on a whim last friday, i signed up for a trail marathon. the unconventional thing was that the marathon was the following weekend. rather than train specifically for it or even taper, i spent this past week performing my normal training schedule. with three challenging 10mi runs on my legs for the week already, i toed the line this morning ready to take on what was billed as california’s hardest trail marathon.
the race director, baz, an ausie ex-pat, set the most amazing vibe at the start by personally greeting everyone and giving a fantastic pre-race briefing that included jabs at runners and much colorful language. the guy is a nut and the vibe was set for a fun day.
we headed off and immediately began our climb up to the trabuco trail. the first 1,000′ climb was uneventful and i just slowly worked my way up the fire road. at the aid station at the top of trabuco, i hooked up with my buddy, marisa, and we ran the downhill to the next aid station together. as always, the first question i get asked is, "how’s your little guy?" and i get to spend the next hour just gushing over what a groovy little kid i have. we rolled into the holy jim aid station at the nine mile mark, fueled up and then i took off up the holy jim climb.
this climb is a steep, 4+ mile section of switchbacks that climbs about 2,500′ up to the main divide road just below the santiago peak. i ran this section alone and just dropped into a comfortably mellow pace and just focused on form and managing the climb without stopping. about half way up, i remembered that a member of my trail club, kirk, was managing the aid station at the top.
kirk and i have a long history. we’ve never met.
kirk, who is known for his wonderfully sarcastic remarks, is constantly taking shots at me on our club forum. the problem with this zingers is that i rarely end up seeing the posts until it’s been months after the fact, and by then, it’s too late to respond. all of this lead to the thought that, "maybe kirk thinks i’m mad at him for all the comments". kirk, i should mention, is one of the most well respected members of the club for his sincerity, sensitivity and selflessness.
as i ran up holy jim, i got the GREAT idea to really give him a scare when i saw him. my buddy, donald, had just posted an entry about a great alternative pre-race warm up. a maori haka. the night before, i had joked with smsmh about doing one at the start of the race to solidify in people’s minds just what a nut i am. i spent a couple minutes describing and practicing one and was even joined by thunderclap in my insanity.
anyway, in my fatigue induced state, i thought it would be a GREAT idea to try out my haka on kirk, and make him think that i was going to take out all of my fury on him. for the next few miles until i hit bear springs, i was giggling to myself.
so, i topped out at bear springs and was immediately greeted by kirk. he asked how i was doing. i responded, "i have been running for just over 14 miles with one singular thought in my mind; this moment." kirk responded, "oh? really?" at that point, i started into my haka, breathing deep, grunting and getting into a squat stance. i threw my hand held water bottle to the ground and started shouting a resounding guttural growl. i continued my yell/growl and began stomping, slapping thighs and arms and made motions of tearing flesh from bone and finished off with a throat slitting motion. i stood up, reached forward and shook kirks hand while breaking into a laugh.
the look on his face was PRICELESS. the great thing was that there were about 10 other people at the aid station that had no idea what the heck was going on. i had to quickly explain so that no body thought that i was rabid, losing my mind or in need of medical attention. kirk and i had a good laugh and as i left the aid station i shouted back at kirk, "that was for all the things you said about my mom!" kirk responded, "i never said anything about your mom….to your face!" touche, kirk!
off i went again. the next section of trail was mostly rolling but before hitting the next aid station, it climbed to the pass next to trabuco peak, the highest point on the course. this was another 500′+ climb over the course of a mile or so and was steep enough to scrape your nose as you worked your way up. i was still feeling pretty solid on this portion of the run, but i could feel the effort of running the whole holy jim section combined with my miles from the previous week. at the 18mi aid station, i topped off fluids, chatted briefly with the crew and then headed off for the ‘easy’ portion of the route.
no sooner had i left the aid station and i went through my "wall" section. i turned on some music and nick cave started singing.
"well the road is long, and the road is hard, and many fall by the side"
i had planned on showing up to the race this morning both sore and tired from the week with the hopes of really suffering through some difficult sections. well, i wasn’t disappointed as my quads, hips and calves began their incessant screaming. but i listened to nick…
"i went on down the road, he went on down the road"
this "easy" section of the route was really taking it’s toll on me. the rolling climbs and drops were beating up my quads and flaming my calves. the loose and uneven fire road was wearing on my feet. and my joints, oh, my joints. but i kept running, because as nick said, i was the captain of my pain.
"i am the captain of my pain, tis the bit, the bridle, the trashing cane, the stirrup, the harness, the whipping mane, the pickled eye, the shrinking brain, o brother, buy me one more drink, i’ll explain the nature of my pain, yes, let me tell you once again, i am the captain of my pain"
before too much longer, the perseverance paid off and i rounded a corner on a climb and could see up above me, about a quarter mile off, the trabuco aid station. john resnick was there, checking off runners and he gave me the great news that i was the 22nd runner. i topped off and headed back out. knowing that i was a mere 3 miles from the finish spurred me on. i felt rejuvenated and began to push my pace. i moved quickly on the downhill back to the finish and
the pains from a handful of miles previously were forgotten. before i knew it, i was rounding a corner on the falcon creek trail and spotted the cars parked at the finish. i picked it up and finished strong. i waved my arms in the air as baz congratulated me, stopped my watch and was pleased to see a 4:24 finish time.
after a tough course with 5,100′ of climbing i was happy with my time, happy to be done with the "racing on fatigued leg experiment" and happy to have really messed with kirk’s head and solidified the perception that i am a nut case.
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Laugh? I Nearly Bought One!