Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tram run

Date: July 26
Mileage: 21.4
July mileage: 557.9
Temperature: 52

On Saturday, just as it did the night before my second-ever running race on June 7, the weather forecast called for high 40s and rain. So I stacked up my wool socks and my water-resistant jacket and a bunch of other stuff I thought I would need to slog through four or so miles in the cold mush. And today, just as it did the morning of my second-ever running race, sunlight streamed through a fluid opening in the clouds. Sunlight! Real sunlight! The first I have seen, in any capacity, since July 1. Three weeks. Three and a half? I stood by the window, struck still in a sort of appreciative awe only deprivation can generate, never mind I had this running race, my third-ever, to be at in less than an hour. I choked down two bowls of cereal, never quite taking my eyes off the window. I cast aside my wool and water-resistant layers and adorned myself in free-flowing synthetics. I packed up my bike bag and darted out the door.

Into the sunlight with the iPod pumping Sublime, I was encompassed in a manic rush I could hardly contain. I laid into the pedals, 23 mph, 24 mph, heart racing, head spinning, legs so light I half-believed I could launch off the pavement, into the air, right there. Never mind I was commuting to a running race, hardly the time for a bike sprint, but the sunlight had this hold on me, and I rushed toward it as though it were already fading away from me, which it was. Thick clouds were already creeping in from the south. I didn't look that way. I looked north, to the future. North to the Mount Roberts trailhead.

Unfortunately, by the time I reached the race start at the Mount Roberts Tramway, my sprint had caught up to my breakfast, and I felt really queasy. I pinned on my number and stood on the sidewalk staring straight ahead, which is what I do when I'm trying to combat motion sickness. Geoff caught up to me and we lined up with the other competitors. The clock struck 9 a.m., and then some more time went by, and then some little kids finished the one-mile dash, and then we were off.

(At the start of the race, staring up in wonder at the sky. That patch of blue is what people in Juneau call a "sucker hole," because if you believe it means the weather's clearing up, you're a sucker.)

Weaving through traffic, I settled in behind two guys that I thought were setting a good pace for me. But as we curved up Franklin and merged with Sixth Street, their pace didn't slow with the rapidly rising gradient, and for some reason I stayed with them even as my stomach lurched and head spun. By the time I reached the the Basin Road bridge, my shadow was already fading beneath the gray pall in the sky, and I was a sputtering flame. Did I really burn up all my matches before I even reached the trailhead? I didn't want to think about it. But I let those guys pull away as I began the determined hike (yes, hike) up the steep, muddy, rain-soaked trail.

Once I was walking, I started to feel better again, and actually started passing people (I learned later that many competitors walk most of the Tram Run, unless they're Superfreaks like Geoff.) Through the thick tree cover I could see the clouds closing in. I removed my sunglasses, bid another silent goodbye to the swift summer, and marched, onward and upward.

By the time I climbed above treeline and touched the cross, I was finally starting to feel normal. My endurance muscles were kicking in; my head was settling into auto-zone; I saw more elevation and I wanted to march, march, march ever higher. But, in the nature of all of my short races, this one was over just when I was starting to feel warmed up. I greeted Geoff, who won the race in an unfathomable (to me at least) 32:54. My time was 49:36, which was actually good enough for fourth place out of 13 women. The winning woman had a time of 44:12. I have no idea how long this race is. My guess is four miles. Climbs about 2,000 feet.

I was digging through the race results page to figure out what my and Geoff's times were, and discovered that I did a lot better than I thought in the June 7 Spring Tide Scramble - seventh place out of 32 females. I think I could really get into this whole trail running thing. Well, except for the training part. I like racing. I don't like running. So as long as I have bicycles, I don't really envision myself heading out for a training run. But maybe I will enter another race this summer. Next weekend is the half marathon. Should I do it? I will if it makes the sun come out.