run your own race”.

I crest the hill….

The other side looks to be STRAIGHT DOWN, and inwardly I celebrate for a moment… then REALITY kicks back in and I recall, THIS IS AN OUT AND BACK COURSE. I grit my teeth and pick up the pace for a bone jarring descent, thinking, I am going to have to make up the time on the way down, cause this is going to be a tough run back up.

Somewhere around halfway down, the leaders start passing me on the way back up. I muster some self respect and pick up my pace. At the base of the mountain (ok, foothill) the trail turns from a caliche road, to a muddy path through the woods. It’s actually pretty, though the footing give me a bit of trouble.

I am halfway through! OMG I can do this!

Then I get to the bottom of the hill I just ran down. I set my shoulders and start back up, thinking to myself, “man I hate me, this is brutal!” I make it back to the top, and the grade levels out a bit.I am not too ashamed to admit I did have to slow to a walk for a bit. but I made it.

I settle back into a pace. I am still going uphill.

The water point I past on the way out gets closer and closer… then I do the unthinkable.

I make a wrong turn.

The 5k branched of to a different (more challenging?) return route, and I turn onto that path. I don’t know if anyone tried to stop me, as my headphones were turned WAY UP.

8 to 10 minutes of running go by…. I realize there IS NO ONE NEAR ME.

I stop on the trail….what to do?

I decide to continue on… I can make out the trail left by the 5k runners easily, so I follow it. 5 minutes later I crest another hill and spot some people walking the 5k. I put my head down, mutter a prayer of thanks, and kick in my after-burners. The trail gets nicer and easier, and eventually I am back in the parking lot winding my way down to the finish…

I push myself a little harder…and take out my headphones.

Total strangers are cheering me on! This is awesome!

I make it through the finish in an all out sprint, proud of myself for having made it. Someone walks up and hands me a bottle of water and says “great job”

My first thoughts:Holy Jesus, i finished it! With a respectable time (even though i went the wrong way)!

My second thoughts: Holy Jesus, I am not running anymore and it’s really flippin’ cold!

I run up to my car, and don my sweatpants and hoodie, as well as a not-so-sweaty skull cap, and change my shoes. I walk back down to the results area and check my time.

Middle of the pack….not bad for a wrong turn. I consider telling the race officials about my wrong turn, as it may have been a bit shorter, but I didn’t qualify for any awards, so I decide its easiest to just let it stand. My GPS on my phone tells me the distance was 10k as well, even though I went the wrong way.

Eventually I say good-bye to my new friends, and make my way home to Mrs. MuddyJ and our mini-me’s… it’s not yet 10am on a Sunday…next year I’ll do the half marathon.

My first race, middle of the pack overall and for my age group….I was proud!

 

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