The day started out well. I ate a whole grain waffle, put on all of my rain gear plus a heavy sweatshirt and magically found a parking space about a 1/4 mile from the race.
This is important because during the Fourth of July, over 30,000 people swarm down on our small town of 2,000. It's admittedly crowded, and the number of RVs around town is obscene.
First off, I went to race headquarters and duct taped up my shoes to prevent scree from sliding inside my shoes.
Then I cheered in the junior racers as they ran down the homestretch. The junior race goes to the halfway point and then turns around. If you think that makes it a wimpy race, think again: The first half of the mountain is the steepest, the most grueling and dusty and agonizing.
Can you believe how small some of those kids are? Amazing that they tackle the mountain.
The race is devious. After struggling to the top, you run around a rock and then plunge down 3,022 feet, and baby, it's steep. Once you start running, you literally cannot stop. You lean back, punch with your heels, use your arms for leverage and pray to god that you'll miraculously remain upright.
I ran in the first wave this year, which contained the faster runners. (Gulp!) I started off well, ran the first half mile over pavement to the mountain. The trail narrows as you travel upward until it becomes skinny and steep and dusty. Passing is a pain in the butt, but if you don't pass you're stuck following the pace of whoever is in front of you. I passed, and then didn't pass when I should have--it was difficult to gauge. I made the wrong call and hit the half mile mark almost a minute slower than my last training run, not a good sign.
By then, I didn't care. Climbing for more than a half mile hunched over and grasping my thighs for mercy had left me in not the best humor. I look longingly at path the junior racers run down at the half point and a clever voice in my head said: Cindi, why not just run down? Why struggle to the top? You know you can do it--what do you have to prove?
Then I saw him, and I knew I could keep going. The dude I call Mr. Waiter Man. I don't know his name or anything about him but this guy (a volunteer) dresses up in a tux coat and stands at the halfway point each year with a tray balanced on his hand filled with dixie cups of water. I wish I had a pic, but I don't. I also wish I could tell this guy how much his efforts mean to those of us racing, how that little bit of humor is exactly what we need when we emerge from the humidty of the trees to tackle the open areas of the upper mountain. So thanks Mr. Waiter Man!
Climbing the last half I thought: I can scramble like hell and make up lost time, I can scramble moderately and finish within last year's time or I can take it easy and just, you know, chill with the mountain. Because I'm thick in the middle of marathon training and had a 19-miler scheduled for the coming weekend, I chose to scramble moderately. I'm still kinda disappointed with myself over that choice, yet I'm also kinda proud that I didn't get wrapped up in the competitive vibes and concentrated on my biggest goal: Finishing the August marathon in a decent it's-my-first-marathon-in-25-years time.
|Wheeee! Photo credit: Loren Holems|
The downhill was a blast. By the time I hit the cliffs, after almost a full mile of charging down steep slopes, my legs were shaking and I was afraid I might collapse, but I made it down the most technically challenging areas (the trail actually follows a stream through jump-offs and a waterfall. Basically, you run through the waterfall, which is slippery and wild). When I hit the road, and started running again I almost cried. Because I was almost done! And I was running! And I knew could run a half mile, no matter how crappy I felt. I passed five runners in the homestretch (love doing that!) and finished in 1:27, about a minute faster than last year, no great time but good enough to keep me in the first wave next year.
Check out Loren Holmes' incredible race photos on our newspaper Website. This dude rocks the pics at this link: Mt. Marathon pics
Wednesday I did a easy run to Tonsina Point and the beach with The Beebs. Nice steady pace, great run. The stuff summer is made of.