There's a local group that puts on sadistic trail runs once a month. The group consists of a married couple who are ga-ga for ultra-marathoning, which is the technical running term for idiocy. They plan these events, seemingly, by looking for the biggest hills and mountains around, and then designing a course that runs up and down the hills with no apparent regard for moderation or sanity.
There are a slew of reasons why I should not participate in these events:
1) Hard. Me no like hard.
2) Treacherous. I am a very clumsy man and should not be running on trails. They're pokey.
3) Confusing. I have no sense of direction and get lost frequently on trail runs.
Often when I go on trail runs with friends, they remark about the beautiful views or the sunlight filtering through the blah blah blah. I never see any of that. My attention is always focused about five feet in front of me, ensuring that I trip over as few rocks and roots as possible. You could line the trail with candy, naked breasts, and iPod Nanos, and I wouldn't notice.
Anyway, I threw caution and common sense to the wind, and ran one of these damn runs this weekend. As usual, the event offered races of various lengths: 8 km, 20km, 30km, and 50km. I chose the 20km flavor because I'm not confident enough in my masculinity to choose the wussiest option. The elevation chart for the run looked like this:
The first 2.5 km were brutal, climbing steadily and steeply. The experience was made even less pleasant by the knowledge that the next hill was nearly as high. I struggled up the hill, walking when the trail turned to staircase, and eventually made it to the top. The way up is always exhausting, but the way down is always dangerous for me.
Sure enough, at around the 5km mark, I was cruising downhill, when I tripped over some tiny little hazard. It was probably a pebble, or maybe an ant. BLAM! I flew forward, landing mostly on my palms, skidding to a stop on the dirt and gravel trail. I got up after a few stunned seconds, verified that nothing was broken, and kept on running. By the time I got to the aid station near the 6km mark, I was fairly bloody.
(In fact, I just now counted the number of scrapes on my body. It's well over 80. Only two of them were deep enough to really get oozy and gross during the last couple days of healing, but they're all scratchy and annoying. Impressively, I managed to scratch up both the front and back of my right hand. I guess I flipped it over, mid-skid, for maximum coverage.)
At the aid station I realized that turning around and walking back to the start wouldn't be any faster than continuing the run, so after daintily dabbing at my wounds, I launched up the next hill. Although I managed to stay upright during this portion of the race, I did get fairly lost. One of the trail markers had disappeared and a bunch of us ran aimlessly back and forth for a while until someone spotted the right path. I was annoyed that I had gotten lost, but at least I wasn't alone.
The rest of the run was fairly uneventful, but long. It was with great relief when I rounded one of the final turns and saw the finish line on the other side of a beach, about half a mile away. It wasn't until I came to a near standstill while trying to run through the sand that I realized the full extent of the run's organizer's sadism. So rude! Sand running sucks.
I did, however, manage to finish, and astonishingly I came in 2nd place. This isn't terribly impressive when you take into account that less than 30 people ran the race, but still.
The true pain of the day came into focus when I got home and stepped into the shower. I let loose with a manly torrent of squeals, grunts, squeals, moans, and tears. Those 80 cuts? They don't like hot water. I spent a loooooong time in there, trying to scrub out the gravel and dirt that had dug itself under my skin. Owies suck.
That evening I went to the grocery store to buy the biggest band-aids I could find. I filled my basket with gauze pads, tape, neosporin, and band-aids. The guy in front of me at the checkout counter had a six-pack of beer, and two bottles of wine in his. It wasn't hard to imagine who was going to have the more fun evening.
My wounds are starting to heal, but they're getting itchy. I always knew I'd end up itchy palms, but I never thought this would be why.