Sunday, December 02, 2012

Fun mud run

Photo by Monika Arnold
I had a great day watching trail-running "superstars" and hanging out with friends at the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship. But I will say this — sitting outside all day in damp and windy weather is exhausting, and running a non-serious 10.5K during what for most runners was a grueling endurance test is a bit guilt-inducing. My leg came late in the day, long after the wet trail had been trampled into slippery mud puree — and a river ran through it. I ran hard because for the first time all day my body temperature was back to normal, and I didn't want to lose that warm feeling. Each time I passed a fifty-miler, I gave them a sincere (and hopefully not too gratingly enthusiastic) "nice work." If they responded with something like "killing it," I pointed to my bib and said, "Marathon relay. I'm just here to get in your way" ... which usually sparked a little smile.

Photo by Monika Arnold
As a late joiner I didn't find out until race day that I was part of team "Do the Bachmann," to which I immediately balked, "You mean that crazy-eyed Congresswoman Michele Bachmann?" No, as it turns out the bachmann is a friction knot that's useful for getting climbers out of binds. The four-person marathon relay started at the civilized hour of 11 a.m., so we had the opportunity to watch the first finishers of the fifty-mile race, which started at 5 a.m. After that excitement, we set up shop on a wet tarp under a tree, and let the drizzly hours roll by as we cheered for our own team — Jenn, Julie, Jill and Monika (or, as she rewrote on her bib, "Jonika.") I was slated to run last and didn't feel comfortable partaking in the pasta lunch or other after-race indulgences. So instead I sat on the wet tarp, becoming progressively more chilled and hungry. Weirdly, I paid $39.50 for that privilege, still felt stoked about it, and would likely do it again. The group was fun, the sloppy mud got into everything, and the jokes flowed freely.

When it was my turn to run, though, I was like a sled dog finally released from its kennel. I ran uphill until my lungs burned and then launched into the mud-river descent with a kind of reckless abandon I almost never indulge in, even when trail conditions are dry and manageable. Flawed thinking convinced me that it would be a spectacular finish for Team Do the Bachmann if I arrived at the arch covered in mud and blood, and thus gave myself permission to fall. And of course, because I effectively wanted to fall, I didn't fall. I lurched and skidded and once took a single-foot "ski" that lasted for two flailing seconds, but I didn't fall. When I finally returned to the flat section around mile five, whatever glycogen reserve I had left over from breakfast finally tapped out, and I sputtered through the last 1.5 miles in a bonked haze. I was still pushing to make it in under an hour, but just missed it. 1:00:45. Our team's finishing time was 5:01:32.

I stayed with Monika in San Francisco the night before the race, and we arranged a big group for dinner in the city after the race, so all told it was a 24-hour adventure with an hour of running, full and exhausting. But the best part? I think I convinced Jenn and Monika to sign up for the 50K version of the NFEC next year. There's nothing like a good mud run to coax friends into the murky world of ultrarunning. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds fun except for the being cold and hungry part. Those are two of my least favorite feelings.

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