Stage race, Day 3: Perseverance or Stupidity?

Endurance athletes are a different breed. We like to go long, thrive in the hours upon hours of time in the woods, be it on foot or bike. We push past our comfort levels to get “there” (wherever there may be). I’d like to think we are fairly intelligent and wise, preparing adequate nutrition, hydration, and clothing for our adventure at hand. Then comes our bodies. Yes, we train consistently (and hopefully smartly) to ready ourselves for longer, harder, & further. We often push through the pain, but take notes of the little aches we feel along the way. Sometimes, decisions must be made.

For me, the first decision came at mile 8 of Stage 2. My knee was officially not cooperating – to the point I could not ignore it. Do I DNF today? pull out of the whole series? attempt tomorrow? I found a happy medium in the fact that I could still walk halfway normally, so while quite slow, I did finish that day. And, it kept me in the running for an overall finish.

©Mark McKnight.

Sunday came… with not a fantastic sleep and no appetite. The only plus I had going was my body & feet felt pretty good since my exertion level the day before was all but nil. Today would be a very challenging 20 miles. Starting from the soccer fields on Signal, we’d run thru the gorge to Suck Creek and back to Mushroom Rock. That itself would be considered a tough run; making it miles 42-46 of a 60 mile race is just cruel. There’s roughly 1250′ of elevation gain and another 1250′ of elevation loss during this section – and I’m not sure which was worse! Regardless, it did a number on my knee/ITB, and from here on it would be mostly hiking. (although I have to say, I’m developing quite the power hike :)  We stayed on the Cumberland Trail to Edward’s Point, then on to Signal Point. I’d run small sections that were mostly flat and not technical – nearly nonexistent out here. Then came the infamous Rainbow Lake section we scouted last week. Talk about slowwww going. At least most everyone was slow during these sections.

Since I came into day knowing I’d walk a lot, and that my only goal was to finish, I was in much better spirits than yesterday. People could see me struggling and ask if I was ok…  Sometimes I said yes, sometimes sorta… but that I knew I could finish. Doubt never entered my mind. The last 4 miles were a highlight. A new section of trail meandered by a creek, where some of the race staff (friends of mine) were camped out, encouraging folks with offers of cold beer and cold creeks. Since I wasn’t in it for the time, I indulged. I took a can, walked out to a lounge chair they set up in the middle of the creek, and took a seat. I’m not one for cheap beer, but damn, did that frosty Miller High Life hit the spot! While I was kicking back, Wendy & Mary came running through, so I hopped out and tagged along with them for the final few miles. It was great to finish up with some friends – the support was mutually appreciated, as the last 2 miles really felt like double.

I was thrilled to finish the stage, even if I was 2+ hrs off my anticipated time. It was a different experience, one I hope I can improve upon in the future. As for my knee…  Did I make the right decision in continuing on? Afterall, I knew 30 miles into a 60 mile race it was just not right. Call it Perseverance or my Taurean Stubborness; I just don’t like to quit. I guess only time will tell if it was a stupid decision, but I’ll do what I can now to rest & mend my body. I think my bikes have missed me anyways :)

Huge thanks to Rock/Creek Outfitters, Wild Trails, Smartwool and all the volunteers for another wonderful event!

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