Out There: It’s All Uphill From Here

Let’s take a moment to let this soak in: 3250 feet of elevation gain. Ten miles. All uphill.

I may or may not have made a very stupid decision. And said decision may or may not be causing mild panic.

Written by: Susan Lacke

Let’s take a moment to let this soak in: 3250 feet of elevation gain. Ten miles. All uphill.

When it comes to running and triathlon, I’m pretty much up for anything. I signed up for an Ironman before I had even finished my first half marathon. I’ve hopped in a car to drive to a race at the last minute because a friend said it “sounded like fun.” There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve run in places I’ve had no business running (note: when the concierge in your hotel laughs incredulously and refuses to suggest running routes in the neighborhood, reconsider your training plans for that night).

I’ve raced after large and heavy meals, and I’ve raced on a dangerously empty stomach. I’ve raced in costumes, and I’ve raced almost naked. There have been giggly runs completed under the influence of beer, and miserable, soul-sucking runs the morning after those giggle-inducing beers.

In spite of my questionable decision-making skills when it comes to running, every time, I’ve emerged relatively unscathed. With every race, I’ve gained a little more swagger in my step and added another bullet point to my list of “Reasons I Love Running.” It’s a long list. Meet me for coffee sometime, and I’ll share all 18,765 items (you might want to order a pastry – we’ll be a while).

But this time, I’m not so sure.

Recently, someone told me about the Kitt Peak Ascent in April, one of the more challenging road races of my running community. It’s 3250 feet of elevation gain over ten miles, all uphill.

Let’s take a moment to let this soak in: 3250 feet of elevation gain. Ten miles. All uphill.

And my name is on the participant roster. Told you it was a stupid decision.

I don’t recall actually registering. I remember looking at the website, then looking at an e-mail confirming my registration; in between those two events is a black screen. I assume my brain is trying to protect me as a running form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After all, it’s kind of a shock to the brain to admit it’s entered a race where the website clearly goes out of its way to inform you medical teams and ambulances will be on standby. You know, just in case someone figures out running up a mountain IS REALLY <BLEEP>ING PAINFUL.

In all the challenging training and racing experiences of my running career, I’m going to assume this is going to be ranking at the top of the list.

Then again, I felt the exact same way before my first 5K. Months later, I had the same amount of fear before my first half marathon. My first marathon would not have happened if my best friend hadn’t pushed me out of the car at the shuttle busses to the start line. I remember sending a text message to my mother before my first sprint triathlon, with a panicked cry of “I WANT MY MOMMY!” Minutes before my first Ironman triathlon, my boyfriend Neil had to literally force me to get into the water.

Looking back, there was no difference between the level of fear before my first 5K and the level of fear before my first Ironman. I also know it’s the exact same level of fear I’ll be feeling before the Kitt Peak Ascent in April.

You know the feeling: Until the finish line is crossed, we’re faced with the unknown, and that’s terrifying. We don’t know if the race will hurt, if something will go wrong, or if we’ll make an embarrassment of ourselves. Though the logical brain wants to trust in the training plan and know that everything will work out, the emotional mind conceives every single worst-case scenario possible, whether it’s as benign as tripping over the curb or as ridiculous being attacked by a swarm of bees.

But just as quickly as those fears came at the race registration, they disappeared at the finish line. Suddenly, you can’t remember anything but how awesome it felt to cross the finish line. You’re drunk with happiness. There’s a swagger in your step and you’ve added bullet point #18,766 to your list of reasons you love running…and you can’t wait until your next race.

Though I’m panicking at the moment, I’ve experienced this fear/relief cycle enough to know I’ll get to the top of Kitt Peak in April. Just forgive me if my swagger is more of a limp for a few days after the race – and maybe toss me one of those giggle-inducing beers.

See you Out There!

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