On a Friday night, when some (clearly more intelligent) people are lining up to enter a nightclub, or ordering their second Negroni, I find myself laying in a small tent on top of two yoga mats, wrapped into two blankets with a couch cushion under my head, intensely staring at a mosquito stuck between the mesh roof and the plastic covering of the tent. A moment later I squash him against the tent wall, my own blood smearing the plastic. Another time I might have ignored him, let him out, gave him a name. Today, I am in no mood.
I am in the forest, somewhere in Ontario, and it is raining. Again. Impartially evaluating the spring and summer we have received in Ontario so far… I want my money back.
Limberlost Challenge is the trail race I have been trying to get to for the last few years, timing never working out because of another race or travel. Distances are 14k, 28k, and 56k – you get the idea. It’s a 12k loop.
I am finally here. Although I could really do without the wet socks, achy back, too-small tent and mosquito bites.
I could have driven to race site in the morning, but I do not trust myself not to get lost on the way, so instead, I arrive Friday evening, and tuck in for the night. The wicked rain storm starts two minutes after I zip up the door.
I text Italian. “Why am I doing this shit again?”.
He texts back: “You are working from home all day. Some outdoors would do you good. I’m already outside all day, so I am perfectly happy inside right now. In my dry bed”.
I roll my eyes. Of course, he is not here to see it, so the gesture is in vain.
I spend the next eight hours trying to sleep through thunder, lightening, more thunder, and a torrential downpour of water, made even louder by the tightly stretched tent roof. I feel around myself every few minutes to make sure water did not get in. Ahhhh, nothing like a good night’s sleep.
Up at 5.30am, I drive to the neighbouring town in search of coffee. It stopped raining, and is now cool, and overcast. Perfect racing weather. The trails will be muddy, and technical in places, but not hilly. I am hoping to be back under two hours.
The race loops around and through multiple bodies of water – the trail right on the edge of water. So. Very. Pretty.
My estimate turns out to be quite accurate, as I finish in 1:42:48 – definitely under two hours. Seventh in my age group, and twenty seventh female. Meh. I’ll take it. [Full race results can be found here.]
It was hard. Hard for few reasons – hard to keep your HR that high for that long. Hard to continuously pay attention to technical single track. It was super wet, and muddy – the consistency varying from cookie dough to oatmeal.
I am fucking unbeatable on technical downhill. Yet what I wondered as I flew across the most questionable sections of mud and roots is whether downhill speed is an actual measure of skill, or rather one’s general “I-bungee-jump-for-fun, have-nothing-to-lose I-know-I-can-break-my-neck-here-and-I-don’t-care” tendency? Which one is it?
Going downhill fast requires at least some degree of recklessness. Jumping into mud puddles of unknown depth requires some risk taking.
What makes roller coasters thrilling?
Seth Godin suggests that the element that makes them thrilling is not the coaster itself, but rather from “encountering two things at once: the knowledge that this thing is tested, safe, and proven, combined with the innate feeling that at any moment, we’re going to die”.
I think I went out too fast again. The last time I did that, I spent an extra hour wondering around in the forest, after blowing up about 15k into a 28k race, close to hallucinating. Wheeeeee.
Not nearly as bad this time around, but runners I blew past in the beginning started catching up with me about twenty minutes in, as I was sucking wind – a pretty sure sign of “took off way too fast”.
Ahhh, so many opportunities to learn, and make the same mistakes again and again. I love this human life thing.
Next up, 6.5km loop for three hours. Yay?