My training for this upcoming 6 day race has been a little all over the place. I mean, how exactly does one train for such a thing? Run, right? Duh. But we all know that just putting in miles can get a little stale. So, this past weekend I went up to Prescott (pronounced Press cut, people – they get grumpy if you say the second syllable like “Scott”) to run the Whiskey Basin 88k as a solid training run – no taper, no recovery, no problem.
This seemed like a good plan, in theory. I had successfully avoided the local Lone Star 100k because our trails are so damn rocky and there was about 6500 feet of climbing. Uh, thanks, but nooooooo. My 6 day is on a one mile paved loop. And I am a big klutz and a big chicken. There was about a 100 percent chance I was going to go ass over tea kettle and end up having to skip the 6 day. That was not my idea of a training run.
But because I am brilliant, I decided to sign up for Whiskey Basin. Well-organized? Check. Aravaipa Running was putting it on and they are the BEST. Runnable trails? Check. The youtube video shows runners running. Winning! Cool location? Check. Prescott has a really fun downtown with cute restaurants, coffee shops and breweries – great for a casual weekend. I patted myself on the back for being so damn smart.
And then the race started. Um, wait. Why are we climbing up this mountain? And why are there so many rocks? Wait, what the hell is happening?!
Let’s just say I was mightily unprepared. When I registered, I basically just skipped over this whole part of the course description (Did I even look at it? Was I drunk when I signed up?):
Somehow, I stopped paying attention when they said it was an 88k loop. Loop! I love loops! I run loops all the time. Um, no. This was not that. It was not one big long loopy run. It was 5980 feet of climbing! At altitude! What?! What is happening?!
But it was gorgeous and I was there. So, I decided, what the hell, I’m just going to try to survive it and have fun.
And then I fell.
That took a little of the wind out of my kumbaya (really, I have no business ever being left out in the wilderness). I lay on the ground for a bit, trying to decide if I was hurt, and thinking, please let me be a little hurt so I can quit. But I wasn’t. Damn. So I got up and kept running. And I fell. Again. This was starting to get really old.
Somehow, I convinced myself that it was still a good idea to keep going, so I did. I wasn’t hurt. I felt fine. The weather was perfect. There was a reasonably good chance I was going to break my neck, but since it hadn’t happened already, I decided it was a good omen and I should just keep running. And climbing. And climbing some more.
At some point, we descended into a canyon that was just rocks. I wish I hadn’t been so freaked out so I would have taken a picture. But I was all alone, halfway convinced I was off course, in imminent danger of being eaten by something, and had no interest in spending more time than necessary picking my way back and forth across a stream and a boulder field. And did I mention that I had to grab onto trees just to get down to this section? And did I also mention that I like to run on one mile paved loops?
Somehow, some way, I did not launch myself off the side of a cliff or get snatched by a predatory bird who mistook me for a dead body because I was moving so slowly down the side of the mountain. I made it to the finish line in 13:13, 9th female, but felt like I’d been running for 24 hours.
This was one of the hardest races I’ve ever run, even though it was one of the shortest, reminding me, yet again, that you have to TRAIN for what you race. Treadmill/road running with a few random 5 mile trail runs thrown in for grins will not serve you well on technical trails. You will fall, and cry, and hope that a bird of prey will peck your eyeballs out so you don’t have to keep running.
And then you will finish, drink some cold lemonade, and think, “That wasn’t so bad.”