The late Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, father of Ashtanga Yoga, offered many words of wisdom. He believed, and passionately taught, in the importance of constant practice. Everything comes together with concentration, diligence and, well, practice. This year, my physical and emotional fitness has shifted to include a yoga teacher training program while lessening my participation in organized races. Less races = less training. I do, however, make a few exceptions to all my rules. There was a race that I needed to run this summer – Quadzilla on July 14th. Two years ago, Quadzilla’s inaugural kick off, I absolutely wanted to sign up, but with Allison’s birth in early June running the race was unrealistic. Last year, I decided to volunteer. Seeing all the runners cross the finish line absolutely fueled my desire to hit the trail and conquer the beast. I.WAS.IN.
I’ve said this before – the Trexler Nature Preserve Trails are my heaven and hell. I get so excited leading up to a scheduled run there. As my shoe hits the trail at take off, I am overcome with a wave of emotion – regret, frustration, hatred – that quickly shifts to pleasure as I climb the last hill. My heaven and hell. That same rollercoaster of feelings left the gate again as I submitted my registration for the 3rd Annual Quadzilla 15K Trail Race. Would I tame the beast? Do Your Practice…
My last race was the LVRR Super Bowl 10K in February. I was out of the ‘racing’ groove, but I absolutely maintained a light and regular training schedule. Two months leading up to the race, I incorporated hill repeats and hill suicides to increase my endurance (ahem, tolerance) during climbing. As late Spring transitioned into Summer, almost instantly, the humidity rolled in to sit on my chest during my morning runs. I, smartly, pushed through the uncomfortable, walking when necessary to relieve the pressure. Every run was followed up by some yoga – even a few Sun Salutations if I was pressed for time – to center my mind and create the space my body needed to recover. In addition to that, I fit three Trexler Border Trail (8.5 miles) runs with good company. Doing My Practice…
Two weeks before the race, we traveled to OBX for a relaxing vacation. I successfully maintained my grain free diet (three months and counting) with the exception of tasting the smallest possible bite of a fresh maple and bacon donut from Duck Donuts. I fit in three runs, averaging 4 miles each, and one yoga class filled with lots of hip openers and twists. Most of my runs kick off in the early morning, but I made a last minute decision to go for an afternoon run on our last day there. I ran a total of five miles (1/2 South on the road, 1/2 North in the surf) at 2:30 pm in 90 degrees. Did My Practice…
The week leading up to the race was a nightmare. A dull head ache increased with intensity as the week progressed. Work, after vacation, absolutely threw me for a loop. In the back of my mind, I knew that running a hard Trexler trail would be EXACTLY what the doctor would order. I internalized the desire to punch a wall, or drink myself into an oblivion. I saved all of this for Quadzilla. Friday couldn’t come soon enough. Meeting-wise, I had a pretty light day. I used my lunch break to take a yoga class. Sadly, I couldn’t relax or concentrate during Savasana; maybe I didn’t even try. After-work drinks, Saturday packet-pick up and evening BBQ distracted me enough that I started to unwind from the week. Sunday would be the test. Do Your Practice and All Is Coming.
I prepared a quick, but light breakfast with enough carbs and protein (lesson learned from my last trail run). My late night gear gathering proved successful – I dressed, filled my CamelBak with ice water and left home. I picked up a medium hot tea with sugar from Dunkin’ before jumping on the highway headed North. My ‘absolutely-awesome-can’t-be-beat-keeps-me-moving-and-motivated’ playlist oozed through my speakers as it vibrated my soul. I got goose bumps.
I found a great parking spot with 45 minutes until race time. As luck would have it, found all my friends to wish them well before making our way to the starting line. I let them know that I wasn’t going to talk the entire race. Usually, I’m fairly chatty with those around me - ‘hey, how are you?’, ‘damn, this sucks!’, ‘THESE HILLS! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME?!?!?!’ Not today. The more I talked the more wind I sucked. I made the decision to save my breath, save my energy. I might wind up expending more energy focusing on NOT talking. Time would tell. Off we went.
Single track trails in the beginning sucked. I hopped off the ‘beaten path’ to pass walkers (!) and runners alike high stepping over nature. Almost immediately my feet were wet, but I didn’t care. I was going to own this trail. I maintained great form uphill and downhill. Eventually, the field spread out and I had some room to play with. I played a game of Frogger with two women. We chuckled under our breath as we passed some men on the hills (chicked!). Before I realized, we made it 3.5 miles to the first water stop (of course, at the top of a hill).
As you can see, I was quite surprised to see my friend at the crest. I grabbed some water, said hello, and continued down the trail. I felt GREAT. Fresh, alive, relaxed. Strangely, today, this was my heaven. Hell led me here. I lightly toed the trail on the downhill while digging the balls of my feet on the way up. I hovered over the gravel on each straight away. I was drenched in sweat, but didn’t feel overworked. I did, however, yearn to reach the water crossing. The feeling of dipping your feet in water, especially, while running, instantly cools the body and provides a relief both physically and emotionally. I experienced that during my OBX runs; I couldn’t wait to take myself back there mentally.
And there it was, like an oasis in the desert…THE WATER…
I approached the opening in the tall grasses with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.
I sloshed through the thick mud until my feet were entirely submerged in the water. The picture speaks for itself.
I spent more time in the water than I should have, but at that moment, time didn’t matter. I slowly navigated the mossy rock until safely reaching the other side. With roughly a mile to go, I knew I was home free. I heard the cheering crowd in the distance, but needed to wrap up the race with a 1/2 mile out and back through a grassy field situated on a sharp angle. After what seemed more like two miles, the grass opened up to a short, but fast downhill road to the finish. With enough kick left, I barreled down the hill to cross in 1:52.
This is how I barrel:
This is how I finish:
That day I became Queen of the Hills. I tamed the beast. I ate hills for breakfast. I’m already looking forward to next year.