It is 10am on June 17th, and I am hoofing it up Bird Ridge. Not a leisurely hike. (Bird Ridge isn’t what I would call a leisurely hike at all!) I’ve been attempting to tailgate an amazing woman… who is 74 years old. I’ve been trying to keep up with her this whole last hour, and I’ll be blunt; she is kicking my ass. It is all I can do to keep her in my sights, and not have a heart attack. How does this woman do it? How can I be more like her? To keep my mind off my burning lungs, screaming calves and pounding heart, I start to think why the hell I’m on this mountain anyway… and it is all because of that darn Mount Marathon!
When I applied for Mount Marathon Race in March, I knew it would be a great fitness goal. It is one of those that lingers in the back of your head when you want to sleep in… “Get your lazy butt up, you COULD get into Mt. Marathon!” would hiss into my ear from my physically fit self conscious. My body would fight, but I eventually listened to my inner personal trainer and got to the gym, ran, etc. It was also a great motivator to keep me going when I’m so busy with life; my husband putting our sunken boat back together, me finishing up my degree at Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and seeing clients. It was all going good until a friend posted on my facebook page: YOU GOT IN! I screamed out loud and scared my children half to death. “Oh Honey, I told you so…” said the fit physique inside my head. I wanted to strangle her.
Then it was on. Running up dairy hill over and over. Hearing about people already going up the mountain. Other people encouraging me to wait until there was less snow and more people going up. Feeling like I’m going to throw up every time I go to check my mail and see that freaking mountain looming over me. Then my friend and Fitness Trainer Rachel told me it was time for my first trip up: Halfway.
Lets just say that it was painful. My calves hurt so badly. I watched Rachel as she went up ahead of me. She was on her toes in the steep parts. I was back on my heels. I switched to toes and felt relief… which lasted for a few minutes until those muscles ached. She showed me what ways work for her, what she liked and didn’t like, and things to watch out for. We went back down the up trail. It took me well over an hour to get to the halfway point. I was a wreck.
My first time to the top was with Jen Uriarte. It was so cold, and windy, and snow was pelting my face. My lungs were on fire, and I fought to catch my breath. I forgot all the pain when she said, “You did it!” and I turned around. Unbelievable! So worth it!
Since then, I’ve gone up lots, mostly to halfway, as it is my biggest anxiety. Each time I go up, I’m learning what it looks like as the snow melts, and deciding the safest way to go. The best part of it all, is sneaking into this fantastic culture of Seward that I never even knew: The Mountain Runners. There are SO many people in town that are in love with this mountain. Not all necessarily the race, but everything involved with it. Hearing stories of people injured, fastest times, legend of secret trails, it goes on and on! I quickly began to understand the fascination, and after my first time to the top, was hooked.
So back to my huffing and puffing up Bird Ridge. I knew from other runners that this race was great training for Mt. Marathon, so like an idiot, I signed up. And here I am, going up this Mountain as fast as I can. I’m at the snow portion now, and grab a handful to eat while I trek through. I can’t even see Mary Hensel now, what an animal!
I remember reading that many runner’s times at Bird Ridge are comparable to what they accomplish on Mount Marathon. So I try stepping up the pace. In through my nose, out through my mouth. Steady. I see a peak up ahead with people on it shouting. Is that it? Awesome! I pick up the pace some more. As I approach the peak, I see the REAL finish behind it. Distant. Small. Crap. Keep going. I keep thinking of Frodo on his way to Mordor, clinging to the rocks looking like he is going to die. I start to laugh, which becomes a hysterical giggle that affects my breathing. Oh, God, did I drink enough water? Is that really my last thought in my head as I die of dehydration, giggling over Hobbits?
Then I start to see my best motivator ever. Mary Hensel. She is the rockstar I was talking about earlier. I’m catching up to her! She is one of the famous Alaska Mountain Turtles, and I can only pray that I am that physically fit at when I am her age. We hit a level spot as I come up on her. “Mary,” I say, “I’m gonna run while I’ve got run left in me.” She turns and smiles. “Go for it! You’re doing great!” And those words of encouragement were all I needed to finish. I could here Mary’s daughter, Michelle (who I wasn’t even close to keeping up with) yelling for me. I smiled and pushed a little bit harder. According to my watch, (I never checked the race postings) I finished in 1:44. I am totally cool with that. If I finished Marathon in that time… I would be really happy.
So, as I write this, the big race day is one week away. Not only did I take the leap and apply, but I got into the race by lottery on the first year I tried. I’m supposed to do this race. Will I be crossing the finish line in first place… Ummmm, NO. Will I finish before the parade? Perhaps. But if I do finish during the parade, I will warn you now, I’m gonna upstage whatever float I’m running with, no question. J Thanks Seward for being such an awesome community, and making this such an awesome experience. Let the race begin!