Yesterday I came home from a camping trip that included a technical trail run. It was difficult but very exciting and I'd like to do it again, but without the asthma.
Here's a good idea of how I performed: right in the middle of the pack, making so much noise honking and gasping that people were actually turning their heads to look at me:
I'm in the gray outfit in the middle, with the ponytail. By this time, we had already passed a section of freshly paved asphalt (there was more later) and some lighter fluid fires. Soon several diesel trucks pulling campers belched past us, going up the hill to Umpqua Lighthouse. Then we turned to "run" up a 276 foot sand dune hill! (Max elevation including paved hill at end of sand: 380.58 feet.) Yep, my lungs did NOT LIKE this run. Nor did my heart. My Polar monitor said I was never below 170 bpm once. I watched it and slowed down whenever I got to 188. I knew I was dangerously short on air because my legs were rubbery and I was light headed. However, I am a stubborn bull dog of a woman and kept going.
After the dune hill, I slogged with shoes and socks heavy with sand to the Coast Guard station, gulped down some water, glanced at the lighthouse, ran down a road and turned into Lake Marie park, onto a roller coaster up and down bark and gravel path.
At first I was so worn out from a bad asthma attack I had trouble passing anyone, but after the first Coast Guard station, I passed two heavier women easily. I had trouble overtaking the third, so I had a chance to study her back. She had a few tattoos and a black plastic patch on under the racer back of her shirt. I wondered what it was covering. A new tattoo? I was still wheezing and she glanced back over her shoulder. I came up beside her and asked if she still had sand in her shoes. She said she did. I passed her.
I was determined to pass two other women, who were dressed identically in hot pink. The path was narrow and full of roots to trip over, so it wouldn't be an easy place to pass. They literally had their elbows out. I hung about five to fifteen feet behind them, looking for a wide space coming up and feeling like a race car driver without enough gasoline.
Then we came up on a sad scene: if you look back at that first picture, there is a very little boy in a red jacket. Maybe he is six or seven? The poor thing started out with such enthusiasm, but I think he just couldn't handle the hills. He had pulled off on the side and looked like he was going to throw up at the end of the first mile, so I think he and his mother dropped out. I felt sorry for them, then (don't think I am a terrible person) saw my opportunity. I edged up to the women in the identical outfits and said, "I feel sorry for the really little children."
"Why?" One of them dropped back a little, so I could sidle up beside her. "They are outside all the time, so active!"
"Because the hills are so hard for them!" I edged past the pink ladies.
Then I worked on passing the next woman, who graciously just moved over. After that I was too tired to overtake anyone else and ran in a space of my own, with no challengers for at least 50 feet behind me. I realized that all those stairs I've been taking instead of the elevator at school and in the garage had helped prepare me for this. I thought about the next race and training. I wasn't just feeling terrible. Half a dozen times I stopped to walk a bit, but I started up again. The Coast Guard stopped me at their post by the lighthouse about half a mile from the finish to make me drink and ask if I was ok. I drank their water (I'd been drinking my own, too) and said I was fine. I didn't tell them my inhalant was empty. I kept going. I turned a corner in my head. I am no longer a wanna-be runner. I AM a runner.
Soon I couldn't even see anyone in front of me, although there were still people behind me. I worried that I was taking too long. I wanted to stop, but was afraid it had been over an hour. I refused to look at my watch for fear of demoralization. When a man with a number attached to his shirt ran back the other way to find his wife, I really thought I'd blown it.
I ended up with pretty decent time for a technical trail, despite the fact that my inhalant turned out to be empty and I arrived back with honking gasping breaths and collapsed into my husband's arms. (We always have extra medicine in the car.)
I did 44:30, which is almost 6 minutes slower than I clocked myself on a flat 5k course, but the whole race was a roller coaster of hills in high coastal winds, half of which were of course, pushing against me uphill rather than helping me downhill. The first place runner, who was a man in his 20s, did 22:30; normally the fastest is 16 minutes for a flat course. I finished right in the middle of the pack. I was third in my age class in a race put on by a school district. My husband said he had never seen a race so dominated by 40-something year old women and their preteen kids before.
I gave the woman in the red tank and black plastic patch my raffle ticket after I was done. She was from the town north of the race and walked over to compliment me on my finish time. I thought that was sweet, considering how awful I looked and sounded... and I wasn't going to use any local products, anyway. There was a family of five runners and every one of them took home a ribbon, including two fairly young children. I looked on them with admiration and perhaps a bit of envy. They were all glowing, strong, thin, happy and glorious looking - a family from a Disney movie.
I wheezed and coughed the rest of the day, but it was WORTH IT. I took my husband back and we walked the trail after lunch so we could get a good look at how beautiful the trail was while I was in better shape and could enjoy it. We skipped the dune, though, being in decent clean shoes. He said it looked sadistic! We went up in the lighthouse, which of course we didn't do during the race, and got to stick our heads up in the kaleidoscope lens (this is the only one that is red and clear) as it went around.
I was still light headed so the trip back down the spiral staircase was interesting.
We walked around Lake Marie and took a picture of a narrow part of the trail that looked peaceful.
Then we sat on a bench and watched people on dirt bikes make too much noise riding up and jumping off the dunes for the otherwise peaceful area. Then we moved to an area where there were no bikes and just relaxed. It was great.
We found an Oregon craftsmanship shop loaded with Oregon products - nut butters, sweets, beer, bread, fruit, cheese, etc. I thought I was eating way too much but I entered my calories and they weren't too bad. I did drink a beer every day, though, which is not my habit. My husband, whose stomach is lined with NASA materials and is neither sensitive nor allergic to anything, ingested enough of everything for a month, so maybe he'll gain back that six pounds I've been jealous that he lost without wanting to. I skipped everything but the bread and beer, partially because I was jealous of all the stuff he had and partially because it was just too hard to resist chocolate and expresso stout made in the same town where I was born!
So now I have to run harder, to work off those nut butters and beer. But it's ok. Because I'm a runner. That's what I want to do.