“I just want to finish happy.” I said to WindChime on our way to the race. See, my last few runs have been CRAPPY. No energy, feel like garbage, fully imploding crappy. So finishing happy was my goal. WindChime and I had flown into Texas to see my brother and run this race together. Originally it was supposed to be part of my Twisted Fork training plan but, well, we won’t talk about that. The new plan was set.
We got to the race venue knowing it was going to rain on and off the entire time. At least it was warm. We had that going for us. Oh and humid. Super. Saddle Blazer is a double loop course. The first is 7 and the second is 6.2. I told the Vulcan and WindChime to run their own races. Partially it’s because they are faster than me and partially it’s because I didn’t want to have them watch me implode. The first loop was super mud. You know the kind. It sticks to the bottoms of your shoes and makes them weigh like 47 pounds. I was chasing my “rabbit” a girl named Bree. The mud was just awful. I smiled and it reminded me of the hike on Kings Peak. Poor WindChime she always gets suckered into my muddy hair brained ideas. We got through the first loop and headed to loop 2.
Loop 2 was so much better. It was way dryer and quite runnable. I was settling in and starting to find my groove. Bree, Lindsay and Lindsay’s friend (didn’t catch her name) were all hanging together and playing leap frog. It was nice. They were pulling me along in spots and I was them. When Bree and I hit the last aid station we were stoked. 2.6 miles to finish. We started really moving along. We came around a corner and there was a huge down followed by a huge up. We knew we had it. As we charged down the hill we blew past a girl who I knew was in trouble. She was not breathing well and was in a lot of pain. I made a split second decision. I ended my race right there and stopped half way up the hill and turned around.
“YOU CAN DO IT!!!” I shouted. “COME ON!!!”
As she got closer to me I saw her shaking. Bad. Oh boy. Yep. My race is done. We need to get her to the finish.
“Have you eaten?” I asked.
She cried and shook her head no.
I had Bree fish into my pack and get out the emergency honey stingers I carry. I opened it and gave it to her. “Eat this,” I told her. She took it and started to suck on the package. “Have you had anything to drink?” She nodded yes. “Of electrolytes?” She shook her head no. I gave her my bite valve. My pack had Tailwind in it.
“Ok, I’m not leaving you. You are going to finish.”
I encouraged her to put one foot in front of the other. We started plodding along. She had stopped crying. “Is this your first trail race?” She smile. “You a road runner?” She nodded.
“I’m normally a 5k road runner. This is my first trail run and my first half marathon.”
I quickly snapped a picture of her. “See now photographic evidence that you were out here.”
We exchanged names (hers was Dusty) and pleasantries. I told her about my first half and all the mistakes I made. (Rule #1 eat if you can but you must drink.) I told her about how amazing the trail running community is. I was telling her anything to keep her moving. Then Matt caught up to us. He saw she was in trouble and he stayed to help keep her moving, too. We both kept offering her Tailwind and encouraging her along. I took her hand on the uphills and pulled her along to help her reduce her pain.
Then, there it was, the finish. Her kids were there shouting for her. They were so proud. Luckily, Bree had run ahead and had already alerted the medical crew. They were waiting for her. I turned her over to them.
I finished. I finished happy. It wasn’t the race I had hoped to have. Or the race that it was supposed to be, but I finished happy.
WindChime and the Vulcan had finished long before me. While yes, I am slow and yes I’m disappointed I didn’t keep up with them at the end of the day Dusty finished her race. I finished happy. That was the point all along.
The good news is that while I may not be able to be a true ultra girl I know I can make one hell of a pacer. Maybe that’s what the universe is trying to tell me.