Saturday, April 2, 2011

Earning My Shirt

As I said yesterday, the race I've been looking forward to for months was canceled last Saturday for severe lightning.  After they made the announcement they went ahead and gave out the "finishers" shirts.  I was more than just a little disappointed about not "earning" the shirt.  I really wanted to run the race.

Even though I live about 2 miles from the course, I had never run on several sections of it, and certainly hadn't run the whole thing.  Running a course is never the same as racing, but I decided to stare fear in the face and head out on my own Monday to embrace the madness and conquer the snail.  (The race is called the McKay Hollow Madness probably because it's a ridiculously hard course that finishes pretty much straight up....and the "mascot" of the race is a snail.  There are several theories of why they use a snail but I don't know the real reason behind it.)

Let me back up just a bit and explain the "stare fear in the face" part. 
  • I had never run more than 13.1 miles
  • I had never run more than about 6 or so miles on trails at one time
  • I had never even seen parts of this course, but have heard how technical (tough) it is
  • I was going to go alone (something some people think is completely crazy)
  • It had rained like crazy and I hadn't ever run through the mud before
  • There are some pretty steep drop offs...I recently heard of a very experienced trail runner who fell and severely cut his hand on a rock, and another who fell and broke her wrist.
  • Phone service is sketchy at best out there
Water, a banana and A&W!
I could go on and on about the fears in my head and the plethora of reasons excuses of why I shouldn't have done it...but I did it anyway.  I set up a mini aide station at mile ~10, went to the bathroom, debated for a while about exactly what I should wear since it was cold but I knew I would heat up pretty quickly/but what if it rained?...I decided to wear my jacket, hat and gloves-which I shed at about mile one, but at least I had a place for my phone which I set up with an app that was supposed to tweet and email my exact whereabouts and stats at each mile (in case I broke a leg, my husband could find me quicker)...I agonized about which water bottle to take-the one that straps around my waist and leaves my hands free but makes noise and is heavy or the more comfortable hand held that would keep me from being able to break my fall or pull myself up the rocks I knew I would encounter.

I finally told my mind to stop and my legs to go...and I was off.  I made several mistakes I'll write about later but I thought it was very funny the first song to play was "Three Little Birds"'s the "don't-worry-about-a-thing" song (I added this to my playlist on the sidebar, along with some other new ones).  Thank you God for that reassurance!)  (BTW, I used the phone speakers, not ear phones-I had to be able to hear a bear or a stalker coming after me!)

Did I mention the fog??
Mile legs are hurting already.  What is that?  I'm running on the road, they can't hurt now.  No...that's just their normal grumblings about not wanting to move...they'll warm up.  Man it's foggy out here.  HOLY SMOKE-those are people coming at me-what if they are killers out looking for a runner to chop up into little pieces.  You watch WAY too much scary TV.  "Hi there, how you doin?"  (Please don't kill me...)  Can I do this?  If I can't then I'll just quit.  Funny...that's what's on the shirt "When the going gets tough, just quit".  How can I quit in the woods?'s really foggy and cold, but I'm sure I'm going to get hot.  Let's see, 15.5 miles...if I can average a 15 minute pace that would put me finishing in ...4 miles an hour...almost 4 hours...that would be 16 miles...half a mile less would be about 7.5 minutes.   I started late so will I make it to Little Rosies by 1:00 to meet Daisy and Peanut for a celebration lunch?  Should I really eat Mexican?  I want it so bad, but I'm allergic.  Heck, I think I'm going to feel bad after this anyway, so I might as well eat.  Okay, time to hit the goes nothing.  I'm going to do this.  Am I really going to do this?  Yes...I'm going to do this. looks different out's GORGEOUS.  I'm so glad I did this...I'm doing this.  I need to take pictures so I'll always remember.  I don't want to stop...but man is this pretty.'s not a race, I can take some pictures.  I don't need to worry about my time.  Surely I can keep better than a 15:00 pace.  I'm going to run all I can, it'll average out.
First water puddle...I ran "around" it.
Mile four(ish)...what the crap have I gotten myself into?  No...stop that, this is beautiful and it's not a race so I can enjoy it.  Wow...I'm hot.  But, boy am I glad for's so stinking WET out here.  My shoes will never dry out.  How will I wash them.  Am I going to make it to Little Rosies?  I'm okay..I'm still way under a 15:00 pace, but I keep taking pictures so that's slowing me down.  But...IT'S NOT A RACE.  Man, it's so beautiful out here.  I'm glad it's not dry because all the water makes it so pretty.  I'm glad for music.  SQUIRREL!!  Hey there gonna race me??  Yeah, okay you win.  I wish I was running with someone, it would be nice to have someone to share this with, and to TALK TO.  Am I still going the right way?  God, please don't let me be lost.  Okay're on a path.  You aren't going to get lost.

Okay...Warpath...I'm going the right way.  It's going to be wet and slick and hard.  Get ready.  Take pictures.  Dwayne will never believe what I'm doing out here.  I've been running in mud...well water puddles is more like it.  But, seriously, I was losing too much time trying to navigate around them.  Okay...start climbing.  Hey, this really isn't that hard.  This was a lot harder a few months ago.  I'm doing this.  I'm really doing this.  By myself.  I'm not going as fast as I think I would if it were a race.  I wonder how fast Katie ran it?  She wasn't racing either...but I'm sure she wasn't taking pictures either. more pictures.  But, Dwayne would never believe what I'm running in...what I'm about to run through.  Ah...wouldn't it be nice if this were the race...this would be where the aide station would be.  There would be friendly faces here, and maybe Dwayne would be here to take my picture and give me a kiss.  God...thank you for that man.  I love him so much.  I can't believe this is my life!!  There were storms all weekend long and instead of working claims, looking at roofs and writing checks for damage, I'm out running 15.5 miles in the woods.
In the beautiful-WHOA NELLY...that's a drop off.  That must be where he fell.  What if I fall?  I could hit my head and DIE out here.  It would be hours before someone found me.  My phone would smash and I wouldn't be able to call.   I hope my app is working.  Will I make it to Little Rosies?  Boy, do I want Mexican food.  An hour and a half almost for six miles....that's okay, I'm still just under a 15:00 pace.  Man that's slow. it WET out here.  Finally a section I can RUN.  I'm running fast.  I am a runner.  I can't wait to race this next year...Katie, it's ON next year.  I can run fast on trails.  I wonder how much faster I could do it if I were racing?  HOLY SMOKE...that sounds like a water fall...where is it?  OH MY GOSH...THAT IS GORGEOUS.  I have to take

video.  Dwayne would love this.  I hope he gets in shape to be able to run this with me next year.  Hey...less than 10 miles to go.  TEN miles?  Really? I could quit now.  What I just did was hard.  It's wet, it's muddy.  It's not really safe to be out here alone.  NO...stop it.  STOP.  IT.  This is fun.  You want to do this.  Poor Dwayne is working and I get to be out here running.  I love him.  I don't deserve him. 

The waterfall at the end puts this one to shame!
Mile seven(ish).  Oh battery is going dead.  That app is sucking the power right out of it.  Duh... it's using the GPS and playing music, and all those pictures and video...of course it's going to run down.   Okay..turn off the music, turn off the everyone so they'll know what's going on when they stop getting my tweets and emails from the app.  I wonder if it's working?  Am I going to make it to Little Rosies??  It's not going to be fun running out here alone with no music.  Okay...pretend it's the race.  Whittling away, whittling away...every step I take I'm whittling away.  Hey...I'm half way done.  WOW.  I've done half already.  I can do this.  What if I can't?  I guess I could walk back from the aide station.  I sure hope no one takes my stuff.  That would suck because I'm not going to have enough water if it's not there.  I could hitch a ride back to my car.  Yeah, and get woman-knapped by a murderer.  I wonder how Ashley feels about me running?  Does she admire it or resent it?  I wonder how much battery I have left...gosh 5%??  Man...I love who ever marked this course-this is great.  There's no way anyone could get lost out here.  All these trees to climb over.   It's freaking wet out here.  Whittling away, whittling away...every step I take I'm whittling away.  Am I going to make it to Little Rosies?  I don't know what's on the other side of the aide station...and I know SOB ditch and Death Trail are going to slow me down.  HEY...there's the water tower.  HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS!!!!  TWO AND A HALF HOURS!!  That's great!!!  The cut off time was three and a half--I'm here an hour ahead!!  That's great.  Why did I think I would want to eat a banana?  I haven't had an A&W for years, man, this is SO GOOD--but I know more than just a sip might not sit well on my stomach.  Fill up the water bottle and GO.  You know, I think Katie won it last year in just over this time...but the course was only a half-that's only 3 more miles from where I am now...and I stopped to take pictures and video...and I'm not racing...and I wasn't as prepared as I could have been, as I will be next year.  I could take her.  I could do it.  I can run fast on trails!!  I can do this.  I only have about 5 miles to go!!!!!!  No way I won't make Rosies now.  My phone is dead...I hope they wait to eat.  Five miles, about an hour and a half--no way Death Trail will slow me down that much.

Mile 13(ish).  Ah...that's SOB ditch...I've hiked that before....but it didn't look like THIS.   Okay...look at me walking a tree trunk!  Heehee.  I wish I could take pictures of this.   STINKING FART WEEDS!!!  THAT HURT LIKE A BAD WORD!!!  MAMACITA, OUCHYWAWA.   ((I had just tripped over a big limb and it smacked the back of my right calf-hard.))  That's going to hurt for a while.  Dad gum.  No, I didn't fall, I tripped over a stinking stick.  What MASOCHIST put this course together?  This is freaking crazy.  I still have two AND A HALF miles left to run.  Run?  Who am I kidding?  This is insane.  How long would it take for Dwayne to realize I haven't called him to tell him I'm done and call rescuers?  How long would it take them to find me?  I don't have enough water.  This was crazy.  This was stupid.   I don't ever want to see mud or water again.  Ever.  This really is madness.  No.  I don't HEART the madness.  I hate it.  Those people are crazy.  I'm crazy for thinking I wanted to do this.  Slush mile?  No, more like slush 15 miles.  This sucks.  I'll never make Rosies now.  There's no way.  I might as well stop.  Hey...look at that...a DEAD SNAIL.  (Here I had to stop and laugh like a truly crazy person.)  That's the funniest thing I think I've ever seen.  The snail just quit.  Wow..look, there's a section I can run. baby run.  WOW.  I'M FLYING.  HOLY SMOKES.  I'M RUNNING FAST.  How do I still have energy to run this freaking fast??  WOW....don't look at the Garmin, you'll fall...WOW...I AM DAVID O'KEEFE!!!  Next year I'm going to run the whole course this fast.  This is GREAT.  This is a great course.  I can do it.  I love my life.  It's so pretty out here.  How blessed I've been to have been able to see the woods like this.  I know you aren't supposed to run on muddy trails....but if it had been a race we'd have done it.  It's okay.   I'll make Rosies.  I won't be able to shower though.  I bet I STINK.  I'm not as muddy as I thought I would be but that's because of all the water.  I wish I had some way to video the whole course.  The waterfalls, the streams, the fast I just ran down that hill.  That was fast.  I can't imagine how those fast people feel running like that (okay, faster than that even) ALL the time!!  I want to do speed work and hills.  I want to be faster.  I love running fast.  I love running trails.  I'm so happy I got to do this.

Mile 14(ish)...Here it is.  This is it.  I have to hurry up if I want to make it to Rosies.  I bet they are wondering.  I have 30 minutes, about a mile to go.  No prob...oh, stink...that's mud.  Where's a rock I can grab?  Oh my...I'm slipping....WHAT FREAKING MASOCHIST PUT THIS CLIMB AT THE END OF A 15 MILE RACE???  Wait, is it masochist or sadist.  A masochist hurts themselves...a sadist likes to hurt other people.  Wait, no one is making me do this.  Am I the masochist??  I am so glad I didn't bring the hand held water bottle.  I'd never make it up this thing.  No, I'd throw it away.  I could come back when it's dry and hike down to get it, but I wouldn't make it without my hands here.  Holy I going to make it?  It's almost 1:00 now.  How much farther.  If I don't see that water fall soon I'm going to stop and cry.  I don't remember this being so hard when we were going down.  Wait...that's the TREE I took a picture of...that's the TREE!!!!  THAT'S THE TREE!!!  It's not far's right around.

OH SWEET JESUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I REALLY DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!  Okay, stop still have to climb up just a little more.  Man, I'm glad this isn't the race....people would be able to see me here and there's no way I could go any faster than this.  I'm not going to be able to run across the imaginary finish line.  There's no way.  Lord, thank you...and please let me get up this last little climb.  (((Note: there's a BEAUTIFUL waterfall at the end and even though I glanced at it...I don't think I even really took it in I was so relieved to have reached the end!)))

Okay...there's the little bridge...I can run.  If this were a race I would run.  I CAN RUN.  WOW!!!  REALLY??  I'm seriously running.  (I ended with a pace of 8:47!!)  Okay...that's enough...walk to the car.  It's 12:57.  I really did it!!  I made it!!  I'm starving to death, allergies or not, Mexican food here I come.  Recharge the battery.  PLEASE tell me you guys waited and can still meet me there to celebrate.  I DID IT.  I JUST RAN MCKAY HOLLOW MADNESS.  I loved every minute of it.  That was the best run I've ever had.  I FEEL GREAT.  Man, am I muddy.  I wish there were people here.  Won't that be cool next year to have Dwayne there at the finish--or better still if he runs with me!!  I'm going to train HARD for next year.  I can be a contender!  I can.  I can do it.  I wonder how fast Katie finished this year?

....Okay....sorry for taking you on a trip through my mind, but it was so much easier to write it that way.  Other than the bruise and big ole bump on the back of my right calf and a little soreness, I feel great.  Tuesday I just ran a mile (walk run with NOBO), and then did yoga.  Wednesday I ran 3.5 miles.  Thursday I ran 4.  Friday I did another yoga class.  I think I have a stomach virus because I started feeling really sick Thursday evening...I thought I was feeling better Friday but then it got much worse.  I haven't made it out of bed yet this morning other than to the bathroom...but I'm sure hoping it's better today...I would love to go hit the trails again!!  ....But I know I need to get on the bike and in the pool.  I have my first TRI in just TWO WEEKS!!!

Thanks for stopping in.  Come again soon.


  1. Congrats Dana! That is awesome. Can't wait to hear about your tri!

  2. As usual nice recap... I will have a hard time wearing the cool shirt this year. You did earn it... I don't think I would of attempted what you accomplished... good job... I think I saw you at the pavilion, but with the crowd and all the hats and stuff I was not sure it was you.

  3. Wow, Dana, I felt like I was right there with you the whole time! I hope many other beginning trail runners read this. They will see that it is alot of fun and quite a challenge! I don't see you as staying a beginner for long though--you sound like you are bitten by the trail running bug! I enjoyed all my references in the entry (BTW the course was a 14-miler last year, not a 1/2--it has gradually gotten longer over the last 3 years from a 1/2 marathon to a 14 miler to a 25k). It sounds like I have a serious target on my back for 2012! Let's hope we can run it on RACE DAY next year, right?

  4. Oh, and congrats for running it alone on Monday, too. I feel like you are quite tough to manage that all alone. And kudos to you for being appreciate of your "day off" to run while your husband was working. We sure have alot of responsibilities as SAHMs, but I do like the perks too!

  5. I enjoyed reading your commentary of the thoughts that race through your head while running. It's reassuring to know I have the same type of thoughts but will/am able conquer the mental game as well!


Don't hold back, tell it like it is....