Before delving into my own personal sufferfest, I want to extend high fives to other people in this long weekend of sufferfests. Here's a vague high five to everyone who raced that marathon in New York or wherever, and to everyone who did the Iceman, which looks super stupid, and to all the loud and encouraging spectators who swarmed the Shut-In. A very specific couple of high fives to Jenna and Lydia for being wonderful volunteers on the deserted, snowy Parkway. And a whole round of "up highs" for all my friends who crushed the Swank. The KOP proved that he will probably get faster every freaking year until he is eighty, Geoff B got fourth with a broken rib, and Derek finished strong on three different bikes, which tickles me to no end.
Confidence, which is supposed to have all kinds of miracle uses and magical results, has never really done good things for me in competition. Whether it be soccer games, XC meets, or bike races, I perform best when I've achieved a subtle blend of grumpiness, pessimism, apathy, and disgruntlement. I approached the Shut-In feeling prepared, eager, and confident of success, and just like those malignant clouds over the mountains, I should've known this peppy optimism did not bode well.
Dear Julia: Fear me. Love, the Parkway
No, I can't really blame the awfulness of the experience to some abstract concept like a good attitude. Contributing factors included: the cold; the cramping; the coldness of my calves; the coldness of my water; the coldness of a single GU lodged in my gut, which kept me from eating anything else the whole run.
All right, no more excuses. The Shut-In was very hard, very painful, somewhat rewarding, and veryveryvery beautiful. Even as I zombie-staggered up the brutal final two miles, sobbing from oxygen debt and hating the panting progress of other runners as they passed me, I couldn't help but notice the sun piercing the snow clouds, and the glitter of the frost-laced puffs of weeds lining the path. If I had to die the dramatic, absurd death I was envisioning for myself, at least I would be in heaven on earth.
Oh, and to everyone who said, "Beat Baker Bill,": not even close. He had a great race and beat me by ten minutes. Despite falling apart, I did meet my target of a sub-4 hour finish (which I realize now was not an especially lofty goal).
A less than rosy experience after the finish did not help matters, but eventually we escaped the sub-freezing windy venue and returned to real life in the valley below. It's kind of hard to walk now, but safely ensconced in my warm bed, I am (as usual) forgetting that promise I made to myself during the last ten miles: "Never again, never again, never again."
The view from the top (images courtesy of Ian Hilley)