There are two kinds of mud in Paris Ontario. There is the suckin' mud, the mud that grabs onto your foot like a crazy boyfriend and you have to scream at him "no I won't bear you 12 children and live in a shack in the woods" as you pull yourself out of the muck. That's the kind of mud that the Paris to Ancaster cross country bike race specializes in. Crazy boyfriend mud. Harmless really. Just don't return that mud's calls and he'll suck in someone else.
The mud on the trail at The Toad didn't look all that bad at first. Not suckin' mud. Just a couple inches on the trail, nothing you can't run through, walk if you have to, but easy peasy and you're on your way. Mud that you think resembles more the guys you met in bars at University. Sure they were grabbing their crotches as they offered to buy you a drink but you and your girlfriends had a laugh at their pickup lines -"so if we went for breakfast tomorrow, would I nudge you or call you?"- but in the end, you all went off for pizza - sans boys.
But you know, that mud in Paris on the The Toad trail, it didn't take no for an answer. It was stalkin' mud. You try to avoid the mud on a flattish portion of a trail and you find yourself slipping down the modest sideways incline. You think you'll just slide down the hill like skiing on butter but the mud has another idea. The mud takes you and won't let you go. The mud found out where you live, where you work and it's waiting for you. The mud was my enemy - I didn't like it, it didn't much care for me, but I kicked it's brown, slippery, stinky ass.
The Toad was my second trail race, the first ending in a very long walk in the woods. You might remember my helpful medic from the Limberlost race. Well, he was at the Toad, running the 25k and introduced me to his family as "The Ankle", we shared a moment laughing at the tree that almost took us both out and wished each other well. It was nice to see a friendly face because, although there was plenty of evidence of triathletes, and indeed Ironmen wandering around the race, I didn't see anyone else that I knew at all.
The race locale was really quite lovely with a rainbow over the lake and a wonderful fall feeling in the air. The weather report had switched over from massive deluge to light rain all day so there were no anxious moments rainwise.
Off we went on a 12.5 k route that varied between some paved road around trailers and tents in the park, a lovely meadow with rolling green hills, lots of nice wooded areas and one monster, I'm guessing 30 degree 30 foot high hill with a delightful skeleton at the top - drinking a cup of Tim Horton's, natch.
Considering the lack of actual ultra-marathon, or even marathon training I felt pretty good heading out. I took an easy pace, barely elevating my heart-rate reminding myself that the speedies around me were probably only doing the 25k and also, probably, getting themselves into trouble later. I'm not fast, I know I'm not, but I am ridiculously persevering. I honestly think it goes back to my years working in food service. 10-12 hours shifts create a certain work ethic and mentality. Work hard, drink beer, do it all again, don't whine, everyone else is tired too.
The second lap was challenging mentally because many of those 25 k runners were running out of steam. I tried to focus on how good I felt and tried to not get sucked into the negativity that many were falling into. Not so much a feeling of superiority as a sense that I have been at this long enough to know that I can do anything. As the 25 k runners picked up the pace in the last 3 k I hung back and though about how glad I was to be doing the 50 as I really felt I had it in me. I was pretty pumped.
There were only about 150 of us doing the 50 k and as I headed out on the third lap I could feel the energy change.
Sadly it seemed to really change for the worse. I tried my best with a couple of women who were really feeling it but, honestly, I just didn't have the energy for them so I picked up the pace both times and dropped them. The third lap was inspired entirely by my desire to not be lapped by my ride, the two fast women discussed in the earlier post. I'd look behind from time to time certain that I would see the two of them coming behind me like the hounds of hell. I was pleased to make the start of the next lap without them catching up.
Or so I thought. They had actually dropped out, the mud had just become too ridiculous for them. You see, the rain, although not a deluge was enough to loosen up the dirt portions of the trail creating the above referenced stalking mud. And it was bad. The only trees to grab onto seemed to be prickly bushes, the 30 degree hill in the meadow gave you the choice of all mud on the mowed portion or prickly plants on the perimeter. It was stupid hard for about 5k per 12.5 k loop.
I love stupid hard. Why the hell do you think I did Ironman. That course was not going to defeat me, I wanted that medal more than I remember wanting any other one during a race. It's funny, at Ironman I wanted the finish line, I wanted Mike Reilly to tell me I was an Ironman, I wanted the crowds, Saturday I wanted the medal. It was that tangible.
So, with a very guilty heart, I declared my intention to finish the race. I felt awful keeping them there but I just had to finish.
And then, my new friend Cathy appeared. We were to meet before the race but lost cell numbers etc thwarted that but there she was, Boston finisher's jacket, glowing face, and big, big hug. I took that energy on offer and set off. Now, the fire under my ass was running as fast as I could on the runable parts of the trail to make up for the mud and to finish as fast as I could so my chauffeurs could go home to well deserved beer.
And damn, I moved. I've said it before but it's true - Ironman training showed me how much endurance I have in me. There is no tired until the legs wobble and drop below you. Until then, suck it up buttercup. So I ran and ran, and slipped and slipped and broke the loop down into parts, 3 k to the aid station, 3 k to pass it again, 2 k to the massive hill, but then, only 1 k to the end. And the end, it was glorious, the medal is delightful (althought it doesn't say 50 k).
I've come to believe that the very essence of our humanness is found with endurance sports. They are seemingly solitary, self absorbed pursuits but those of us who take that route to life know, perhaps more than others, that we are a team out there.
Please take your life and use it up, wear it out, get blisters, chafe and sunburns. If you choose triathlon, and I hope you do, I wish you well on that journey. You will take on a lifestyle that is unparalleled. Either way, drop me a line, tell me your story.