Monday, September 30, 2013

Runnin' Down A Dream

I'm runnin' down a dream
Never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
I'm running down a dream

Sometimes, you have no expectations. That doesn't mean you're not working hard and dreaming of big things.

This weekend brought a race I've run since being a brand-spankin' new runner. It was my first 5K, the one where I nearly hurled at running an 8:37 pace, which I knew just happened to be exactly what I would need to run to qualify for the Boston Marathon. A dream was born then, and I knew it wouldn't come to me. It was proof enough to me that I could go for it.

Besides that special race, there were multiple other opportunities to race this weekend, a "problem" I say we're blessed to have now in our non-major metropolitan area. It presented the unusual opportunity to race trails at altitude the day after hitting a hard 5K. Last year, I'd thought about it but not followed through on it, kicking myself after the fact. This year, it was my plan to just go for it. At worst I might be pretty damn sore, but who cares? Working through pain and fatigue is part of chasing down bigger dreams and goals.

Saturday brought the old faithful, the Anna Banana. The week prior to the race featured a lot of crap I'd rather not rehash. It also was punctuated by opportunity to reflect on all that was as good in my life...and there was a lot of good stuff. Much of that was worked out during runs, in solo meditations and in conversations on the run. I went into the race day with the best night of sleep I'd had in about two months. Turnout was lower than usual for this race. I typically finish somewhere in the top-10, with an oddly out-of-place win in 2010.

I felt so good like anything was possible
I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
The last three days the rain was un-stoppable
It was always cold, no sunshine

It happened again this year, much to my pleasant surprise. After a lot of rain over the past few weeks, the weather was perfect today. Cold, and sunny. I had no expectations today, but I felt like I could do anything, for whatever reason.

The men all went out like gangbusters, and I let myself get drawn out with them. There was a gal I've seen occasionally on trails who was ahead of me going into the first turn, and I increased my rate of turnover to get ahead. Oddly, the local young gal I haven't beaten in about three years was behind me. I was puzzled by this but knew that since I'm not a kicker, I needed to pour on whatever I had now. Last year, all the local ladies who are clearly faster than me were here. There was just one of them here today, and my fighting instinct kicked in early. I knew she had to be very close but I never once turned back.

I passed a two or three men over the course of the race, never knowing where the ladies behind me might be. I ran like they were on my shoulder, knowing that chances to win things for your average age-grouper are few and far between. With everything else I've had going on lately, this was oddly "easy" push myself to the hardest effort I had in me today.

There's something good waitin' down this road
I'm pickin' up whatever's mine

Taking the final turn for home, I realized I had it. A good four minutes slower than my friend Kim, an outstanding mountain goat, ran last year to win, about a minute slower than what my friend Suzie has won this race in, but you race who is there that day. Today, I got to be the top banana. It was fanstastic to run, and celebrate great runs with the folks who motivate me, and vice-versa.

The next day, a race I'd always wanted to do, the Thigunawat 10K, took place on the Grand Mesa. I came very close to not going. The plan was to go up with my daughters (I don't hate my son. He was just having a weekend of fun with a buddy). They got home from a movie at midnight, and we almost didn't go. I finally decided it would be good for everybody, and met up with our friend Angela to carpool up.

I'd never done this race before. I'd thought of it the year prior, but didn't go up, thinking I was just too tired for it after the Anna Banana on Saturday. Angela and my friend Marty did the double, though, and I kind of kicked myself for being a dainty, delicate flower who was too tired to race. I picked up some delightful caffeinated beverages for myself and the older girls (hot chocolate for Ava), and off we headed to the Grand Mesa.

This race...this was special. This is why I run.

I had pretty good course recon from Angela. Water crossings, deep mud, a bunch of up and down, mostly single-track, mountains and trees. It was pretty darn windy before the race, and I was tired. Still, I was thrilled to be up here. My girls may not have been thrilled now but I still think it is super important for them to see that I try things that are hard...and see them through. I want them to know that when I am scared, tired, not sure how I'm going to do at something, that I try it anyway. That's all one can do..keep on moving.

When we started, I'd thought this would just be my fun trail run after the Anna Banana. I love trail running but possess no amazing speed on trails. So much for that thought; the racing instinct kicked in almost immediately.

Climbing the first hill, I was surprised to be near the front. Quads were sore from the day prior, but I kept moving. My god, this course was gorgeous. This is why I moved to Colorado.

After the first climb, we plummeted downhill. I used to be terrified of going downhill on trails. Now, wow...I love it. I made up some ground on other runners, and got into a groove. There was a speedy gal ahead of me for a bit, but eventually she pulled away. Nobody had creeped up on me, though, and I established a pretty good rhythm, hammering downhills and talking myself into running as much as the uphills as I could, taking a few strategic power hike breaks, with the quad-push that seems to help me keep moving quickly. One fella and myself kept leapfrogging, but we were essentially pushing one another to run as much of this as we could.

Rather than walking around the mud bogs and stream crossings, I hit them hard, and kept running through. The feeling of that cold water in my shoes, and mud squishing through-this is why I run. I've never felt so alive, wet feet, mud up the legs, mountains and sun above.

One aid station told me I was sixth lady as I headed toward home. My oldest daughter Alexis told me I was third overall. You never know, but when things shook out, I had indeed grabbed that third slot. My legs were tired today and trails are never speedy for me. The joy of being on the mountain, in the mud, with my family here spectating and like-minded runners out to play, made it easy to go wherever the trail would lead.

This was pretty special today to hit that mark behind two awesome local athletes, and to be enjoying autumn in Colorado with my family and friends. Heck, it was a pretty special weekend in general. I was running down a dream. It never would come to me. I had to go for it.