At a distance Mt. Magazine looks like a hill with the top cut off. It is covered in beautiful trees and foliage, but in these trees are trails that lead you to the cliffs edge. There are trails that take you to steep descents and rocky terrain. They provide a thrilling experience that has you wanting to come back for more.
We lined up in the parking lot of the lodge to start our 18 miles of fun. The air was fully charged with over 100 runners energy. Everyone just itching to get out on the trails. My watch and phone ready to go, wanting to tack myself on my strava app. Feelings of anticipation and nerves bubbling away in my tummy. We had a plan, to start at a steady pace and not stop as much as possible. I didn’t want to get my heart rate up right out of the gate, that never fairs well for me.
When the horn goes off, people all around me are setting watches, starting phones, documenting experiences. I let my body relax as we cruse down the loose rocky trail, trying not to turn my ankle. I am focused and ready to conquer this run. Last year I almost failed. The mountain had eaten my legs, and had reduced me to tears of pain and emotion (I have found that I have a tendency to cry when I hit my wall, no shame in my game). I kept thinking that this was my run. I would not let the mountain get me this time. I was the boss (I always keep my self talk positive).
When we hit the single track I took the lead (because that is the best way for Josh and I to run). My legs felt strong, my heart felt strong, and my mind was open. We ran through mud and the foliage brushing my legs, but I was not going to be distracted. When we came to our first hill we had a chance to pass a couple groups of people and I snatched it up. Never slowing, and passing with words of thank you.
At our first road crossing Josh ran up to the ranger that was keeping the road safe for us and shook his hand and thanked him for his time. I have always believed in gratitude and I was definitely grateful for road safety. We ran up the rock stairs and came to our first unmanned water station. As I filled up my water pouch I thought, “where are all of the other runners?” We headed out with no sounds of any runners in the distance.
As we came up to mile 10, and our first manned aid station, we still had not seen any other runners. At that point I was sure that we would have heard or seen someone else. It was different to run with just ourselves. It was peaceful and quiet. The down side was that I was losing site of my competitive goal. When I hear people in front of me or behind me, I get a jolt of energy to speed up.
The descent to the bottom of Mt. Magazine was good, about 1/2 a mile down, the front leaders started to come up. A few men and then about 1 mile down a women. They were killing it up the remainder of the mountain. Breathing hard and sweating profusely. I was proud of them. The remainder of the decent was filled with mud holes and rocks. I ran when I could, but inched my way around the mud.
The assent back up the mountain was empowering. I had flash backs of me doubled over and ready to die. Of burning quads and calves. Of muscles wanting to seize up, but not this time. No, this time I powered up the mountain. I used my legs and speed hiked up the steep parts and ran the parts that I was able to. We reached the stairs, which meant we only had 1/2 a mile left of mountain. I had a surge of energy, I was going to conquer this mountain. I wouldn’t let it get me this time. When we reached the top I was breathing hard, with sweat dripping down the sides of my face, I was proud of myself. I had come a long way from last year. All the running and gym time had paid off.
Running the remainder 2.5 miles was easy. My legs were a bit tired, but as long as I keep them running they didn’t hurt much. Running across that finish line was satisfying. To make it better, both of my children were there to cheer us on. To see their parents accomplish a goal. That to me was worth every ache and pain.
Mt. Magazine has been checked off as conquered. Next year I will smash my time of 4 hours and 33 minutes. -SH