(That’s not profanity. That’s its name. I have the shirt to prove it.)
I imagine there are two types of athletes at the Olympics: those that go in with the knowledge and mindset that they are serious contenders for getting medals, and those that are just amazed – “Holey moley, I’m competing at the Olympics!!” (like this girl from East Timor that was in last place at the women’s marathon, but was getting the loudest cheers from the crowd just for being there).
If the Pikes Peak Ascent is my personal Olympics, That Dam Run was my Olympic trials – judging if I’d be worthy to participate.
I had trained hard for my December half marathon in an attempt to qualify, but ended up three minutes shy of the needed time. This race was my last chance. To say I was nervous is an UNDERSTATEMENT. Every time someone asked about my race, I asked them to pray for me.
Ascent or bust.
When the gun went off and I headed across the line, I immediately felt like stopping, like my goal was too impossible and my body couldn’t do it. But a mile in, I fell into a rhythm and I felt good. Too good. I wondered if my pace was too slow. I never run with a watch, but I pulled my iPod out of my pocket as I passed the four-mile marker and was astonished to see it read 40 minutes – much better than the 44 minute minimum I needed at that point! I guess lots of people were praying!
When I got to mile 10 Lynn joined me to help coax me the through the final, hardest stretch of any race. She had been planning to “channel Jillian Michaels” to push me to find my last reserves of strength and make my necessary time, but as she said she didn’t need to. I was feeling so good and running so well – far better than I had during any other previous half marathon! Wow, how many people were praying?
One hundred feet from the finish line I finally saw a clock and my time. I needed to take three minutes off my previous race time in order to qualify for Pikes. Instead, I took ten minutes off. After eleven months of hard and often discouraging training I had earned the honor of joining thousands of others racing up one of Colorado’s most famous mountains. I crossed the finish line and immediately fell to my knees in prayers of gratitude.
After my last race I barely had the strength to walk; my friends helped carry me to the car. But this time my legs still had plenty of strength to stand up, accept my finisher’s medal, and pose for a photo.
In five months I’ll stand among a crowd of excited people – some gunning for winning their division or even the race, and some just like me just thrilled to be there and excited to head for the 14,115-foot summit.