I woke to a 4:30 AM alarm and frantically searched my brain. “What am I supposed to do?” Eventually I realized that I was working the Harding Hustle race in Modjeska Canyon. Let me tell you! I was so happy to remember that I was working this race and not running it. Why? First off, because I was so dang fatigued. But most importantly, because we’re in the middle of a so-called “heat wave.” I wouldn’t have wanted to run uphill for approximately 16 miles for a turnaround and downhill for the same length. Practically the entire route is exposed, with very, very little shade. (I should not forget to mention the bees and gnats.)
So much to tell from this wondrous event, as I always have so much to tell from working races. I can’t possibly cover it all. First off, I met fellow blogger Giraffty. She was working “Check-in.” We’ve been reading & commenting on each other’s blogs, for it seems years. I recognized Heather the instant I saw her. She is even more beautiful and smiley than online.
I also worked with a wonderful crew. There were 7 of us: 4 aiding the runners, 1 medic, the radio (HAM) guy and his wife/girlfriend. We set up at the top of Harding Truck Trail, a place called “Four Coroners,” where I commonly run. Because I am a chronic water stasher, I took advantage of ride up and stashed the jugs of water that I purchased the night before.
The quick recap of the day goes like this: We were beneath the hot, hot sun for many hours. Over 100 f degrees. I saw runners come in triumphantly. I saw runners come in beaten. Some runners had their wits about them, others couldn’t think straight. A few runners cracked. They flat out lost the mental battle. And for them they had a nice air conditioned drive down to the finish. Others dropped down to a shorter distance race. One runner, took off the wrong way at about mile 23. She began running down Maple Springs Road, which would have dumped her several miles from the finish. Because we all thought that she had tucked into the bushes for a potty break, we did not realize her error for quite a while. That made her error our error. With many minutes head start, I could not catch her down a wretchedly hot Maple Springs. At times I could see her far off in the distance. I yelled out in my loudest voice, to no avail. Pretty quickly, the HAM operator picked me up in his truck, and we drove about 3 miles before picking her up. I broke the news to runner with apologies. Turns out, she was a great spirited girl, and she laughed and laughed about her mistake. Driving her back to our aid, she took in some fluids and instead of DNFing, she actually ran the 9.3 miles back.
I came to realize some things about endurance running yesterday. The main thing is, the first and yes, greatest triumph comes from taking off at the start line. The other thing is, the main defeat is not your time nor whether or not you finish. It’s whether or not your mind remains strong during all the obstacles that are hurled at you during the event. Rarely does everything go smoothly. Instead, you’ve got things like boulders, locked gates, extreme heat, hydration and fueling mistakes, wrong turns, falls, dropped water bottles, blisters, rolled ankles, etc., etc., etc. On a good day, a runner keeps his/her wits about him – that is, there’s little panic or desperation. Instead, despite the unknowns thrown at him, he keeps his mental strength. Even a strong runner though has his collapses. I know first hand about those collapses. And I saw them second hand today. Fortunately, there’s a silver lining. After crawling out of that mental “defeat,” there is so much to learn. There’s actually much more to learn, about yourself, about running, about life, in these defeats than there is in the triumphs. And that’s a good thing.
Scenes from the day: