“The secret of man is the secret of his responsibility.” -Václav Havel
This weekend, I’ve learned that you can be both undertrained and overtrained. A few week ago, I signed up for the Eastern Divide 50k because I wanted a longer race in June as training. My last one was the Leatherwood 50k in April and I haven’t run longer than 20 miles since. I did, however, start training with the TriYon team again, which means adding back a bit of strength and speed work into my running. Hence, undertrained with less than ideal miles on my legs, but overtrained with tired muscles from workouts.
That didn’t dampen the excitement of a weekend getaway at Mountain Lake in Pembroke, VA, though. A group of Salisbury runners rented a house at the Mountain Lake Lodge, where “Dirty Dancing” was filmed, and they welcomed me as a late add-on.
Eastern Divide 50k is a point-to-point race that starts from the Cascade Falls in the Jefferson National Forest, up and down Butt Mountain, through forests and meadows, and finishes back at the Mountain Lake Lodge. The race begins with a four-mile climb up towards the Cascade where AS 1 is. The first male/female runner make it up there would be “crown” as King and Queen of the Mountain and the title also comes with a nice $125 gift certificate at Blue Ridge Mountain Sports. The only caveat is that you still have to finish the race! As the race begins, runners “trickled up” a mild climb in the first mile, but it got steeper. I kept my head down most of the time but looked up occasionally as I heard the sound of rushing water beside me. We were running on an upper trail that didn’t go right up against the waterfall, but I still caught a few glimpses of it.
Around midway through the climb, I caught up with two guys running steadily so I trailed behind them. AS 1 arrived sooner than I thought and we were greeted with enthusiastic volunteers who were cooking bacon and drinking bourbon (it’s 12 o’clock somewhere?). A lady asked for my name and told me that I was the first female who made it up! That surprised me since I saw a pretty big crowd in front of me at the start. Since I still had 27 miles ahead of me, I didn’t think much of it and soldiered on.
The majority of the race was on forest service roads except for the first four miles and the last eight. At mile 5, we summited Butt Mountain, followed by some rolling hills and a lot of down for the next five miles. The next real big climb was at around mile 16 going up to Wind Rock. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually go up to the summit, which would have offered spectacular views. From my own experience, my low points at 50Ks usually come between mile 18-25. It’s the “purgatory” miles that just feel...long. And also knowing that I still have a long way to go. It’s the time you just have to put one foot in front of the other and find ways to enjoy these miles. I caught up with two other runners at a steep climb. We were all alternating between running and hiking at this point. As I passed them, I heard one of the runners commented, “What’s the point of running up this if the last eight miles are so technical?”
Just this week, I started reading the book, “Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good.” In it, author Steven Garber discussed our accountability and responsibility for the world. “The secret of man is the secret of his responsibility,” Garber quoted Václav Havel, “the most celebrated playwright in Czechoslovakia in the 1960s and 70s,” imprisoned for publicly protesting the totalitarianism of Communism in the 1980s, and made president after Soviet Union collapsed. Responsibility was on my mind this week and throughout the race. To whom am I responsible? And at this particular moment at the race, “To whom am I responsible that I shall run up this hill?” Then I remember Team TY, Jamey our Coach, and, of course, the Big Coach. All of whom demand and deserve our best. Shaving off seconds or minutes of our race time is good, but using our gifts and ability to the fullest is better. Another life lesson experienced through running.
After mile 20, my energy turned downhill, so did my legs. Fatigue started sinking in and I was just keeping pace to moving forward. Thankfully, we turned into single-tracks at miles 22. A change in scenery and roots and rocks are all good distraction from my predicament. Mile 29 to finish was the most technical part of the race. It runs alongside the lake and was full of big, slippery rocks that I had to climb over at times. I glanced down my watch for the first time since mile 20 and figured a sub-5 was out of the question. Well, I might as well enjoy it. And I did.
With less than half a mile, my calf started cramping. “Not now!” Even though the protest was justified. I was elated to see the orange blow-up finish line through the trees. “Beep!” The timing chip clocked my finish time and I was done. 5:07, a far cry from Alison Bryant’s 4:37 record and many faster times before me. But at any rate, doing and giving all that we can is good, and that is good in and of itself.
Thank you, Stu, Susan, Shane, Kathi, Victor, and Noelle for sharing the wonderful time with me. Team TY for always pushing me, keeping me honest at workouts, and always encouraging. Coach Jamey for investing so much in us and journeying with us. And God for creating us to be both receiver and giver of goodness and grace.