Mile nineteen of my 50 kilometre ultra run. We had ascended the mountain on switchbacks, deep in the forest beside the American River Canyon on the Western States Trail. About 2,000 vertical feet on single track. Some of the steeper parts I had to hike, but it was no less strenuous than running on the flats or descending. My hands were freezing cold from the wind and rain earlier that morning, and I had brought arm sleeves (the cotton tops I cut from knee socks) which I repurposed for gloves. We had crossed the river a couple of times and the muddy trails were causing runners to slip and fall. Yet here upon the ridge at mile 19, above it all, the trail was paved in pine needles and the sun was beginning to shine. The scene opened up to a fantastic new world! The mountains lush and verdant on the far side of the canyon. A chorus of tree frogs opened up. Then the sky began to hail, and the raindrops froze and bounced off of my skin. I came into a narrow part of the trail ever so slightly ascending, with brush on either side, and I swear it was like a royal flush running through there! The hail had formed crystals all caught up in the treetops and the light was reflecting several ways, glancing and shining upon us like a dream! I knew then that I had made it. I was not gonna hit the wall like last year, a painful and demoralizing affair. I found myself in the refuge of this peak experience, 5 hours or more into my endurance run. Lucky me. It gave my spirit a burst of feeling uplifted. Now, several days later, I wanted to write it down and share it with you, for it stands out like a gem in my mind.
|success! heading home after the race|
I learned by the race last year (when I hit a wall at mile 17) not to run the first half too quickly, keep a realistic pace and have patience. I also learned not to change my diet, despite all the yummy offerings at the way stations. These two major lessons, combined with my efforts to load on carbohydrates (90% of my intake) in the 72 hours leading up to the race, gave me ample strength to manage the ascent and finish the race strong. After mile 20 on the Wendell Robie Trail, many of my fellow runners were complaining of dead legs and fatigue and slowing down to walk and enjoy the scenic ridgeline over the canyon. I found myself feeling energized and running fast for a turtle, completing the last 10 miles without stopping, and running close to 10 minute miles on the flats.