Tonight, I did something I have not done in a while (well, I have not been able to do in a long time).
That was -- driving home from dinner with the windows down. The weather is finally cooling off enough to where the evenings provide an extremely pleasant breeze. The windows down, the music up, the wind swirling through the car, and my hand hanging out the window waving slowly up and down -- completes one of my most favorite things to do.
Freedom -- is how it feels to drive on these occasions. I can put my head back on the seat and just enjoy.
Yesterday, although less placid of an experience, I felt something very similar. I competed in my first USA Trail Championship race.
Being a road runner, I arrived to Laurel Ridge, NC with my Nike Lunar Racers in tow, my coach, and my new 4-Runners Only teammate. I was not sure what to expect and NOT entirely sure what I had gotten us into...
Laurel Ridge was my 'summer home' from my 7th grade year to my senior year in high school. I know the place well; the cabins, the canteen, the camp fire area. It was refreshing to return to this incredibly beautiful place. I could not wait to get back out on the trails I had spent so many summers wandering on - however, I had never raced through them - nor would I have tried to.
The beginning of the race was at the top of the mountain where the campfire area was and from there we would race up and down, and all around the mountain.
The start of the race was a hectic downhill run into the trails. Two women shot out with an early lead and I quickly realized that I needed to establish some sort of 'position' or it would be impossible to pass once we entered the single-track, steep trails. The two women in front of me completely impressed and astounded me with their ability to leap from side to side and 'float' through the extreme downhills. (I, on the other hand, had no clue what I was doing ....just questioning my sanity and praying I would not misstep and do some face-first racing...)
The remainder of the race included some very technical trail racing that involved using trees to swing around a switchback Tarzan-style, slippery and mossy large rocks to slide over (and climb up on hands and knees), hurdling large roots and fallen trees, *NOT looking over and down*, and feeling like I was part of "Last of the Mohicans" as I realized how very much fun I was having. The result? I could not quit smiling.
Finishing the race with my highest national placing yet (2nd) -- I still struggle to find the right words to explain this experience.
It was wild...incredible...crazy...unpredictable...it was complete FREEDOM.
I was covered in mud, smacked with branches, fought against burning muscles, ...BUT...
Flying up and down those trails, I found fearlessness. I fully embraced the experience. If I slipped, I was going to be okay. If I fell, I was fine. If it hurt ... it was worth it.
And today, I HURT. The soreness is incomparable to anything I have felt in a long, long time --- but, to have that complete sense of freedom of running wildly though the forest and having nothing and no one other than myself dictating the pace ... was none other than, undeniably worth it.
And this, this is why I simply could not quit smiling.
The Blogging Sloth is me and my blog has suffered from consistent and significant neglect in the past few months. I am a terrible blog parent. Just wanted to get this off of my chest.
Alright! Let us continue. I ran a race; the Mission Mile. It was on July 31...
(And ...I suddenly feel the urge to grab Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.)
(Well, and tell them to stay put. For now.)
The inaugural Rescue Mission Mile was was an event in downtown Winston-Salem to raise awareness and funding for the "Back-to-School Backpack" program for underprivileged children in the area and to raise money for the Rescue Mission. It featured three races; beginner, intermediate, and elite.
Two weeks prior to the race, I joined local evening newsman Cameron Kent and a few other local "fast guys" for a promotion of the event ON WXII'S EVENING NEWS! By far one of the coolest things I've ever done, we met at the start line around 6pm to get started. We all stood behind Kent as he informed the Triad about the "Mission Mile" and then we took off around the course! (The entire time, we were being filmed...) Our goal was to cross the finish line in under 6 minutes, which would qualify us for the 'elite' category. Still close to 100 degrees outside, we chased after the cameraman in a truck, Kent carrying a microphone the entire way, and closed in on the finish....in a BLAZING 5:02~
YEAH! (The course ended up being .92 miles long)
The Saturday of the race arrived. Cooler, overcast, and PERFECT running weather... Around 200 people attended this first event and were spread across the varying levels of the races. I had the pleasure of joining my mom and running with her through the Beginner race. (Of which she won her age group! GO MOM)
When the elite race arrived, I was terribly excited. ONLY A MILE! ...and an adrenaline rush the entire way. I was the only female entered into this level and as we began, a light rain started to mist over us. It felt amazing. The gun went off and we shot out of the start in a sprint. The race was over before I knew it and I had crossed the line in 4:41 having the fastest female time of the day! (It equates to about a 5:05 mile) The winning male time was my good friend, Ryan Woods, in 4:03.
Afterwards, we were able to spend time talking with some of the men from the Rescue Mission. Several had been training for this very day - to complete the race. Listening to their unique stories struck me deeply. It made me realize that there was something much greater going on that day. It wasn't simply about running or racing, winning or losing - but about hope and doing something greater than yourself and not just for yourself, but for others.
The Rescue Mission Mile was truly an event to remember and I cannot wait until next year to participate again.