Ouachita was hard.
There is no better way for me to describe it.
The reason I was attracted to this race is that it has both a 50k and a 50mile option. I like races with long cutoff times. Signing up for the 50k gave me the opportunity to run 31 miles in roughly the same amount of time that it takes many runners to complete 50miles. This works pretty well for me but still does not make things easy.
I am stronger than I have been in a few years but I am also heavier. This makes my overall race much more pleasurable from the standpoint of pain and overall fatigue but it also causes me to move a lot slower, even from the start.
I had no idea that Ouachita was going to be as technical and challenging as it was. Usually when people talk about climbing mountains and the rough terrain of different courses, there is a degree of exaggeration as with most stories that we like to tell. Well, honestly, I feel that everyone did a really crappy job of not only exaggerating but even being somewhat truthful. This thing was a five-star bitch of a race with a bigass mountain that ranked a perfect 10 on the F-bomb scale.
They say that the view is spectacular from on top of the mountain; I never looked, not even once. The entire race my eyes were wide, and planted firmly on the five feet ahead of me. There were plenty of opportunities for big boy to go spilling down a hill of rock and I didn’t think I cared to do that.
As usual, I came across some good company. I logged a few miles with a gentleman named William who played football at the University of Arkansas in the mid-nineties. He told me a story about running a play at practice as an offensive guard. He said that his job was to pull around the tight end and hit the first person he laid eyes on. The problem was that before he laid his eyes on the person, they had already spotted him first. Before he knew what had happened, Steve Atwater had put his helmet directly inside of his earhole. He confirmed that Atwater hit just as hard as he is rumored to have hit.
Later in the day, I waddled a few miles with some much-needed company with a man named Johnny. Folks like Johnny are why I enjoy trail running. From the start, Johnny was laid-back and chill. He was there for the enjoyment. Johnny was an experienced runner who was taking a bit slower these days as I believe his competitive days were behind him. He was tough as hell, keeping what seemed to be the same pace from start to finish, but he also had a very tender, loving, and gentle spirit.
I took note as Johnny said, “As I look at this landscape, I just can’t help but think about what an amazing architect God is.” He was absolutely right. His phone rang in the middle of our run and it was his daughter calling to check on him. The way that he spoke to her made me wish that my children will someday care for me the way that Johnny’s obviously did for him. There was a mutual respect as I listened to the tone of his voice and I eavesdropped into the dialogue. I smiled as he at one point replied to his daughter and said,
“Well, I am proud of you too, honey. I love you and thanks for checking on me.”
I was proud to have the opportunity to run with people like that.
The day got hot, but later the clouds covered up the lamp. The muscles ached but flatter terrain would eventually provide relief. The water ran low but there was always an aid station when I needed it most. The trail got lonely but there was always company when I felt that I was getting desperate. My hips screamed with pain but there were blisters on my feet to distract me. The trail went on forever but there was plenty of road when the dirt had become too much.
The finish line came with time as I knew that it would. I cursed to get me back to the hotel and I swore that I would never do it again.
It’s the same as all the other races. There are a thousand reasons when it would just be better to quit but there is one we I don’t….
….and that reason is that we don’t.
There are so many areas in my life that I lack the talent, intelligence, the confidence and the strength that so many others come across more naturally. My “can” and my “will” are something I hold as a thing of value. We all can and we all will if we want.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,