Friday morning I call my friend Sammy, hoping to convince her not to work and go climb with me Saturday. The conversation jumps from our climbing mission the following Tuesday at the Davis Face, to jewelry making, sleep deprivation, and then to her deciding if she is still running this Half Marathon she is signed up for. I jokingly respond, "well, if I had a free entry to the marathon I would totally do it with you." Well, turns out, her dad was signed up for the race, wasn't feeling well, and maybe I could take his spot. And, that was it, the flood gates opened and BAM - just 18 hours before the race began, I was signed up to run my first half marathon at the Aspen Backcountry Marathon.
And did I mention, the most I have ever run in my life was somewhere around 8 miles (years ago), and the most recent run, about a month prior, was a solid 3 mile run on Avalanche Creek Trail. So yeah, no training, my body completely unprepared, AND I was amped as could be! I prepped as much as I could, bought compression socks, body glide, and a single packet of Skratch from Independence Run and Hike in Carbondale. Then I ate pasta, went to bed early, woke up at 6am and ate two eggs. Totally ready (the sarcasm is heavy).
Saturday morning 8:30am, Sammy and I were jazzed on coffee with bright compression socks styled high, jumping around at the start line. The count down begins and the runners are off - we let them all go, back of the pack was our starting track. The first few miles were great, downhill and chill. We hike/run up Sunnyside Trail, pass the first checkpoint. I am already thirsty, the electrolyte water (that I had never tried before) was sweet and a little nauseating but I kept drinking it. We bounced along, chatting and laughing, passing folks here and there. At the top of climb I tell Sammy to crush it and keep going. My pace was slower and I am definitely not in the same running shape. She cruises along, me belching in the background and asking myself why in the world I am running.
I get to an aid station, somewhere around mile 8 or so, my mouth parched and craving water. I dump out the half consumed Skratch, fill up my bottle with water, down a good gulp, and keep going. I get up to the crest of the hill, lodge pole pines and arnica flowers just basking in the sun, then it hits me. My stomach drops, I have to go to the bathroom, immediately. The lodge poles and aspen trees were not offering much seclusion, I jump off trail go over a little hill, search for leaves, and relieve myself. My GI tract was livid. The electrolyte water, no training, and dehydration pushed me to my edge. A solid ten minutes passed as I could hardly move, let alone stand up without the aching need to squat back to the earth. It finally passed. I got up, took a deep breath, and continued running.
The rest of the run was a downhill trot to town, running through the high grasses of Hunter Creek. My stomach still weak but better, I started to feel my hamstrings tighten and my feet ache as I passed the last aid station. Less than three miles to go. Running, pushing my body to the limit, it really is a mind over matter situation. My body rejected me, stomach and legs, AND I was determined to finish - hoping to finish under 3:30. I pushed myself down the trail, on to the Rio Grande and as I cross over the bridge I can see the finish line.
Rounding the corner, not even 200 yards from the finish, my body tests me again. As if it was a waterfall of lactic acid through my body, my feet cramp, then my calves, then my adductors. My legs are tight and all I can think is -- oh great, I am going to be that person who crawls through the finish. Mind over matter. I pushed through. Cross the finish line, still running, and go directly to Sammy who is all smiles, no sweat, and cheering me on! I stop, gasping and wanting to vomit. But, I did it. I got there in 3:21, just a bit under my randomly picked time.
To say the least, the Aspen Backcountry Marathon was an overall amazing experience. I am not a runner, I like to go out on short jaunts to clear my head, and running 13 miles was never on my radar. It is nice to know I could do it sin training, and it peaks my interest to know what it would be like if I did train. Some suggestions for people who decide last minute to run a Half with no training: 1) don't try electrolyte mixes as your only hydration source for the first time 2) Compression socks are awesome 3) Drink water 4) Maybe don't decide last minute and actually train a bit.
I am glad I did it. Experienced it and witnessed myself through it all. And I am glad I kept going, despite my GI tracts plea of rest.