For three months, I was training for one specific day, one specific race. While I am happy to be training, I am even happier racing. But it seemed like that day was so far away. Even as the day grew closer, it didn’t quite sink in. And then it was -holy smokes- race day!
It was kind of a tense drive out to Bandera. At 5:30 in the country, it’s super dark. Add some light drizzle and it’s just not a fun drive. I’m glad my dad was driving, although sometimes his driving scares me. There was very little traffic, which was nice. That is, until we got to the park. Then there was a straight up traffic jam.
Which is not surprising. 1,000 people crammed into one lane? Duh! And here I thought getting there an hour early would be sufficient. (At least I wasn’t the only who made that mistake.)
I started to get antsy because I had a pressing gastrointestinal issue that would soon require immediate action. After a few minutes, we’d moved maybe two feet, so I had to act. I jumped out of the car and hiked into the bushes, out of the way of everyone’s headlights, and found a spot and did the doo. Ran back to the car feeling better.
But then I started to get really panicky. We weren’t really moving. It was 7:15 and the race started at 7:30. There were still tons of cars waiting to park. Would they start the race without…..? OF COURSE they will start the race on time! They aren’t going to postpone it for your sorry ass! Get out there and start running! That’s my brain for you.
I wasn’t totally prepared. I still needed to pick up my packet and drop my bag. I was still trying to work out my iPod cord strategy. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to wear my jacket or not, but then I saw a girl run by in a tank top. She looked like she’d knew what was up, so I ditched my jacket and wore just one shirt. (Probably the second best decision I’d make that day, as temps were perfect for just a t-shirt.) I grabbed my bag and my handheld and started running to the Lodge.
I got my packet, took out the bib and the safety pins, and dropped my bag onto the truck headed for Chapas. When I started pinning on my bib, I realized, This is it! I am finally going to run this race! My first 50K! I made it to the start with about 5 minutes to spare.
I whooped and hollered a bit at the start, and several times during the race I put my arms in the air and pumped my fists, thinking YEAH! I’m running! I didn’t care about the mud, for me, that was a bonus. Mud is just leveling up. Yes, it made running a bit more difficult, but then the next time I race this course and it’s dry, I’m going to kill it!
And then after so many miles, it was kind of a blur. I didn’t know where I was anymore. All I could see was the trail in front of me. At some points it was hard to keep going and I started to look forward to finishing, but I knew I’d be sad as soon as I crossed the finish. And I was. I mean I was glad to be done, or maybe I was just glad to stop running. I didn’t want to be done because that meant the race was over. And that’s the beginning of the post-race blues. After the high of the race wears off, the blues kick in. Suddenly, I have no immediate thing I’m working toward. I took off the week following the race to rest up. But then what?
The cure? Sign up for another race!
I learned a few lessons:
Get to the race earlier than you think you need to, especially if there will be a lot of people at the race. If for no other reason than to use the port-a-potty before eight million other people do. I imagine the folks who camped out were feeling pretty smug when they saw the huge line of cars to park and the huge lines for the port-a-potty
Enjoy every minute of race day. Even the parts where you’re sick of running and just want to collapse. Those are probably the best moments of the race, because chances are pretty good that you’ll get through those moments. “This too shall pass.” And then you can look back on those difficulties and know that you have what it takes to keep on going.
Talk to complete strangers during the race. I talked to a few people, and it helped get me through some of the miles in the middle. I’m not much of a conversationalist, but it’s super easy: just talk about running! Have you done a 50 before? Have you run this race? What’s your goal? Even if it was just a brief conversation, it was nice. So talk!
It’s fun to applaud others as they finish. I was confused that more people didn’t smile at the end. Some would start smiling once they heard the applause, but some didn’t. Maybe they were having a rough go of it, but I would think everyone would be all smiles at the finish. I know I was!