You know what they say though, "If you don't success at first, try and try again." Instead of waiting an entire year, I jumped in at the next race in hopes of winning the equally odd elephant trophy.
I don't typically go to a race with a goal as concrete and simple as WIN. Goals without any wiggle room make me nervous. So, I constantly reminded myself of other reasons to do race:
1) Good training for next week's duathlon
2) On a trail system I have never explored
3) Great people, great race coordinators
4) I love trail running
5) There is pumpkin pie at the finish
The race started with a relatively flat trail. It was a not a super fast start like at the Xterra races but only about 3 minutes into the race, the trail started to go up a mountain. After a very nice climb, we were treated with a windy downhill. I focused on remaining relaxed, constantly reminding myself what goes down will eventually go back up. I knew going too fast on the early downhills would be detrimental. My first 3 mile splits were 7:41, 7:26, 7:21. I love how you can see my friend Steve in this picture, who ran a 1:20 half marathon last weekend. I love how I beat him by two seconds, hehe.
Eventually, we got as low as the trail would take us and "checked in" with race officials at the bottom. Then, we turned around and sure enough, we had to climb back up.
The climb back up the mountain was brutal. There was even one section that forced me to walk. Sometimes when it is that steep, you actually move faster by hiking.
My miles slowed to 8:36 and 8:30. Then, I noticed someone gaining on me. I couldn't tell if it was a man or a female. Everytime I turned around to investigate, I stumbled on the technical trail. Just stop looking back, I told myself. Just run! So my next uphill mile was 7:57.
Finally, the trail evened out again and Mile 7 was 7:16. But I was tired, too tired to keep that pace. Once I realized I was ruining my race with negative self talk, I started to think about all the amazing athletes that I get the honor of training with, likeTere Zacher, Kristi Johnson and Angie Axman. They don't let a little discomfort drag them down! That thinking brought me back up.
Just as I got passed.
Luckily, the gender-non-specific person dashing behind me turned out to be male. I was relieved because I didn't have to fight. But you know what? A little fight is not bad. It makes us stronger. Yet, it always sends me into a spiral of self-doubt and ultimately self-defeat. I can deal with pain but I cannot deal with pressure.
With all stress removed from the race, I continued to run. The course was only a 12K (7.4 miles) but that last .4 miles kept going and going and going............
...............until I reached Mile 8 in 7:33:
and seconds later was greeted by a large cheer as I crossed the finish line.
I was hot. I was cold. My legs hurt. My legs still hurt.
AND I DIDN'T EVEN SMILE AT THE CAMERA.
But, I earned my elephant. and pie.
Those little hands, by the way, belong to a little man. Surpisingly, he had no interest in my pumpkin pie (or cookies or candy). He was far more enarmored by my elephant.