Salt-Fork 10-Mile Trail Challenge, I was ready to write about how awesome the race was, how great I felt afterward, how incredibly awesome it was that I was covered with mud, etc...
But there was one small caveat: Indeed I felt awesome after, but I was completely miserable during the entire run.
That's what got me thinking about the mental grit it takes to be "a runner."
This was my second year at the Salt Fork challenge. After thinking about all the miserable factors of the race, it's really got me wondering about the psychology of the sport. How can you be so miserable, yet cross the finish line smiling (and not just because you're happy it's over)?
The race is brutal. You're either going straight uphill, or straight down. Many of the hills are too steep to walk up, let alone run. Immediately after taking any number of descending steps, the thought momentarily pops into your head: "$hit, I hope I don't break my ankle."
The mud this year was intense, from all the rain we've had. Sometimes you'd take a step and feel your whole foot get sucked in. And when I say mud, I just hope it was mud. Part of the race was on horse trails.
I wore my New Balance Minimus shoes. They're great, but I made the wrong choice in socks. The wetness of the course dragged my ankle socks down, so they were cutting into my ankles. At the rest stop at Mile 5.5 I looked down and saw blood. The blisters still make it a bit painful to walk in regular shoes.
I ran a miserable time, averaging a 12:30 mile -- total time was 2:09:37. I ran a miserable race, running too fast and walking, running too fast and walking.
The swag wasn't even that great, we just got a cotton t-shirt, a Gu and the exact same beer glass we got last year.
The course was incredibly scenic. Pure beauty. But it was hard to enjoy.
My calves ached. My quads burned from the hills.
This isn't a road race. You're in the middle of the woods. There's nobody cheering you on until you make it up that final hill. Crowd support was the factor that got me through Columbus. You just have occasional words of encouragement from the other racers and, if you're lucky, a half smile from a cop blocking one of the roads you're crossing.
So why did I leave this race feeling good?
Maybe we do this because we get a strange high off overcoming pain and seemingly impossible obstacles?
Maybe, when we go through a race like this, it's a sadistic way of beating all the evil out of our systems, leaving nothing but harmony?
Maybe we're just sick, sick people?
I don't know. I really don't.
Something else strange happened too, after the race.
I have an ungodly fear of being stranded in the middle of the road. If my gas light comes on and I'm less than five feet from the nearest gas station I start to panic.
The gas light came on as I was leaving the state park, and there was nary a gas station in sight. I turn to my trusty GPS, had it send me to the nearest station three miles away, and before I know it I'm navigating a single lane dirt road with my fingers crossed that it will take me to BP, as promised. (It did.)
But I'm not freaking out. I'm just cruising along, singing along to the Arcade Fire, not even considering the consequences of, well, driving on a dirt back road in the middle of nowhere as I'm slowly running out of gas, as I would be in pretty much any other mindset.
OhioOutside holds two events at Salt Fork that weekend. One is the 10-miler, the other is the Bigfoot 50K -- three times around the 10-mile course.
As we're running, I say to one racer: "Can you imagine doing this 3 times?"
She tells me she did it last year.
Well, "I guess two years ago I couldn't imagine running 10 miles."
"See you next year," she says.