HW: Road from the Rim Rock Run
Three days before the US Bank Rim Rock Run, I watched the weather report and fretted over record morning lows of 15 degrees.
I was used to training through the tripledigit temperatures of summer and didn’t own 15-degree running clothes. I didn’t own 15-degree lungs.
I kept my fingers crossed for a warm front and turned to more important issues such as figuring my time and mileage.
I studied the map of Rim Rock Drive (as if I didn’t already have it committed to memory) and calculated where on the course I needed to be by what tim e. I wanted to finish by 12:30 p.m., a half-hour before the course closed.
As it turned out, Nov. 8 was a crystal clear day made for running.
I was bursting with excitement on the way to the starting line. I had spent seven months preparing for the next five hours. I had paid my dues, and I was ready to rumble.
When the starting gun fired, nearly 170 runners funneled through Colorado National Monument’s east gate to tackle the first batch of hills and 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
I made it to the Glade Park turnoff at 8:59 a.m., a full minute ahead of schedule
“This is great,” I thought. “I may make that 4 1/2 hour goal.”
And just then the pain I’d been ignoring in my left foot finally got my attention in a big way. Continuing to ignore it, I did my best to land on the right side of my left foot for the rest of the run.
As I plodded along for the next several hours, I mentally recorded these observations:
• Overnight an amazing geologic event transpired and the entire length of Rim Rock Drive was now uphill, all of it. At least that’s how it felt. But it was still as jaw-dropping spectacular as ever.
• Somewhere around mile 12 I heard an airplane buzzing and watched it make several loops. I later found out it was my brother-in-law and nephew, Dag and Max Adamson, checking to see if I needed to be rescued.
• I was hungry the whole way but couldn’t even choke down a Clif bar, my usual saving grace. I did gobble Advil at two aid stations, but they failed to assuage my hunger. I vaguely remember some delicious potato chips at one aid station.
• The distance between miles 10 and 18 is approximately 62 miles.
• At mile 15 my boyfriend, Dan Wilson, drove by in the opposite lane to take pictures and asked if I wanted a ride. Then he drove off before I could answer.
• I let out a war whoop of victory at each mile marker until about mile 19. After that, it didn’t seem worth the effort.
• There is an actual difference in elevation between the white and yellow paint of the lane markers. Really, you can feel it.
• When my son, Alex, was little, I went for bike rides with him in a carrier seat. When we got to a hill he would waggle his legs back and forth and shout, “Go, Mommy, go!”
On this morning, Alex couldn’t get off work to see me at the finish line, but he promised he would be thinking
“Go, Mommy, go!” It helped.
• In the time it would take me to finish, I could have driven to Denver and been shopping somewhere in Cherry Creek.
After two hours, I knew that many people were close to finishing. At the risk of hurting their feelings — big deal. Two hours is just a warm-up. Us true hard-core runners can tough it out for four hours or more.
The only time I felt a moment of uncertainty was rounding the first of numerous switchbacks just past the Visitor’s Center and spotting the finish line and the gate. It looked tiny, like a Lego block sitting in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
“How do they expect me to do that?” I asked, not really considering who “they” were. It made me nauseous for a moment, and I had to choose between upchucking and continuing to run.
I glanced at my time and realized that if I had any chance of finishing within the five hours, upchucking was not an option. I focused on not losing my mind and thought about the finish line and being able to stop.
And the relief that would come from cutting off my left foot.
Finally, I saw the sign for mile 22. Twenty-two! Oh my goodness, so close.
And then I rounded the last switchback and there it was, the end of my pilgrimage, the red stripe of the finish line. It took me four hours, 48 minutes and 28 seconds to reach it.
I crossed that red stripe and damn near hyperventilated from the realization that I had done it.
I ran the Rim Rock Run and I got the T-shirt.
I celebrated with my family and friends at the finish line and clapped happily for the few remaining runners.
Then we headed up the road to the post-race celebration where gobs of glorious food waited.
The two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on white bread I wolfed down tasted better than just about anything I’ve ever eaten.
I spent the rest of the day sitting in a tub of cold water and ice cubes (torturous at first, but really effective pain relief), eating, rehydrating and pondering how I could improve my time next year.
Yes, next year. Maybe. If I grow a new foot by then.
Care to join me?