I like to think that I live in a good mental space with spirit and mind, while balancing todays world events and my finances... and I somehow seem to manage a somewhat even keel most of the time. But, today at this race, while running in humidity thick enough to swim through, my clothes soaked completely wet with sweat before I reach mile two, and sliding about in the mud, I let my sense of self slip down and merge with the slop. I typically revel in a nasty wet messy course and enjoy the non-normal-ness of it, smile and joke, and pick up pace. Today, I have the added pleasure of running with a dear old friend and running buddy, Hobbs, who is always in a good spirit, so I struggle to understand why I'm down here. Hell, life is good. Must be some perfectly wrong alignment of the moon and stars, or maybe it's just the rash that's beginning down in my nether regions that sinks my mood. Whatever it is, I need to escape.
Hobbs runs ahead, and I struggle to keep up, slipping into a walk on every climb and sometimes on the flats. Back and forth we go with a few others, and at one point, Hobbs rushes ahead... and I think he has finally given up on me, when I realize he sees a friend and goes to visit. We catch up to Cris, running with her sister in the marathon. We talk a bit, take a picture, then continue, and Cris comes with us to loosen her legs a bit, before dropping back with her sister. She then comes back up, tells us her sister says to go run with us for a while, so she does. We're now on the back-side hills, under the power-lines, and Hobbs begins to pull ahead again, and then he is gone. I tell Cris to go on and catch Hobbs, but she says she's ok right here behind me. We go in silence for a ways, and I always appreciate a friend who is ok with silence as a form of communication. With my current funk, I'm especially glad not to share my mood. But then Cris asks, how are you Joe? And she seems to ask that with more than just a standard greeting. Well, I don't answer right away, but then I do. I get started talking about my shoulder, then my hip, my eyes, and after about 15 minutes of bullshit about the litany of things that just don't seem to be working right, I catch myself and apologize. What the hell is the matter with me? Cris is always good with me and so she smiles and tells me, 'no worries', but it just makes me feel worse. That I actually verbalized all that funk, and let it out. We drop into the next aid station together and of course, Hobbs is there, sorting out his gear and refilling his water bladder. I should have known, of all people, he'd wait, even if I tell him, he better not be waiting for me. Go run your best race! He says, this is what I got and it's all good.
And so we go out together, while Cris stops to wait for her sister. We're about halfway into the race at this point, soaked clean through, and I attempt to push myself a bit more, but can't seem to find what I need. The temps are actually cooler than it's been of late, but the all night rain has dropped a humidity blanket on the area, which cancels the temperature benefit. We walk the ups, run the downs, and mix walk/run on the flats. This is where I try to match Hobbs with his walking speed, and it aint easy. The boy can walk pretty fast when he wants to. With no sun reference, the only idea I have to where I actually am is with reference to my GPS milage, the occasional sound of a car on the perimeter road, or a boat from the river on the other side of the road. We are actually on a peninsula surrounded by the Colorado River, and the road rides the perimeter, while all this mess of trails remains mostly inside of both. I had marked this course each of the last few years, and know the system of trails reasonably well, but this year's course has been modified such that I am not exactly certain where we are and what is next. I recognize many of the landmarks, but am not all that comfortable with much more than the rudimentary aspects of my location.
The next aid station is exactly where I expect it to be, and while Hobbs is in a froggy attitude, my drag-ass mood has a desire to stop for a few moments to refill with ice, have some orange slices, and take a big drink of coke. Maybe some sugar will kick me out of this bog. With roughly four miles to go, I feel the energy of knowing it is almost over, and still I can't disconnect the anchor dragging behind me in the mud. I talk to Hobbs once more about cutting me loose and going on, and he tells me he's just fine where and how he is. This is where the mud gets even worse. As flat and easy as it appears to be, the mud is so slick as to cause each step to slide and spin out, so we attempt to use the grass on the trail side, same as everybody else has, and so even the grass is slick with mud. Hobbs seems to do better with this than me, with his best Wile E. Coyote high speed stationary run. We wind around the inside loop, under 3 miles now, heading back on the inner jeep road, and for the first time, the sun begins to burn off the humidity, split the clouds, and offer us some of the sun's rays and it's subsequent heat. Usually, this is not a good sign, but today, it is good to see and feel.
We make another big sweeping turn on the jeep road, and the new course once again deviates and takes us off road and up a singletrack, and I do mean up. More UP I was not expecting! Nice, but damn. Run turns to a walk, not that the walk is slower, and so we continue UP and over, back to the road, and then another trail, back to the road. Down under 2 miles now, we make one turn after another and I am so turned around. My GPS reads 13 miles and I know we must be close, but it's a good bit after that before I know where I am, and we cross the main paved road and head down to the river. And so it ends, and I am so done, as we cross over the timing mat and head down into the river, clean up to our necks.
I'm ok now, flushed the pollutants out of me, desiten on me, and beer in me. Hanging out with a few good friends as the rain comes in to finish the cleansing process. Wow! That was a mind-blowing, spirit-checking, washing-cycle of energy. I'd rather not do that again. I feel great now, but that entire race for me was one huge suck... and all of it was completely within me!