Written by Alex Nichols
Half way through the 2013 US Mountain Running Championships I was strongly considering dropping out. I wasn’t injured, so I didn’t really have a good reason to let this insidious thought take over my mind, yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Just a week earlier I won the Barr Trail Mountain race in my home state of Colorado. That half marathon trail race climbed from about 6500 feet above sea level to 10000 and back down again. You would think that type of race would make a 12k at low altitude a walk in the park but it didn’t. I wanted to drop out so badly, simply because I was hurting- hurting like I rarely have. And that was only the halfway point!
Just as I was going to take a nice long walk to the bottom of the mountain and climb into the darkest hole I could find, I realized something: I had experienced this before, just a few weeks prior at the Mt Blanc Skymarathon in Chamonix, France. I managed to push through some serious pain back then to place 7th in a super competitive euro field, so why couldn’t I do it again? If there is one thing I have learned from the few Skyrunning races I have run it’s that I can make myself hurt like crazy and keep going. It’s just a matter of being really really motivated.
Photo: Nadine Davies
I found the motivation I needed in my fellow competitors. On the very first descent of the race I lost what seemed like 30 or 40 spots, despite running a mile PR. But as things progressed people starting drifting back to me. I had no idea what place I was in until the start of the final lap when I found out I was just one spot off making the US team. I was pretty sure that was a mistake but I forged on; intent on catching Ryan Hafer’s bouncing fro. I was still hurting, and on the final descent I had a severely cramping right abductor, but knew only 20 more minutes of pain remained. 20 minutes was way better than knowing I had another 2 hours to go like I did at Mt Blanc. I caught Ryan at the start of the final climb and wondered if my heart would be able to beat any harder without exploding. Turns out it can! Ryan and I were pushing each other hard enough that we caught the 5th place runner, Andy Wacker, and snuck by him in the final meters of the climb. It was both the most horrible and most exciting thing I have ever felt.
Photo: Brennan Galloway
Photo: Brennan Galloway