I don’t even know where to start with this one…
On Friday night we headed to Huntsville having decided to camp at the race so we could sleep in (haha). I proceeded to have a terrible nights sleep, I love camping and am very comfortable in a tent, what I’m not used to is being packed into a field in which people kept arriving until well after mid night. Our tent neighbour snored like a machine driving me insane, and then people started arriving at 5:30 to set up. I was exhausted.
Put my brave face on and the trail shoes I hate the least (I’m having some serious shoe struggles right now) and headed off to the pre race meeting. My mood improved as I met up with familiar faces, it was already hot but not too bad, maybe today wouldn’t be so bad. My goal was to beat 8 hours having missed it by 34 seconds last year (I also state in last years report that I should only do the 28km race-why do I not take my own advice?), but really I was hoping for 7:30.
As the race started I met up with Carolyn who I ran with at PYP, we seeded ourselves pretty well and settled into a nice pace along the stunning trail to the first aid station. You can hear the kids working this aid station from 3km away, they cheer for every single runner as we pop up over the little hill leading to the aid station. Lap 1 I didn’t stop at any aid stations as I was testing out my new UD Scott Jurek Hydration Vest, so was pretty happy to breeze by the stations. I wanted to run this lap conservatively as I know how difficult Lap 4 can be. Although the race consists of a 14.2km loop, it is deceptively difficult, there are no real big ups or downs, but lots of rolling, and lots of roots, rocks and mud, it takes its toll. Near the end of the lap we started getting passed my marathon runners and even a couple of 28km runners (who were bombing by) I wondered if Dan was going to end up lapping me since he was doing the marathon, I figured he might but probably not until my third lap. I was feeling good as we came around to complete Lap 1 and was astonished to see the clock read 1:59, oh that’s a lot slower than expected, the pace was comfortable but I believed we’d been moving a little quicker.
Carolyn and I decided to stay together and got out of the aid station quick, we had come into it in a bit of a conga line and didn’t want to get stuck behind again. We ran the road to the trail head quick, passing a few more people before jumping back onto the single track. We both wanted to pick it up on this lap, Carolyn paced the first half and I took over for the second. We both thought we’d done a good job of pushing but when we got back to the finish line we had done that lap in 1:55. What?!? I felt like we had worked so much harder for about the same pace, oh dear this was not going to end well. Then I realised I was looking at a familiar face, Dan’s. He confused me for a minute, I thought he was done, but then remembered he hadn’t passed me. The conversation while I switched out my bottles went like this:
Me: What are you doing here?
Dan: I’m going to run your next lap with you. (All smiles)
Dan: Because I’m nice.
Me: What? What about your race?
Dan: It’s over.
Dan: Um…I got lost.
Me: How? This is a very well marked course, there are flags every hundred meters!
Dan: (looking rather sheepish) I’ll tell you all about it on the lap.
So off we went, a threesome now, and Dan told his tale. He was running so well and feeling so good that he was composing his “redemption” email to a friend that he carelessly followed the guy in front down the wrong trail, it would turn out that he wasn’t the only one. Once him and the guy he was following figured out they’d gone wrong the turned and headed back, only to be met by an oncoming runner insisting that they had been going the right way, so he turned around again, and finally ended up climbing a tree to try and see if he could find any flags. Finally headed back the way they’d come only to be met by more runners, this time they insisted the other people turn around and sure enough the were back at the junction realising their error. He’d run about 3.5km extra and was annoyed so he finished the lap and waited at the finish line to cheer on a friend who had run the 14km, provide same aid for some ailing runners before deciding he’d head for a loop with me.
Lap 3 was tough, it was getting hot now as it was noon, Carolyn managed to get a big rock in her shoe and then have the quietest fall in the world. Dan was good company, we passed some carnage, including Alex who is a fantastic runner, but not having the best day, he managed to give us all a high five as we went by. As we went through the 8.8km aid station I was still feeling ok, I still felt like the effort I was putting in was not giving me the speed I wanted but I was still moving relatively well. A few minutes after leaving the aid station Dan noticed he’d lost his bib, he had it the aid station, so he turned back to go find it (no one likes a litter bug) and this is when things turned a bit for me. You would think for a married couple we’d have great communication, actually we do, just not when we are running. Carolyn and I assumed he’d book it back to the aid station looking for his bib and then run back to catch up. We coasted a bit to give him a chance to catch up, but people started passing by that we’d already passed. I asked if they’d seen Dan and they all said he was going back to the aid station. I needed to pee, so I decided to stop and wait and told Carolyn to go on ahead, he couldn’t possible be much further behind. Finally he appears, walking and chatting to another runner, when sees me standing there he starts to run to me telling me I didn’t have to wait. I told him that he didn’t say that, and I was trying to be nice since he’d been having such a bad day (he also lost his shoe in a mud pit, retrieved it, sat on a log to put it back on only to discover the log was rotten and he sank right trough it and ended up sitting is said mud pit), he apologised for not telling me to go ahead, especially since he’d WALKED all the back to the aid station, found the bib, and then proceeded to chat with everyone he passed by! Whatever, he was back, I had some company and we were running again. About 1km down the trail he tells me to “go ahead” he was feeling a bit “pooched”, ARGH!! The thought of killing him gave me a much needed adrenaline boost as I booked it back to the finish to try and catch Carolyn. Lap time 2:08. I was absolutely roasting by the time I popped out of the trail and the run across the baking field didn’t help the situation. I decided to dump my pack and just go with a handheld for the last lap. Carolyn was already gone and I knew there was no way I’d catch her now as she is faster and stronger than me, I left for my last lap feeling pretty bummed.
And that was the mood I would stay in. It’s amazing how quickly things can change. As a motored down the road in the glaring sun, with people who were finished their (shorter) races driving by kicking up dust, I wanted to stop and turn back. For the first time ever I really wanted to quit. I tried to reason with myself “it will be better as soon as we hit the trailhead”, but it didn’t get any better. I tried to sing to myself (that usually helps) but I couldn’t think of any songs, I literally could not come up with a tune. Now I was getting scared, what was wrong with me? I was starting to feel hungry and realised that nutritionally I hadn’t been too diligent but I wasn’t ravenous. I was just in a funk. I big stinky funk. I was down for the count and let my brain wander to all those dark thoughts that I can usually ignore. Thoughts like how I haven’t really felt strong running since Sulphur, how I didn’t deserve to run a sub 8 on this course because I was lazy and hadn’t done any work to make sure I achieved this goal. Then the pity party started I questioned why I even bothering going back to the Mogollon Monster, and how I didn’t deserve such a wonderful husband who always supports me (emotionally and financially) in all my crazy endeavors, and then I felt bad for wanting to kill him earlier and then the tears came. Apparently I needed a good cry. I just wandered along sobbing in the woods by myself, then I realised I needed to pull myself together as I was approaching the last aid station. I tried to act cool, there but I knew they knew I’d been crying. They were very friendly but quickly got me out of there. With 5km to go, I wiped my nose, stood up straight and ran every last step, forgiving myself for having a bad day. I have no idea why I’m so hard on myself, I mean, it’s just running for crying out loud!
My pity part lap (aka Lap 4) took 2:24, official time 8:28:09, Dan greeted me with a big hug as I was given my medal and I started to cry again (this is getting embarrassing) these tears were mainly relief that it was over. So not my best effort and certainly one that I’m not overly proud of, but at least I finished. I’ve got some work to do as well, because I AM going back to the Mogollon Monster and I DO believe I can do it. I just need to put the work in, stop putting myself down and train like hell.