Posts Tagged ‘trail runs’

IMG_4164AquaGirl dispenses some last minute advice before BatGirl pushes off on her 10KM TNF trail run: If you must fall, she reminds Batgirl, make sure you fall with grace!

I was all set to NOT run The North Face trail run until BatGirl called to tell me I was not allowed to run it! Then and only then did I actually start thinking about running trail! And boy did I try to harass Batgirl into agreeing with me. But the girl was adamant.

“You know you will be pushing your luck if you insist on joining this race. Stop being a brat and run on more even surfaces for now! What if a tree branch hits your nose? What if you fall again and hit your head? That nose of yours is a pretty large moving target!”

As usual, the woman made sense. But I wouldn’t really be me if I didn’t try to push and heckle…even me! So heckle I did and in the days leading up to the weekend I kept hearing wuzz! wuzz! wuzz! like a rhythmic beat inside my head…

I have yet to figure out how to fall with grace unless Grace happens to be a girl standing right next to me. I have only mastered falling while keeping my humor and then holding on to it with all my might as I push my way out of the hole. So yeah, I did not run trail that weekend. But I made sure I was there Sunday morning to send BatGirl off and to remind her how miserable I was!

Well, I really wasn’t all that miserable. I had already convinced myself the day before that I was not optimized for trail. Not at this time.  I have feet that enjoy burrowing and finding holes and have limbs and body parts that are specially attracted to protruding branches and rocks and even cable wires. Not a good thing for someone who intends to move fast on an uneven surface.

AND… As if I needed more signs from above that this race was not for me, I was there to witness the havoc caused by the freak weather that struck the TNF base camp on Saturday! A tornado of sorts actually hit camp halfway through the 100K race! Scaffolding, tents, buntings and signage… everything flew and crashed and fell! The organizers almost stopped the 100K race. For a few hours, everything was put on hold. Oh such drama and suspense! The thrill of the trail, indeed! And then some!

It was as if my angel was screaming in my ears, “YOU WANTED A SIGN? YOU GOT A SIGN!”

AquaGirl and I were already at base camp early Saturday afternoon. We were there to support and cheer on friends who had joined the 100k run. Base camp was the turnaround point. I just couldn’t help but stare at the ultra runners in admiration as they came running into the chute. And I kept staring until they took their shoes off!  Then I turned away! Boy, oh boy! These guys sure knew how to punish their feet! Those feet were all white and wrinkly and covered with blisters! “It’s from the lahars and all the river crossings,” explained our friend Oca, the certified crazy who signed up for the 100K. “There must have been eight river crossings in just the first twenty kilometers!”

Oh yeah, my neatly pedicured toenails and I agreed, it definitely was not the time for me to head out to run the trails. But even while I told myself this, a part of me did look up towards the mountains looming in the horizon…

Everyone agreed that the Sacobia 100K trail was a very difficult trail. It required much more climbing than everyone expected.  Exhaustion lined most of the runners’ faces as they ran, walked and even limped their way back into camp.  Their legs were scratched, their shoulders sagged and most were clearly in agony because of the sizzling heat. And still, they worked their way back up those trails…

The race to get to the finish line is just half the story. And it is not even the interesting part…

While walking around camp, taking pictures and shamelessly eavesdropping as runners shared their stories of the trail, I caught myself wondering over and over again: What is it that keeps them moving forward? What is it that makes them go back up that mountain when clearly rest and security and blessed air-conditioned comfort and are now within their reach? What the hell is wrong with these people? And why am I in such awe of them?

Time and again, we’ve heard stories of men braving harsh elements and surviving over them. It’s been done before and it will be done again. But why would someone willingly subject himself or herself to the strain? Is it an inner programming? Do we seek out the discomfort? Do we yearn for the pain? Or are we simply responding to a raw urge, a calling that is already in us? Perhaps it is a desire to allow all that which is noble inside us –the strong, the powerful, the faithful, the dreamer– to claw its way out and enjoy its day out in the trails! To give our best selves the chance to frolic even under the searing heat of the sun, and to laugh in the face of storm clouds bursting forth and lashing out with its liquid fury! To proclaim loudly that we are here and we live! Perhaps…

That Sunday, before crashing into dreamless sleep, I found myself reading an Edward Hirsch’ poem: My father’s track and field medal, 1932 and once again re-living the weekend…

Cup the tarnished metal in your palm.
Look closely and you’ll see a squirrel
scampering up a beech-wood in the forest.
You’ll see a cardinal flaming in the branches.
You’ll see a fleet-footed antelope racing
through the woods ahead of the hunters

Sometimes, without even needing to beg, the universe will point us towards the beginnings of an answer…