(2 of 3 posts)
Starting up that mountain, I knew I was in for it with this leg of the race, but I wanted to see what would happen. This sort of behavior always got me into trouble as a child, as my parents will be happy to tell you, and I still haven't learned the lesson. Probably too late at this point.
I knew this portion was more than 2 km, and from what I could see it was nothing but straight up a winding mountain road going up to a towering crest far above the valley. The top did look like about a vertical mile, but no one could be expected to run this entire monster by themselves, could they?
First it was major effort. Then it was worse. My team drove slowly past on the incline, I think I waved and tried to smile, though it probably lost translation on the way to my face and emerged as a grimace. They disappeared around a corner, needing to keep going to not stop or slide.
I was having a similar problem. Trying to keep the cadence of my feet consistent, my steps got smaller and smaller until I was barely inching my way up. Sweat was stinging my eyes and dripping off my face onto the sand as I gritted my teeth and strained and pushed.
It was like going through the stages of grieving.
First: Denial. I can do this. I will not falter, I will not fail. I will not break stride. This isn't as hard as it seems. Pain is temporary.
and so forth.
Second Stage: Anger. Aaargh! I said I wanted this and I WILL have it! I won't let my team down, damnit damnit DAMNIT!
My calves, thighs, toes, back were cramping, burning, screaming. How did my legs get so heavy? Around each corner, I could see no sign of the changeover, just the other racers faltering, struggling, suffering as I was, though they were higher class of athlete and a few passed me. It was like a slug race, though. Slowwww-ly passing, slowwwwww-ly left behind. We gasped encouragement to each other and kept going.
Keep going, keep going. I couldn't see, my eyes stinging from the sweat and sunscreen, couldn't hear for the roar in my ears. Was that my heart? I broke. Dropped to a walk. I forced myself to make it a long-stride, fast as I could, high arm swinging "in your face" walk, but it was still a walk.
Stage 3: Bargaining. I'll start running again at that rock there and not stop again. OK, that wasn't so good. Um, I'll run from there to there, and then walk some more. If I can just catch that guy right there...OK, maybe not, (at this point an extremely fit runner, maybe 75 yards up the trail from where I was collapsed and was hauled into a support car), I'll take 50 sets of 4 steps and then walk...push push push....
Stage 4: Depression I am so letting my team down. They have got to be wondering what on earth happened to me. They're going to wish I wasn't on their team, they're going to hate and blame me, they worked so hard and I'm messing the time all up...
team member Kathy
team member Tom
team captain Graham team member Sara
I stopped and took a very, very deep breath. Bent double. Then straightened.
Stage 5: Acceptance That little shack or whatever it is at the very very top? Well, that must be it. This really is a run to the very top. This is quite the mountain. There's no getting out of it, there's no quitting, so now we just do this thing as best as we can.
This didn't make it any less miserable, but I could see the valley when the leg had started far, far below me now. That the cars were having trouble going up was actually encouraging. My team would know I was working hard for them. Though I'd started out well-hydrated, my tongue was feeling thick, and though my lungs had recovered somewhat with the walking and were ready for more work, the calves and thighs simply couldn't run more than a few yards at a time. I concentrated on how much ground I was covering rather than how fast my legs were going, and that helped. Up, and up, cars and runners alike cautious of getting in each other's way. Under my feet the rubble slipped and shifted, but I huffed and puffed like the little engine that could.
There was a welcome flatter area just before the final curve and peak, and I tried to get up some speed there, but with limited success. Back on the unbelievable incline. By some miracle I made myself move my feet fast enough to approximate an attempt at running as the final summit came...and that wasn't the end either.
But up, and over, and down a small hill, there was my team! The downhill cost me much, but it was such a relief to GO again, and to release my back and legs and let myself flow down the mountain to my team, the muscle fibers pulled so tight now returning to the other direction. It felt unbelievably good. I made sure I ran every millimeter of the way to the checkpoint number, touched Kathy's hand and she blazed off.
I don't remember now much of what I did next. I think I did some walking away from the group for a moment to catch my breath, I know I got something to drink, though whether I acquired it for myself or had it pressed into my hand, I do not recall.
What I never imagined was that Graham would report my jaunt in the Dubai Road Runners newsletter when he wrote up the Wadi Bih race. He sends this out to hundreds of people, by the way. Here it is, in all its glory:
Here are a few nominations for additional awards.
The Dumbest action of the day........ Natalie Van Cleave
Natalie was getting a bit hot under the collar because she was not getting enough running. When she was given a 1.5 km leg she felt short changed. As she came to the change over point she said "Can I carry on and do the next leg too?" We gladly conceded. The next leg was 2.2 km with a climb of 300m. At the top Natalie mumbled that in the history of mankind maybe only 5 things were dumber than volunteering for that leg.
He also emailed to me the following: I just checked out the route on Google Earth. On the two legs you combined up the hill you climbed 324m or 1069 ft. I guess that statistic is going to find its way onto your blog.
How correct he was.
(to be continued---hey, this was a really long race!)