sunday morning i awoke at 4:45am to shower and prepare a quick breakfast of a fruit/vegetable smoothie and some toast w/brown sugar & cinnamon. vim, heidi and i were out the door by 5:30am and pulled into malibu creek state park at 6:10am, where we were greeted with the hospitality tents and hey look! a climbing wall!
it was still pretty chilly at registration, but it was deceptively short-lived as temps were expected to hit 80 in calabasas. we chatted with other racers shaking their head at the challenging course layout, so we did our best to put on our games faces and not think of the looming torture ahead.
we pushed off at 7:30am sharp and it was a stampede for the first 3 miles, which were relatively flat with a few minor hills mixed in. the fun began at mile 3 at the base of bulldog - a seemingly never-ending 3.5 miles of punishing ascent. i managed to run nearly the entire way up (save the last 1/2 mile), but there were a host of racers power walking the steep incline as well.
originally, i had planned on taking my gels at the water stations at mile 3 and at 8, but since i was feeling good, i had my first at the top of bulldog at mile 6.5. looking back, i should have trusted my strategy and not deviated, but consider that a lesson learned.
a small descent was our reward for climbing bulldog, then it was three more hills (including lizard rock) before the sustained decline arrived from miles 9-12. i was still feeling strong at mile 10, other than being a tad behind schedule as another racer yelled out a time of 1:52 at that point.
however, i felt a slight twinge in my right calf at mile 11, as it felt like a cramp was coming on. i tried to suck down what little gatorade i had left, and took my last gel just prior to mile 12 in hopes of giving my body enough to be able to finish. my calf sent me gentle reminders that it was still not going away, so i did my best to pay it no mind as i jogged/limped thru the next 2 miles.
at this point, the most frustrating part was seeing all the hard work i put in to catch a host of competitors in front of me, only to see that dissipate as a handful of them gently repaid the favor over the last 2 miles. no matter how much i wanted to push it, common sense prevailed and two thoughts became clear: hold on, and finish the race.
mile 13 arrived with one last final 500-foot incline, and for me, it couldn't have come at a better time. at this point, nobody was running up this hill, so i was able to power walk and not lose any ground. the last section was a mixture of road and trail before the final curve was in sight. both my calves almost seized up 100 feet before the finish line - i heard one of the organizers yelling "whoa" - but i steadied them both.. and trudged across!
all kinds of things were running thru my head at this point - relief at not having to limp around anymore; jubilation for attaining a goal; the immediate need to replenish electrolytes into my body; and the desire to reach out, congratulate and congregate with fellow racers. but most of all, i was overcome with great pride and satisfaction into ignoring the pain and telling myself to finish. the mental discipline that each runner possesses cannot be understated - it's required when you're too tired to go for a run, when it's too cold, too hot, too early, too late, when your feet hurt, when you don't have enough time, when the hill is too steep, etc. much like parkour, it's the mental challenge that is most difficult to overcome, especially when excuses are so convenient and plentiful.
sunday was another milestone in my progression as a runner, and in life.