As in…I finished that 30K trail race last weekend.
Finishing was my only goal.
After all, it’s been three years since I ran this distance or longer, and I was thinner then. And faster. My longest training run this summer was twelve miles. Finishing was hardly assured, but given the remoteness of the course, bailing wasn’t an option.
I figured the miles would be painful given my lack of training, but a worthy test of my mettle.
The route offered magnificent views of this section of Idaho’s Payette National Forest, a section that nearly burned earlier this summer in the Nethker Creek Fire.
The loop course also offered significant challenges: 3,500 feet of gain in the first half and 3,500 feet of loss in the second half; a high point of 8, 752 feet at the top of a half-mile cross-country climb to a radio repeater tower; and long sections of trail rutted by dirt bikes and filled with loose rocks, making footing tricky, especially on the downhills.
There were sections of delightfully smooth single track trail and the weather was perfect.
Roughly three miles from the finish, descending one of those rutted and rocky downhill sections while listening to gusts of wind move the treetops surrounding me, causing trees to rub against each other and make otherworldly screeching sounds, I heard a loud crack behind me. I stopped and looked back up the trail just in time to watch a large tree fall, debris flying as it fell through its neighboring trees until crashing to the ground perpendicular to the trail maybe 50 feet away. I couldn’t see whether it actually fell across the trail, but if it didn’t, it came damn close.
Had I been a few seconds slower….
My tired legs were suddenly rejuvenated, at least until I got down out of the trees and out into the open a mile from the finish area.
I finished in 5:03, well behind the lead runners but hey, at least I wasn’t DFL (dead fucking last).
And because I was the only woman over 60, I won my age group and set a course record for it as well. See? Hanging in there long enough (I started running 44 years ago), outlasting your age-group competition, pays off.
As my friend Ben and I waited for the race to start that morning we met a guy from Colorado named Dan. Like us, Colorado Dan is also in the 60-69 age category. He was behind us from the start, but as I came down from the summit turnaround midway through the race, Dan was heading up. “Good job, Rebecca!” he shouted when he saw me, holding up a hand for a high-five slap as I passed him heading down. When Colorado Dan came across the finish line 25 minutes after me (Ben got there ten minute ahead of me), we oldsters congratulated each other, sweaty, dusty, and tired, but smiling.
Age is just a number.
Featured image: the view from a shoulder near the summit of Bear Pete Mountain. Even though I carried my phone/camera throughout the race, this is the only section where I stopped to take a few photos.