Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race Day 3: Signal Mountain
The night before I got myself a big old feast. I had run out of my pre-prepared foods and treated myself. First stop – Rembrandts for some dessert! They had flourless peanut butter cookies, a gluten free macroon and a gluten free lemon bar! Bought them all because I wasn’t sure what I’d like. Turns out I liked them all. Also got myself a vegan gluten free mushroom burger on a lettuce wrap, side salad, and sweet potato fries. And yes, I ate it all.
I laid down for bed about 9:30. I could still hear some kids playing at the pool and grumbled. Thought to myself I should’ve broken down and got some nighttime tylenol. But nope, I was out like a light and not back up until 5:30. I meandered around, had my tumeric, my vitamins, my tea, and a goatmeal muffin (and a half along) with some almond butter. I packed all my crap up, made good use of my baby wipes and vaseline (boy I wish I would’ve thought of that on day one), and checked out.
So on the way to the race, I was nervous…but not as nervous as the day prior. I felt good – my legs didn’t feel tired and I had gotten a good night’s sleep. I was enjoying the winding country roads – and some good country music on the radio. Then this song came on – Brad Paisley – Waiting on a Woman. It’s essentially about this young guy who is waiting on his wife and is sitting on a bench and there is this old guy next to him telling him about how he’s always waiting on a woman and that dudes usually die first and that makes sense because then he’ll just find a bench in heaven and sit down and wait for her some more. My Dad is always on a bench waiting for me and/or my Mom and Parag is usually on his phone playing waiting for me. So I like the song. It’s cute. Anyways, I don’t know what it was but this song totally almost made me tear up! I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but when you’re so close to a big racing goal (or any goal) and you get all emotionally unstable. Well, I guess it was time for me!
Does anyone else get oddly emotional when they’re doing a big race? I see people crying at the end of marathon’s and triathlons all the time, so I know I must not be the only one!
My stupid watch was dead, but I figured out my phone charger in the car had an extra USB port and I could charge it there! Yay! Good save.
So I get to the race… I’ve got to say. I felt good. I was well rested and wasn’t sore a bit. My legs weren’t tired. I was raring and ready to go. I didn’t even mind my social awkwardness at this point and didn’t feel a bit the out of place oddball. When it comes down to it, I’m really a lone goat, it just sometimes takes me a minute to remember that’s how I prefer it.
The RD announced that this was 20 of the most technical miles trails of “in the world.” That’s quite a bold statement I thought to myself. But, hey, bring it on. I like trails. I like technical trails. And I love running 20 miles. Let’s do this.
I saw some peeps from Friday and Saturday and soon we were off. I fell in with some familiar faces and it was beautiful from the start. Awesome weather and a great excited last day vibe. Not too far in the trail narrowed and we had to scale our way down some crazy technical downhill. Oh yeah, and eventually we had to come back up that. But not before going down and back up another crazy rocky rooty downhill/uphill combo. Eventually the crowd thinned out and we went climbed and climbed. I thought to myself, this isn’t that bad. Not that bad at all. We were continuously rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views. I’m pretty sure I could see Atlanta from up there! And I did stop to take pictures, and I don’t even care. I sure wasn’t winning anything, so I might as well enjoy the ride. I rarely let myself do that during races, so it was nice for a change.
At times I wondered if this should be considered a rock climbing race or something? It was SO rocky at points. Big rocks. Little rocks. Slippery rocks. Sharp rocks. Rocks, rocks, rocks. Cursed rocks. Being clumsy as I am, I had to be extra careful. I just wanted to survive unscathed so I took my sweet time. It really wasn’t physically exhausting yet and every little tiny piece of runnable trail I got, I ran it and ran the hell out of it. But they were few and fare between. My body was not warn down, but my mind was getting there. All I could think was f@#$ing rocks!!!! Get out of my way! I want to run!!!!
I got to the about 10 mile mark in 2 hours. I was right on “schedule” according to my projected 4 hour time. I know that I’ve said many times my goal was to “just finish” this race. But that’s a lie. That’s a big fat lie. Any time I tell you my goal is to “just finish” something, it’s a lie. I just can’t help it. And now you know the deep dark truth. The views from the aid station were awesome. The potatoes were even better and I was back off.
The next aid station came at about 12 miles. And I found out that I was almost 3 hours in. This can’t be true. No way. No way Jose. How the …. did that happen???? I stopped for more pictures and potatoes but when I realized that I was at 3 hours already I was seriously worried about the cutoff.
This aid station exit took us on some pavement past a retirement home. The ladies were out cheering for us and it was so cute. And I was never so happy to see pavement and I sprinted up the hill past everyone who were enjoying their aid station refreshments because my legs just wanted to run SO bad. And I ran and I ran…until there were MORE rocks!!!!! Arrrggh!!! I know that this must have been “runnable” for someone because LOTS of people finished quicker than me, but I just can’t figure it out. I had to stop and crawl and jump and slide and duck and do just about everything but run to navigate these damn rocks, roots, trees, etc. I mean I love a technical trail, but I just couldn’t run this. Not without busting my ass or my head. Both of which I quite like unbusted. Especially with a very long, very expensive race on my horizon in August.
Eventually I made it to the last aid station. The told me I had about 3.6 to go and that it was “all downhill” Well it was not all downhill but it was all very runnable with only a normal amount of rocks and roots. And I was SO happy. I shot off. Me and another nearby lady just ran and ran and ran our hearts out like we were at the local 10k, not at the last 3.5 miles of a 60 mile weekend. And at this point I realized I was going to make the cutoff and I was SO relieved!!!
Not too long after, I rounded the corner and could see and hear the finish. Sweet relief! I sprinted through happily finishing at 4:34. Not as fast as I had hoped, but the fastest I could go without knocking myself out. And I’ll take that.
I stuck around and got one last massage and ice bath. I hoarded the free fruit they were giving away (no one was eating it, can you imagine?), changed into a crazy ass outfit – a Steelers beach dress, rainbow stitched compression tights and features foot sleeves and flip flops. I filled up my bottles for the road and grabbed a banana for the 2.5 hr journey home.
I thought I would be really emotional upon finishing the race, but I wasn’t. I was just glad to be done. I guess in some ways it didn’t even feel like a big deal and that I was just happy to be done with those damn rocks.
After the race…
On the way home from the race, I was feeling really good. The sun was shining – mission accomplished – I was cruising the highway with windows down and sunroof open, jamming – which is one of my favorite things to do. I had my cute tie dye shades on and was scarfing down this big ass banana someone had given me after the race. And then this Snow Patrol song – Chasing Cars – came on. Pooky & I love that song. We actually played it at our wedding. It’s just one of those big powerful epic sounding emo ballads. So I cranked it up and was singing along eating my banana – when suddenly I got teary eyed again! The song just made me think of Pooky and us and how awesome us is. It just reminded me that without him I wouldn’t be living out all of these crazy dreams I have (um, like running through the mountains for 3 or 6 days at a time). I would probably just be stuck in my rut, head down, doing all the things I thought I was supposed to be doing.
When I quit my job right after making partner, most people looked at me like I had three heads, like I was crazy, like why would you give that up on a whim? Not Pooky. He was the one who encouraged it, and who supported it and who made me realize that I wasn’t the crazy one for wanting to live the life that I wanted, for wanting to live a life that made me happy…for making me believe that it is ok to follow your own path and make a life that you truly live and truly enjoy.
And when I say I want to run through the mountains for days at a time or set a new crazy goal, he is always there to tell me to go for it and to tell me he’s proud.
And while our adventure of a life may seem crazy or irresponsible to some…all I can say is that we really live it. We really enjoy it. Pooky has taught me to truly embrace and enjoy and value the here and now and to really live life – not just go through the motions saying you’ll do this or that someday. Do it now. And that’s what we do.
You know, when I quit my job we had a saying – we said, well we’re going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off. We’re going to enjoy it while we can and when it all goes to hell in a hand basket, well, we’ll deal with it then. Here we are almost a year later, and it’s still rolling and we’re still living and everything has worked out thus far… even better than we could’ve imagined.
I’ve enjoyed my “no regrets” kind of year. And everyone should have one.
I know its easier said than done, but I would encourage all of you to try it sometime. To live it up. To live life like no one was watching. To just ride fast and furious (or slow and leisurely if that’s your thing) and do what you want, when you want. Now is the time. Today is the day. Ride it til the wheels fall off. Its all cheesy and ridiculous, I know…But I can tell you that nothing feels better than living in such a way that you know should your time end right now, you’ve got no regrets…because you’ve held nothing back and you’ve done what you wanted to do when you wanted to do it and you did it your way.
And well friends, the wheels are still on. They haven’t fallen off yet, and are still spinning strong. And so on I roll to the next day…to the next adventure.
Happy trails until next time!