|Megan and I smiling at the start.|
Commit! Commit! Commit! My brain screamed a familiar mantra, knowing that a loss of sight would be a loss of mind. I didn't dare turn around; I wouldn't show weakness. But Duncan stuck. The searing attack became a slow-burn, where I tried to keep the pressure on without withering on the technical trails. We hit a short road-section at mile 3, and he was still there. Mile 4, still there. A knock-out blow became a rope-a-dope, until a sustained climb at mile 5. He was so efficient that I didn't recognize the fading of his footsteps. But by mile 6 there was a gap. The aid station rung their cowbells as I passed. 5 seconds....then 10....20.....suddenly, more cowbell rang through the forest. He was there, but now was the time.
I went. My brain refused to let go of the persistent ringing of the cowbells, hearing his footsteps through the peaceful morning. It was a trick though. There was a gap. Time to go. Attack! Attack! Attack!
FUCK! My ankle. The mud has a metallic taste. 2 seconds becomes 5........10. Self-pity wells under my eyes. Sadness is a neutered emotion. Once it takes hold, the empty embrace is completely consuming. Just then, as the fatiguing force becomes heavier and heavier, something lifts. There is someone behind me on the trail. Not Duncan, chasing his prey. No...Megan. Life.........Beauty...........Strength.................Speed.
FUCK THIS! I scream violently, telling the rocks and roots what I think of their mothers. That scream becomes internal, drowning out the ominous sound of cowbells and the penetrating pain of exertion. Mile 7 becomes mile 12 in a blur. 1:15:54 for 1st place, a 1:40 win and course record. Duncan second, and La Sportiva's Josh Wheeler third, 4:10 back. Megan won by 10 minutes in 1:26. She is amazing.
|Sharing a pre-race North Carolina sunset.|
This was the hardest race I have ever done. It hurt. It tore off any facade of stoicism, and substituted the nakedness of vulnerability. But in the vulnerability--in the agony, and especially in the weakness, came a wholly new feeling. From the depths of desperation came the peaks of empowerment. By letting go, and succumbing to the pain, I never had so much control. I was the one testing my limits. I was the one testing my will.
But I wasn't "one." The word I is pregnant with the idea personal empowerment, which is not why this race meant so much. No, this race meant so much because I was never alone in the journey, not even for a single rock jump or root stumble. A perfect soul was always with me, even when she wasn't right at my side. And that combination, the singularity of suffering combined with the duality of devotion.....from that combination came strength.
We run to glance over the edge, and in doing that we see what life can be. As beautiful as that feeling is, it is limited because it is self-contained. Seeing Megan cross the finish line, she radiated--she represented--the universal beauty. So we run to explore what life is. But we love....well, we love to see what life means.
Thanks to all of the awesome people at the race (especially Alicia, Mary, Kim, and Jason). And thanks to you, for reading. You guys are amazing :)