It's Monday morning. I wake up around 6:30 AM to sunshine pouring into my windows, birds singing their most glorious song because these are truly the first few days of Spring, and I begin to remember my ankle. Oh right - I think to myself - that was really painful last night. I notice that I'm lying halfway on my stomach, and my ankle is currently in a dorsiflexed position (side note: Wix wants to auto-correct that word to "oversexed"). Well that's good - I think to myself again - maybe all the swelling went down over night and I'll be back to normal today.
Unfortunately that isn't the case. Two days later and I'm still not exactly walking.
Rewind to Friday night. I'm in my tent, camped out on a plush Ikea synthetic comforter, a purple yoga mat that I acquired after Seattle Running Company closed up to become Fleet Feet Seattle, and my 0-degree Marmot sleeping bag. Yum. For some reason I find few things more cozy than cuddling up in my sleeping bag in my tent. And for how comfortable I was, I slept not at all. Instead of sleeping, my mind decided to go absolutely berzerk thinking about all the fast-looking women I'd seen gathering at the campground, fretting about how my stomach would fair during the impending race, wondering if I'd eaten enough food all day and at dinner. Around 3:30 AM I prop myself up to check the time. Hmm, okay, two hours til my alarm goes off; I guess that's good; I figured it'd be time to get up by now. I put the phone back down. And naturally, I pass out.
5:05 AM: it sounds like a zoo outside my tent. The campground is buzzing. Most people are already getting up, picking up their race bibs, eating bars and things, and trying to beat the line at the port-o-johns. I decide I can get up now, 25 minutes ahead of schedule. Why not? I drink some coffee, chat with the guy in the tent next to mine who turns out to be Jed from Ithaca. Yup, Jed from Ithaca. He's eating granola. I spend 5 minutes heating up the breakfast that I'd prepared the night before: buckwheat, rolled oats, chia seeds, coconut flakes, coconut oil, cinnamon, salt, two soft-boiled eggs, spinach, ruby sauerkraut, and avocado.
I beat the line to the port-o-johns.
Somehow it's already 6:30 AM. Elizabeth's making us take pictures (of course I have to jab, but, really, who doesn't love pictures? even if they're happening when you're supposed to be warming up and starting to get mobile before the big race), I'm trying to figure out whether to wear synthetic or wool socks. I throw on this pair of Solomon Sense Pro purple (Barney) shoes that Ian brought for me from his shop (Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon); I've never worn Solomon shoes before, but today seems like a great day to start.
6:50 AM: after getting in some high knees, butt kicks, hip flexor openers, quad, glute, and IT band stretches, I hide behind the nearest building for one last release :)
6:55 AM: more pictures. I meet one of my new teammates - Jade Mills - and try my darndest to not show how frightful I am that she's about to blow me out of the water.
7:00 AM: game time.
7:05 AM: no woman is ahead of me yet! shit! I must be going out too fast. Slow down? Don't slow down? Keep going? I don't know how to pace myself! The guy I thought I'd run with all day - Jay Lemos, who only ran 50 miles last Saturday and therefore will run closer to my pace today - is already light years ahead of me. I can't be going too fast then. I must be going too slow? At least these shoes feel fine. So far.
I wear a watch but I lose track of time. With great contentment I make it to the top and bottom of the first climb without falling. Last year I fell at the beginning of the very first descent, smashed my favorite sun glasses, and banged my knee so hard that it's still bruised. I definitely didn't want to make that mistake again. Success.
My friend Beef Kirk zips up from behind me. What on earth are you doing so far behind!? He'd started the race only to realize he'd left his phone in his car, which he wanted to run with to record the race. So he'd gone back to his car, gotten his phone, and restarted the race. And now he'd caught up to me. Fine. Some people are just fast. Spoiler: he goes on to place 3rd in the 1/2 marathon race. Jerk. Beef Jerk. Vegetarian. R...
Fast forward: bottom of breakneck climb. This is why I do this race. Another reason why I do this race is because before I lived in New York I did this race (photo courtesy of the one and only magnificent Glenn Tachiyama):
You see, I like hills. I absolutely love going up them, and I mostly love coming down them (I used to love coming down them even more, but lately I trip and fall and roll ankles a lot, so it becomes slightly less fun as I age...). On the same day of this magnificent race in which we are currently here in New York - Breakneck Point Trail Marathon - is another truly incredible race taking place in Yakima, Washington - Yakima Skyline Rim. Yakima is a race I've done twice, and when I moved from WA to NY last March, I was so sad to be missing what is possibly James Varner's greatest event (though admittedly I haven't run all of his races). So I can't quite explain my excitement upon learning about Breakneck, as it proposed to be an equally grueling and hilly endeavor. Might I say, it is.
So we climb up Breakneck, literally. I pass a few Mike Siudys along the way, say goodbye to Julian for the day, and think for a minute that the bagpipe music is coming out of a speaker rather than a real live bagpipe.
Oh yeah, but I don't manage to ditch Jay Lemos, even despite his ridiculous line up of recent Saturday endeavors. This turns out to be a life saver.
Post-breakneck decent: left ankle roll number one. Jay gets ahead of me. Damnit.
A few minutes later I find the silken-haired man at an aid station. I pass him.
He catches up to me. Damnit. Can't I be faster than a guy who just ran 50 miles!
More climbing. Incredible views. Now I have a running partner in Jay. We talk about some things, and don't talk about things because we're breathing hard because most of this race happens on the side of a minor cliff (not really, but close). We discuss potential finishing times and whether or not we should be able to meet those time goals. We decide we can.
Still no woman in sight. I guess that's a good thing. I wonder what time I would have run in the 1/2. I like the shorter stuff :)
Mile 18.5. Down. I'm down, flailing, kicking, screaming. Left ankle roll number two. Later Jay will tell you that I look like a baby deer being born. We're on a silly decent with zero easy footing options; it's runable, but no step goes down easy. I take an awkward landing on my right foot, try to make up for it with the left, and manage to get almost my entire body weight on the top side of my left foot. Down. Flailing. Screaming.
Jay pins my leg down. Which foot is it!
I don't know! It's my left. The left one!
Okay, it looks fine. You're going to be fine. Just get up, you gotta put some weight on it. It'll feel better once you start to move it.
Oh my god I can't. I can't. It hurts so much. Jay we were making such good time. I'm so sorry. We were doing so well!
It's fine, we're still doing well. Just try to walk on it. Just try to put weight on it.
Who knows if those are actually the words exchanged, but whatever Jay said to me in those moments were invaluable at the time. I'd been leading the race up til now and I certainly didn't want to lose my place (heck, I've had my fair share of second-place finishes; today I was about the win).
We get moving. Hobbling. It must have taken us forty minutes to move two miles down hill. No woman in site.
We get to the last aid station around mile 21. Jay eats some snacks. I tell him I gotta jet because we're about to double back on the course and I sure as heck don't want to be spotted by any women. I don't want them to know how slow I've become on account of this ankle. I tell Jay to just catch up to me on the upcoming climb.
I leave, start the ascent, climb into the woods. Soon we're out onto the wide, rocky hiking trail. Tourists and day-hikers abound. Somehow I'm able to ignore my ankle and move pretty swiftly up this last climb. Ian, you couldn't have placed this climb more perfectly. I just completely bonked my race with that ankle roll, but this last climb gives me a heck of a lot of confidence that no one is about to beat me from behind. I'm still nervous. But the climb feels so good.
This is probably a good point to give due kudos to Elizabeth - that picture-snapper from earlier - who has been coaching me through rehabilitating my weak glute muscles and helping me train for this race. There sure aren't a lot of hills in Rochester, but with her advice and focus on strengthening my glute muscles and hamstrings, I feel like I've been climbing mountains all winter long today. Climbing feels so good today! Climbing today feels better than climbing felt when I lived in the mountains and literally climbed mountains every day! Thank you, endlessly, for that Elizabeth!
Let me say one more time: the climb feels good. I keep checking my watch for the distance. I don't want this climb to end until I only have two miles left of downhill. Again, perfectly placed, Ian. Perfect. We get to the top. The descent begins. Just over two miles to go.
There's a guy behind me - not Jay...he never did catch back up...turns out he made a wrong turn...I feel like a jerk for leaving him at that aid station after he picked me up and got me back on my feet - and I keep expecting him to pass me, since we'd been leap-frogging each other prior to my ankle roll at mile 18. He doesn't. I hear the cow bells. I know this trail. The end is just ahead.
Last year I won the 15-mile race at Breakneck. I was third overall. When I crossed the finish line no one was there; no one even knew I'd finished. I may be out of commission for a bit after this race, but at least this year the finish line was better than last year.