Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rails to Trails 25k 2015

Rails to Trails 25k. January 10, 2015. Savannah, GA

Friday night at 4 pm: A generous lady who didn't know me was sick, unable to run, and offered me her race number on Facebook for the event that started in just 16 hours. I was not very trained for this, having come off a hip injury and only having run 13 slow miles in the rain once in the past month.  After that water wonderland excursion, I became sick for a week. Healthy training plan, huh? Perseverance is fun! Woo!

So I naturally took the logical opportunity to NOT sit this race out. 

I packed my stuff and kinda slept. You know those kinda sleeps when you're so excited to run more miles than you are prepared for right? You look forward to the caffeine rush, friendly faces, and screamingly sore legs. 

The start was 32 "feels like 24" and consistently windy. Not a normal Savannah day. But still perfect for a thick-blooded, hockey-watching, once-northern-girl-now-embracing-southern-charm trail runner who likes for her nose to run as fast as her legs. 

Most locals who were actually awake were dressed up in parkas and UGG boots hanging by the fireside with furry hats and mittens on…indoors. Dreaming. Of. Flip flops. (That's kind of a direct quote.) All fuzz and fluff aside, we runners were outdoors with our big girl shorts and T-shirts on loving the wind burn. Dreaming of homemade  Burts' Bees-like products. 

A few runners had mentioned at check-in  that the clouds wrote out the letters G.O.D. I had already taken a picture of the sunrise, and later I looked at my picture and it turns out they were right!. It was surely a nice detail in the twilight sky as I prepared to run my race for which I was, in fact, unprepared. Heartwarming, really. I was thankful to have received the lady's race number for free, so I was going to give it my best shot in hopes that my hips would hold up and be pain-free.

The sun rose, the breeze (squared) blew, and there was hand sanitizer  hung snugly in the PortaJohns. Everything was perfect. Except, of course, for those little prickly things in the grass that got all over our socks and stab us in the calves when we least expected it.

After a patriotic rendition of our national anthem sung by a man with stronger lungs than most of us had legs, we cheered, and we were off. I already had met a friend at the starting line and it turned out that our paces were perfect together. This was her first race beyond 13.1 miles, so I was very excited for her future success, remembering the good old days when I turned crazy in relation to what "long distance" meant. 

I didn't know what my legs were going to do. I didn't know if they would feel great the whole time and make for a fast finish, or the more likely option that they would go out too fast, get tired, and have to slow down and walk a whole lot, making for an anti-climactic moment at the almost-packed-up-and-gone-home finish line. Energetically, my new friend and I chatted the whole time. It sure made time pass quickly. And don't you love those out-and-back races where you can see everyone at each turn? You see the crazy fast people and wonder how they do it and how they train and if they even have lives beyond running and ice baths. And then you see the outgoing people with smiles and encouragement always radiating from their faces. You see the introverts with their heads down, but you know they're smiling on the inside. And you see the slow folks, the most humble of the bunch, typically, but always with an important story to tell. 

I lived and survived on Clif Shot Blocks. And I was propelled by my speed-of-light snot rockets, having had plenty of nasal fuel in store due to the cold wind. Also, once my caffeine kicked in, my conversation and my pace both increased. My new partner was staying consistently strong, but I was just plain hyper and searching for a negative split to devour. The ultra runner inside of me decided that it was time to get crazy and time to get (more) sore. If I was going to finish this thing, I may as well go out with a bang. So, I added more caffeine to my typically uncaffeinated diet, and kept trucking. I passed people, and felt bad, because they were such nice, kind people. But my hyperness would have it no other way. I always told the runners good job, no matter how fast or slow they were workin' it. It's so refreshing to not run alone. 

My hips stayed strong and I felt great. I did not have a GPS device running; I was winging it. So old-school, huh? But I estimated my progress based on my time and mathematically-approximated distance. Thank heavens for the math degree!  Assuming that I was 2 miles from the finish, I took off while my partner was getting ready to refuel. I wished her the best, telling her that I would cheer for her at the finish line as she completed her longest run ever. I picked up the pace to a quick hobble. I galloped my way toward the finish, the wind at my stubborn front. I didn't let the wind bother me too much, I just stayed positive and leaned in like a calcium-deficient individual. 

The finish involved some people I had just met cheering for me. I had a strong finish thanks to the remaining strength in my legs and grit in my spirit. I didn't have anyone else watching, really. But there's gratification knowing that you just did something difficult and great.

A finger pointing to the sky ends all of my races. I cannot help but acknowledge the One who gives me strength and endurance. The One who would (and did)  endure anything for me. And the One whose name was written in the sky that day.