Sunday, I ran my 6th straight Calico 30k trail race. Worried a bit about my foot making the difficult terrain, I didn’t dwell on this fear. Instead, I merely figured it would be my long run, I’d take in some awesome scenery, and if need be, I’d walk on in if my foot couldn’t take the pain. I had all the time in the world in my eyes, as about 100 runners were running a 50k instead of the 30k.
I stayed with my family just outside of town in one of the two available bunkhouses. Had some great family times. Then I woke throughout the night as the boys went absolutely crazy, running about and such.
Awake at 5:30 AM, I walked to the Start Line in town at 6 AM. My nerves were calm. I said “Hi” and talked briefly with friends. I looked forward to my “long run,” though I didn’t really look forward to fighting against the honorable DFL. So, I just threw that idea out of my mind.
I took off on the downhill asphalt road out of Calico feeling good. My pace was very decent. The atmosphere was festive. I didn’t chat like I usually do. I literally looked to the ground and simply ran. My mind was blank. Occasionally, I said “hello,” as a runner passed. Occasionally, I took my eyes off the desert floor and took in the quiet, immense desert beauty.
I ran like this (head down, blank mind) for the first seven miles. The sand was thick, I ran off the trail where the dirt was more solid. I arrived to the first aid alone. I was told there were about 6 runners behind me. But I found that hard to believe – I didn’t see a single soul behind me. I stayed maybe 30 seconds and was off to the next aid about 5 miles away.
Little by little, I began to lift my eyes from the trail. And as the rocks turned greens and blues, the earth hardened beneath my feet. I popped two advil before mile ten. And when I reached mile ten, I cheered inside knowing I was more than half way.
When the ground grew rocky, my heart grew fonder. It was like stream crossing (without the water). Actually, it’s also like a chess game maneuvering across the boulders and rocks. One must think several moves ahead to make the run smooth.
I felt cramping coming on in my calves. Kept them at bay with some salt pills. Except for the occasional Search and Rescue that drove by, I felt absolutely alone in this rainbow desert. I spent very little time at the aid stations. Once I took a rock out of my shoe.
I snapped pictures frequently (yes, a new camera!). But I never once stopped to click a photo. All my pictures were taken on the run. So fortunate was I to find that many were in focus.
With four miles remaining, and the most difficult part of this race remaining, I knew that if I was going to pass anyone, it would be during this portion. Why? Well, if a runner hasn’t gone through those last few miles before, the terrain is just so shockingly difficult, that even the experienced runner slows tremendously.
Somewhere in the middle of this rocky canyon, I came upon three or four jeeps with people trying to figure if they could make it further. One of the women stood outside of her car, looked at me and exclaimed, “Oh my God! You are . . . You are . . .”
To which I responded, “Insane.” And she said, “Yes, insane.” And we both laughed as I continued on past her, hoping still to pass at least one runner.
And then, the end became very near . . . and I grew giddy. But not too giddy, because that’s when I fall.
And then quickly afterward, I passed two more runners. But one of them, a female would not give up on catching me. Finally, as I ran through the parking lot, I phoned my husband who was up above in town. He could see me and waved. I asked about the girl behind me, “How far is she?” You see, I refuse to look back. Looking back gives the runner strength to catch you. I know it gives me strength when the runner up front looks back. Hubby reported on her distance and her demeanor and I felt confident to rest up and go for a strong power hike for a few minutes. And then at last, I slowly made my way up the back service road, ran into town and down to the finish line.
In the end, I did not fall. I experienced no anguish. I did not cry. My foot survived. I survived. And nine, yes NINE runners came in behind me.
I am so glad that I went ahead with this race. I feel like this marks the beginning of my comeback. What a fantastic long run! (It measured 19.76 miles on my garmin).
Thus ends my SHORT version of my 6th Calico Trail Race.