"The whole day had been a choice. It was a choice to run hard. A choice to hurt. A choice to dig deep." - Rebekah Trittipoe
When I think of The Promise Land, I think of God, of a Land flowing with milk and honey, of an answer to prayer...
I can tell you this much, that race I ran yesterday, named Promise Land 50K after the Promise Land Campground, is not a land flowing with milk and honey, or exactly an ultrarunner's answer to prayer...I do know however, that God was surely there, because I survived, and only by the Grace of God...
Thanks Dr. Horton.
That is one of the hardest athletic events I have ever done in my life. I am sure there have been worse, but I can't remember them right now. Too sore. Too tired. Too soon.
The day started out at 3:45, when we awoke to rain...it had rained all night. It was raining right up until race start, at 5:30AM. My friend Magda and I jumped from the car into the throng of runners wearing headlamps, and headed up the road...that was about it for the day...up and more up...or down, and more down.
A little less than nine and a half hours later, I crossed the finish line...I didn't really stop and take a break, I changed socks once...mostly, I restocked and kept moving. I took quick glances at the roaring creeks and beautiful vistas, but never stopped to really soak it in...just kept moving.
After climbing up the gravel road, steeply at times, we turned onto the single-track horse trail. I know this trail. I started my first adventure race up this road and onto this trail. The next several miles would be on the exact route we took to the first checkpoint...in that race, it was raining. In this race, it was just foggy, but the path was wide and grassy and I was running strong...felt good, fueling and hydrating, saving a little for later.
As we turned up and headed toward the Parkway, I was ready to reach Pam, our wonderful support crew person, restock, find out where Magda was and head downhill for a change. It took forever to get to the parkway, then a slight downhill run of a couple of miles to reach Pam.
In and out, the sun starting to break through, and lots of downhill, then up, then down ahead.
The trail down the mountain was a familiar trail also, as I had been down this way during a different adventure race...the whole way down is rocky and crisscrosses back and forth across a roaring stream. The stream was beautiful, the sound loud, the trail not so fun...I'm a decent runner, but running on rocks is not something I do well. Running downhill on rocks is my least favorite thing. My ankles have been sprained badly too many times...
Finally, there was pavement and I could run, which was nice. Soon however, we were on a rolling trail, which may have been my favorite part, as there were few rocks, few steep uphills, and lots of good running. The creeks were full and beautiful.
After that we traversed a trail up and down and around a mountain, finally hitting the trail UP to Apple Orchard Falls. Its kind of steep. And rocky. And there are stairs...rock ones and wooden ones...
I averaged over 20 minutes per mile on this section...I didn't feel bad, and I kept moving, but after 27 or so miles, I was a little tired, and I just didn't have any speed...I couldn't believe I was going so slow...
The falls were beautiful, but I didn't take much time to admire them...We climbed stairs to the lower section, clamored over rocks to get to the upper section, then climbed more stairs to get above the falls and back to the trail to Sunset Falls...I didn't think I would ever get to Sunset Falls.
I stopped there long enough to change socks and drink some coke...the rest of the run was downhill, about 5 miles, some of it really steep. In case you don't know, running downhill for miles at a time hurts...steep downhill really hurts!
Downhill on trail, then downhill on pavement. Some of it rocky, some of it steep, and some of it great to run on. At this point, everything hurt yet I knew I was going to finish officially so I felt good. I just had to keep running. My feet were blistered and bruised. My hips hurt from keeping me upright on the trail. My quads and shins ached from the downhills. Even my upper body hurt from holding myself and my pack upright all day.
But, I just kept running...walking would only prolong the agony.
I finished strong...when I was finally on ground to actually run, I ran! It felt so good to just run!
I can't describe how hard it was...there was no reprieve really. You are either going up...steeply up, or down...steeply down. The area is beautiful, the volunteers and staff first class, and the event one of the most challenging I've ever been a part of.
And good for me. I finished...