4 years ago I set foot for the very first time on trails for a run — the Jensen Stables Ultimate XC Challenge (now GVH Mudslog). So many runners have a religious experience about trails and they aren’t afraid to proclaim. They tell those that run roads that they are missing out; that roads are not only inferior but dangerous and perhaps even worse than sitting on your couch. So I tried it back then and I didn’t hate it but I certainly didn’t understand the hype. Over the years I haven’t had much chance to run the race as I’ve had other obligations and preferences. This year I made my return.
Some sort of glitch in the world of reason resulted in the online registration system seeding me as the predicted winner. This, of course, further inflated my vast ego to the point that I thought I might finish in the top 5 or so. Very shortly after the race started that notion left my brain.
I went out fast and hard and was panting very early on. I wore the sneakers that I had screwed 52 screws into for a winter trail race last year. I should have remembered the poor placement of the screws since, often, the screws would jab into my toes. This resulted in my favoring the outside edge of my sneakers. This sad domino effect culminated in me rolling my ankle about one mile into the race. I screamed some sort of yelp or profanity with enough seriousness that a nearby racer asked, with concern, if I was OK. I was. It hurt and surprised me but I was able to continue.
The overconfidence from the faulty seeding of me as a front runner combined with being tired from racing just one week prior did not bode well. I should say I think that I was tired. Maybe I was OK. Maybe I’m just looking for excuses to sooth my bruised ego.
It couldn’t have been much more than 1.5 miles into the race when I made my first (of many) wrong turn. The orange flags were on both sides of the turn and a nearby racer agreed that we should go that way. We were wrong. This happened another 3 times that day. Many other times I questioned where I was going but guessed correctly. That was frustrating. I don’t like not knowing where I’m going.
Though it is only 8.x miles long it is really just a technical trail race for the first 5-6 miles. All of the obstacles; the pond, the mud, the walls, the bridges, creeks, and floating barrels all come at the end. I nearly needed my life to be saved in the pond. I took in a mouthful of pond water but was able to keep my head out of the water — barely — until I got to the other side. I paused then recovering from the fear of slipping under the water. Maybe it was at that point that my care for the race disappeared.
I finished the race somewhere around the 30 person mark. I should have done better. I shouldn’t have been a front runner but I should have done better. I could blame getting lost but that’s pointless. For one thing the race coordinator chided us before the race saying that if we got lost we were to blame — we were idiots. Well, I’m idiot number one of many. I truly believe that 29 of the 30 in front of me also got lost so that excuse is not reasonable.
I was overconfident, possibly tired, and went out too fast. It would have been nice to simply let forget about this day. However…the poison ivy rash I have on my legs and wrist 3 weeks later reminds me of that day.