I'm sitting here the night beforem a bundle of nerves. I only signed up for this race this week. In my inadequate defense, I was riding high on endorphins from last week and the bad advice of good friends. Tomorrow, myself and my 13-yo boy are running up and down a mountain. I haven't climbed nearly enough for this, but I'm an addict, and so I run. I don't know what my boy was thinking when he agreed to go. In a spate of silliness, I went to the gym this morning, and we really beat up the legs, I can feel the tiredness even now, and they're starting to cramp a bit. Great for evidence of muscle usage, not so great for running in the morning. But, tomorrow should still be fun. Fingers crossed.
We're at Swain Resort an hour early. It is cold, and I only packed a water bottle to carry and the clothes I'm wearing. This year long hiatus from races has really destroyed my ability to be prepared at these things. I have a rhythm stuck in my head that I can't get out. It is catchy. I finally figure out what it is, discover WiFi at the lodge, buy and download the music (sorry Ron, I didn't already own that album). People I know start arriving, and so I distract myself by standing around them and listening-to/analyzing their interactions. My kids quickly retreat back into the van and hide, and race time cometh.
For your following along pleasure, I've included a map/profile of the course. This is linking to the Strava segment and not my run, because technology; so ignore the date.
The first climb
Eventually, we get the usual nonchalant you-can-leave-now, and I'm relieved to be leaving. Almost immediately, my left foot seizes up. I slow down to give it a chance to stretch, and the entire field leaves me. Eldest bounds ahead in the front quarter of the race. I know he can't sustain it, but I have hope that he actually tries his hardest. Heckling from behind me about how slow I'm going, and I respond uncharacteristically by scratching the back of my head with only one finger, and next thing you know, we're into the woods with me in last.
I feel good moving up the hill, but I cannot get that beat out of my head, so I resort to the headphones much sooner than I had any intention. The bass line of Seven Nation Army fills my head, and I cannot just walk up this hill any more. So, I run. Well, Jeff run. It is enough, and I pass someone. No more DFL. The rocks and roots are omni present, but not irksome. If anything, they are a welcome distraction from the climbing. There are moment, where I'm hands on knees and wishing for poles, but the weather and the terrain are a delight. There is a moment that the trails pass near each other, and I stop and grab pictures of a couple of my friends as they run by. My camera can't keep up, and I don't see Eldest, so I abandon the excuse for going slow and try to catch some more people. My glasses fog up, and I take them off and stow them away.
The only flat part
So, at the top, you finally hit a long flat area. I speed up, but with my glasses off, I struggle to distinguish the flags for the race and the ribbons for next week's race. Over all, I know I could have pushed this bit harder.
If you've ever watch a movie or Mythbuster, you'd know that one of the sinking modes of a ship is a slow settling that accelerates until the ship starts disappearing unbelievability fast. Well, that describes my impression of the descent. This first one is vaugely downhill that becomes less and less vaguely and after a bit, you're muscles start pointing out you've been going down for a while, and isn't there a bottom soon? This was a lot of fun. I feel it today around the stabilization muscles in the knees and hips, but man this was great.
The second climb
Elnora meets me on the bottom and asks how I'm doing. I reply with a vague answer, 'cause I don't want to do a body check right now and dislike what I find. I see people ahead of me on the hill, and I was to catch them. The start of this is straight up a grass hill, and I almost fail my morale check. But, once into the woods again, I'm happy again, and just keep climbing. Up ahead I see a grey shape with long hair on top of a rock. I don't recognize the satuesque figure, so I keep listening to my headphones that have taken me from the White Stripes, to a documentary on the life of Jane Fonda, to a discussion of why so many languages share parental name sounds and pronoun sounds (mama, papa; me, you). I hear my name shouted and take off the 'phones and discover that the figure was Sheila Eagan, who had climbed the hill to spectate and cheer and that I've just missed a five minute conversation with her. Chagrined, I apologize and move on, not learning my lesson. As I leave the woods, she informs me that Eldest is not far ahead of me now, "Why did Mom think that this was a good idea?". I have a new goal. I get lapped. I had so much wanted to not be lapped. I knew that the likelihood was low, as I haven't run/raced/hill climbed in so long, but I had made it so far.
The second descent
Up ahead of me, I spot Eldest. Much closer than I would have guessed, I start pushing just a little bit harder. He suddenly starts running up a hill, and I'm sure he's spotted me. I redouble my efforts. Just about then, I'm startled as Scottie Jacobs dances past me. Stupid headphones. I apologize profusely and take them off. If I had been on any narrower ground, I would have been slowing him down, and I hate being rude. I don't need the headphones. I haven't needed them since the first climb, but I got lazy. I have to chase my boy.
Every once in a while I catch sight of him. He is taking the downhills slowly (I'm a better downhiller anyway). Each downhill I get close, each flat he pulls away. I push harder (risking in my head, injury, as I've really not tried out these muscles in a long time). I finally catch him, with momentum, on the flat, and he glances behind him. Sees me. "Oh crap! Daddy", and lays on the speed I knew he had. We hit the last descent, and I'm moving from fast to bombing, my long legs and shoe confidence gobbling up the distance between us. We pass several people, who look at us in horror. We narrow down to single track, right at the finish line, and he's in front.
I want to run again.
While I'm sure the race with my boy is part of it, I cannot recall a time that I've transitioned from "wow that's hard" to "I want to do this again" so quickly. Andy puts on a great event (duh), and it is a cry in shame that this thing is not better attended. This being the second time I've fallen in immediate love with a mountain running event, as I type this, I wonder if I have some deep hidden desire to do those more. I may need to find some way to get over my fear of heights so I can do some of the iconic mountain runs.
If you haven't run Ossian Mountain before, go run it next year, you won't regret it.
If you've run Ossian Mountain before, and didn't this year; what's wrong with you?!?