After my DNF at Bel Monte I took off a few days, waiting for my body to feel the urge to run before making the attempt. I made it to day 3, a Wednesday. I remember the weather being lovely, seeing a runner pass by, and wishing I had my shoes with me so I could get on the dirt, too. That’s how I know when I’m ready after a race; the itch to lace up my shoes is loud.
For the next seven weeks I set out to run for the pure joy of it. No agenda. No plan. No pressure. It didn’t take long for my body to crave the longer distances, those 18 milers on a crisp spring morning where Chevy and I wander our urban trail system. I focused on rebuilding my base and running solely on feel. I stopped wearing my watch. We took many opportunities to explore new areas, watch the big birds catch shad and take lots of selfies. I continued to kickass in the gym, working on strengthening my core and legs.
Thursday I decided to sign up for a trail marathon, Conquer the Cove. Only on its sixth year, I had heard only good things about this race. A group of friends were heading up to Roanoke to try their hand at the 25k and marathon, I found out I could still sign up the day of the race, I am trained up to marathon distance so figured why not run somewhere new for a training run. Those friends allowed me to join them without hesitation, adding me to their plans with eagerness and ease. Those are the kind of people we all need in our lives.
And it turned out to be the best damn decision I have made in a long time because I totally kicked ass.
The race is very well organized in all respects. There is a welcome from the race director before we line up to start, he gives runners an idea of what to expect during the race to include trail conditions. The course was well marked with both polka dotted pink ribbon and mile markers which I totally appreciated since I was not wearing my watch. I knew the hill was coming at mile 18ish so those mile markers kept me from pushing myself too hard too early. The aide stations were small but well stocked with food we should be eating while we run: bananas, oranges, grapes, pickle juice, potato chips, etc. No sugary candies or Nutella to be seen. There were three photographers on the course and various aide station volunteers took pictures as well. The post-race food was delicious veggie or cow burgers, cut up veggies, guacamole, hummus, chocolate, a variety of desserts, etc. I definitely ate my fill while we waited on our friend to finish his marathon.
My favorite part is the race directors at the finish line welcoming every single runner as they returned. Gina gave us our medals. Josh high-fived everyone. They paid attention to us. They made sure we were safe and healthy. They asked us what we thought of the course and race, truly wanting to know the answer. That alone will help me recommend this race to anyone and everyone.
I needed this experience. I needed this race to be a huge success. Mostly, I needed to be in the mountains with other like-minded people reveling in the dirt. I needed to regain confidence in myself and my body and how better to do that then to push it a little further.
Every time I am in the mountains I regain more of my Self. They center me, remind me I am tough. I am grounded and then know again who I am.
Within the beauty of our creators, my soul exhales the bullshit and inhales purpose.