Monday, July 16, 2012

Xterra NC - 6 days after the first, No watch=no limitations!

July 14, 2012

Start of Xterra NC 
The days of road running may be closer to an end than I thought.  I quite possibly may have replaced it with trails. Much more serene, laid back and more mentally challenging than ever, I never thought in my old age that I would be drawn back to the days of my childhood of playing in the woods. I thought I had outgrown such things that I would refer to as simple.  It is so nice to feel like I am playing and due to the fact that everything I do is for such a long amount of time, playing is a wonderful thing. 

Well this trail race is number two in my whole four times on a true trail, why not make the fourth another race, another longish race.  Like my thought process? To me if I am not challenged, uncomfortable and out of my zone of comfort, I feel like I am wasting time. 

I digress for just a paragraph or two.  When I was young, I had my first child, I was seventeen.  Until a few years ago my life revolved around my children. The older they get, the more freedom I have to explore.  I get to go back and do the thing that I didn't get to do years ago. Now I am more daring, fearless, and throw caution to the wind. 

Trail running (and I am just a novice with a lot of grit) has taught me already that I am smarter than I thought. Who knew I would be able to run, while trail marker spotting, watching all around me and managing to not fall this time in completely foreign areas. Trail is one time that I am not worried about speed, just enjoying myself.  I set out and have in my mind what I would like to do but if it doesn't happen not the end of the world.  The first Xterra, I only missed my goal by 2 minutes, the second one (because I had no watch) I beat by 15 minutes. Let me just say that the trail at Harbison is technically more challenging than the Whitewater Center in Charlotte, however the red clay and the fact that it had rained all week in Charlotte made caution flags come up regularly during the race. 

I had the privilege to see a gray fox run across the trail and a wasp nest that stopped me dead in my tracks because I couldn't figure out if the tree had a fungus or if it was a nest, nest it was. Any run I do is a privilege, I do not take it for granted. 

We began the trek up to Charlotte's Whitewater Center. Having no clue that the destination was closer than we thought, near the airport, we left early to give us plenty of time. It was foggy and I was thinking great, rain and Nik and Irma would be outside waiting on me. We arrived. Small group as I had expected, all different ages, all extremely fit. I get my packet, pin on my number and wait. The set up group, Dirty Spokes, did a fantastic job. Start and finish ended at this covered area where bathrooms and changing rooms were attached. Eased my mind a bit, at least they would be sheltered if there was rain. The clouds start to burn off and the sun appears, start time is near.  My goal was two hours for this race but guess what I had forgotten, my watch, so I was just going to go.

Ready, set, GO! 

All of us loop into the woods, and then come to a screeching halt. Single track, no passing, should have staggered the race for those who are faster and want to place. Walking continued for a bit and then we were off.  Miles one and two, I am thinking that I have lost my mind completely, my muscles are tired.  I blow it off.  There are two distances in the race, the shorter distance is running with us and turns off at mile three. I can hear the crowd cheering and have to go the opposite direction, gah! We had been told at the start that if we chose to take the shorter route and were signed up for the longer distance that we would get a DNF (did not finish) and nope, not happening, unless I had to be hauled out and listen I would put up a good fight. 

I shook off mile three turn off and trudge along, where the trail is all red clay and boulders, roots too numerous to count and dips and ruts and drop offs that required jumping and did I mention that it had rained all week. Rain all week and red clay with steep descents equals slippery terrain. We had been also warned to "Embrace the Suck" of certain parts of the race which ended up not being less difficult than Harbison, maybe because I was prepared for the worst. The funniest part was the mile stretch called "The Toilet Bowl" which spiraled down and at the bottom was an old toilet. "Goat Hill" was supposed to be the most challenging part however, compared to "Spider woman" in Harbison, not so much.  

Along the way I met a lady, Nancy was her name, aged 57 years. (I am learning every time I do something that age is merely a number.) Along the route she and I discussed many things, her two full Ironman finishes within the last 3 years, her many half ironman finishes, two completions of marathons, her taking up stand up paddle boarding last year, about her husband who is an incredible athlete (seriously 3 time Kona qualifying under his belt) and their 34 year old son and grand children. She told me about vacationing in Guatemala and roasting marshmallows over the volcano coals. We both talked about how we wished we had done the shorter distance so we would feel like playing at the center after (we both said playing simultaneously).  She said turn around I need to see your hair, and then squealed, we both had braided ponytails, she said our meeting was meant to be. Throughout the course she told me I could pass, I told her nope, I'm just gonna ride in your back pocket and ride in her back pocket is what I did. Over and under and through the trail until we see the parking lot, the covered area and the finish! Yahoo! Yahoo except the finish ends up a gravel road, embrace the suck! 

Well, I finished, yet another one, and a third is already in sight. Mentally taxing, cruelly demanding on the body, more sweat than can be fathomed and memories that will last a lifetime. 

When I am on trail, I feel like a kid, so free and though there is a determination in my eye there is also a twinkle there, a spark and a swell of pride that is immeasurable.

My friend, Nancy and  me at the finishing

Oh the lure of the trail...

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