One of De Niro's best roles... Lately I've been doing my fair share of 'Seeing America the hard way'.....though not at gunpoint, it's still been some rough going.
If you've read my last post, you'll know that I struggle with sleep - getting enough of it. I never have problems once I'm on the train; it's just that the ride is too damn short - if I manage to get on at all. This past weekend was no different.
It was my 6th race weekend in 8 weeks, and gearing up for it quickly reminded me of how deliberate one needs to be midweek if weekend races are going to happen - at all, let alone if you want to run well, have fun, etc. :-) Last Friday's gate to the weekend was all too familiar...work-work needing weekend attention, home-work making noises trying to get noticed, and yet life-work taking a certain priority that only comes with preparation and anticipation for race days.
Lo and behold - after some work-work and home-work, t'was approaching midnight Saturday, and I was far from ready for my pre-dawn departure out to the Mt. Holyoke Range and Skinner State Park. At 2a, I made the difficult decision to ride out the night awake, take extra time for the drive, etc. To make a long story short, I arrived just about 7:45a... more bleary-eyed that I could stand. All I wanted to do was sleep.... but I had to run.
Thankfully, I didn't have to run right away. I had plenty of time to finish gearing up and taking care of food/fuel needs. It was overcast, but warmish in the minutes before starting - so I made the good decision to go with only short sleeves; turns out if was just warm enough to finish comfortably that way.
Left the starting line at the back of the pack, and on my own.... I've become used to starting out races with friends, so after I started talking aloud to myself on the first ascent - I couldn't help but start laughing. Clearly sleep induced-delirium... I'm gonna go and do what now? What I was about to do was climb a most diabolical mountain trail - this pretty much set the tone for the day....
Google Earth is a fantastic tool for anyone with access to modern technology today; if you don't already have this installed on your machine, you deserve to explore what it can do for you. This is data from a Garmin 305 displayed as a .kml file overlay. But I digress into geekdom...
I was starting to wake up near the top of this climb, and from there, the next 3 hours are a series of wildly amusing blurs - chatting with locals who only ever run *this* trail race, watching the lead pack whiz past me coming the other way at some point after the Summit House in about 3 seconds flat (K.Tilton,face,face,B.Nephew), thanking volunteers at the turnaround point - is this where it's supposed to get easier? That would be a no...
Once I'd made the turnaround, and was a mile or so back uphill - I encountered a few folks on several different occasions as we toggled back and forth moving over the varied terrain. Long expanses of side-grade granite, waterfall-steep drops to your side out of the blue....always make for *great* commiseration! It was really nice to have some conversation on the way home to pass the time - it's a severe course start to finish - the % of flat terrain in this race is just about .068% - that's actually an entirely made up number, but it can't be off by much.I made it back to that first/final peak of Bare Mountain, and had my real (however entirely unqualified) time-goal within sight. For that reason, and the sheer adrenaline thrill, I was excited to see how much fun I could have on such a long and unique finishing trail; these rocks make a most beautiful sound as you clamber over them...tink ti-tink tink tink..windchimes I now can't get out of my head.
Finally in the last quarter mile, I had another sight motivating me - there was NipMuck Dave...the rock! - the fact that I'd managed to finish at his pace made this trail-newbie feel pretty darn good about his first encounter with the 7 wicked sisters of the Mt. Holyoke Range.
Caught up with my friend Stas after the race, and had a chance to meet his friend Erika after we started talking about the virtues of my favorite - the Inov-8 brand. I was still craving conversation at this point, so it was a nice indulgence to go with the bagels and OJ. After our goodbyes, I made it back over to the trailhead - I love seeing as many runners finish any race as I can. At this point, runners were only coming in infrequently, but since I didn't take my camera on the run (phew!) I was happy to have such a pleased looking soldier come across as my only photo of a finisher. Bravo my good man.
I was much more awake now than when I first gazed on this part of the trail...I'm not sure it really tells you much - other than to portend that it's just gotta get worse from here, right? Indeed.
I'm thrilled to have finished this race, and I'll do it again - maybe even next year. But never again on no sleep..... crazy runners.