We did it!
We ran the Cradle to the Grace 30K Trail Race and every part of my body aches including my head. Who cares, we did it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could, and I’m quite proud of the race and all that I’ve accomplished in the last four months.
That’s the thing. Compared to the four months of training, the race felt anticlimactic. I didn’t stick to my original training plan, but I did run faithfully 3-4 times per week despite all the life shit that hit me during these sixteen weeks: moving, building a garden from the ground up in three weeks, traveling twice for work, and driving back to Ohio for my grandma’s passing. Despite the sadness, anxiety, and depression, I laced up my shoes and hit the trails or pavement anyways. And every single time I felt better for it. I can honestly say the hardest part of every single run was walking out the door, and race day was no different.
It was much colder than anticipated when we woke up in our tent at 6 AM on race day. All I had was a tank top and shorts! We headed to the Cradle of Forestry and stretched in the interpretive center with all the other runners. We didn’t walk outside to the starting line until one minute to race time – it was that cold. And every minute in that hour, hell in that day leading up the race the voices in my head were telling me I couldn’t do it. I was scared when the gunshot rang and we were off.
I cried a lot in the first few miles, thinking about my grandma and grandpa who are both dead now. They were so important to me, like parents. Running helps me process, and I really haven’t had time to process this death at all. In fact I’ve been purposefully avoiding thinking about it because … I just can’t right now. Well it all came out in the first couple miles, and it felt good.
Back to the running though: the biggest challenge during the race was knowing how to pace myself. I never actually ran more than 12 miles during training due to my knees. I definitely wasn’t planning to run the whole thing. So I started off slow – really slow.
I ran the first four miles slow and felt great, so I picked up the pace for a while, until I was forced to start walking due to steep uphills. I promised myself – no running up big hills – I hate it and it’s really hard on my knees. I walked-jogged for a bit, until around mile 8 when the trail became a hiking trail straight up a mountain. Yeah, I walked all of that.
Once I started heading down the mountain around mile 10, I picked up running again. At mile 12 my knees were killing me and I was starting to cramp up. We were also on FS roads at that point – not trail. By mile 14 I felt like I could run no more, and walked for a while, knowing I definitely wanted to run the last leg of the race.
When we picked the trail back up at mile 15.5, I started running again, and ran (albeit VERY slow) until I crossed the finish line at 3:57. 18.6 miles in 3 hours and 57 minutes. My goal was under 4 hours. Hell yeah!
Like I said – I’m glad I ran this race. I think it was something I needed to prove to myself, and it redefined the way I think about fitness. I used to limit myself to 3-4 mile runs, thinking I was incapable of anything more. I shattered that limitation during my training. The other big lesson learned was controlling my mind during exercise. I shed all the “when is this going to be over”s and “how much longer”s that used to plague my runs. When you’re running 20-30 miles per week, you just can’t let your mind go there. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish physically when you calm the mind down.
I will not be running for four more months and I may or may not miss it.
PS – Here’s a pic of us goofing off on our way up to the race. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably a regular reader. This blog is not dying! I miss blogging so hard and hope to get back on the bandwagon soon. Gardening and running simply took priority over blogging this spring. I have the garden well established, and no more running, so perhaps you’ll be hearing more from me this summer. I miss you guys and I’m still reading all your blogs, even though I’m not commenting a ton!