I paid to suffer and that’s not the worst of it. I would do it again.
Let me explain.
When I first told Ginger I would enjoy a family camping weekend at FD Roosevelt State Park that ended with a 13.1 mile trail run called The North Face Endurance Challenge, I don’t think I really processed the words “endurance challenge” and the race’s location of Pine MOUNTAIN. Sure, I said. Sounds fun, I said. Because it did. I love hanging out on a run with my bud. We explore, we have great talks and we feel awesome after conquering a distance and crushing some calories.
It sounded like carefree fun all the way up until she emailed that her Achilles was hurting and a specialist told her no way to running – especially no MOUNTAIN trails. First and always, I was worried about her. I know how much she enjoys her runs. They are a part of her. How will she feel not running? I just wanted her to heal so she could run again soon. In the midst of my worry though, I began to realize – I’m not going to have my buddy with me on this frolic through the woods. She suggested maybe Andrew could come with me and run my pace. He’s also a wonderful running pal and a great motivator. Of course, he agreed so it was all set – and then it all hit my ignorance.
This event is called an endurance challenge for a reason. It is nothing like the trail I run at Fort Yargo. There parts of it that feel like only goats should be on it – cliff side, rock covered inches of footing. Muddy rocks that serve as bridges to get you across stream after stream. Fallen trees that block narrow paths. The roots of those trees, or possibly rocks, stole my feet from me and sent me down – hard – twice.
That rock slate IS the trail.
The first collision with the ground happened within mile one and I landed like a tree. The crash knocked the wind out of me and I had to jump off to the course for a minute to decide if I remembered what my name was. Luckily, I did and kept moving forward, only to fall again around mile five. Big props to my right shoulder for taking the brunt of that body toss. Ow. I was so proud when the first aid person at the water station asked me, “Ma’am, do you need your shoulder treated?” To me, it really showed what we were enduring. The whole-body soreness days after the event helped remind us of that too though …
I must have said “you’ve got to be kidding” or “this is ridiculous” or “choice cuss word” at least 10 times each mile. Once we started, the challenge was to finish. The challenge was to not lose my mind. The challenge was to not damage my skull that protects that mind. The challenge was to not stop climbing the hills and to stand tall to conquer them like Andrew kept reminding me to do. At one point toward the end, I began telling myself to keep my knees and feet up, pay attention and don’t get lazy. A lot of it was out loud. So was my rendition of “Funky Town” and Andrew’s duet of “Afternoon Delight” with me. (It was prompted by Anchorman quotes after I started saying things like “I love tree. I love plant. This trail was a bad idea.”)
The fun singing didn’t last long though because sure enough, we soon had to scale a hill.
Being that this was a mountain trail, it was rare to have a nice stretch for a steady running pace. I don’t know how people finished this and more (some traveled 50 miles!) with such a fast time. They are incredible. It seemed to me that just when I would start to feel like a kid running through the forest (and I actually did at one point and shouted it out through breaths to the trees and Andrew), we would encounter an obstacle from nature. You know, like a mountain. Climbing a mountain wasn’t on my bucket list but I can go ahead and pencil it in just to draw the line through it. Dang.
See all the people at the top of the hill?
Gorgeous Mountain View from a Ledge
Elevation says wha?
13.1 miles equated to 3 hours and 33 minutes of adventure for Andrew and me. I know he could’ve finished at about 2 and a half had he ventured it at his pace. He didn’t once complain or make me feel bad. He carried my sunglasses and helped me up when I fell. He kept encouraging me with pep talks and coaching me with guidance to make it through.
“You’re doing great, lady.”
“Stand up tall to get deep breaths.”
“Slow it down some, your adrenaline is tricking you right now.”
“We’re married.” (That one came after I made a goofy pose when I saw a photographer on the course. He actually claimed me!)
I’m so grateful to him for his friendship and selflessness. He even stopped to give directions to hikers along our course. He laughed at my jokes along the way and when I asked him if I earned major cool points for my falls he replied, “Not for the falls but because you got back up and kept going.”
So, would I endure it again?
No. I would enjoy it again.
Ginger’s Finish Line Photo
I wasn’t sore yet.