Tuesday, June 9, 2009

06/07: Deadwood Mickelson Trail Half Mararthon

People let me tell you about my (new) best friend - George S. Mickelson, former governor of South Dakota who helped turn an old railroad right-of-way into an awesome trail that runs for over one hundred miles between Edgemont and Deadwood. The stretch between Rochford and Deadwood is home to the aptly-named Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon which has been around since 2002 even if it did take me until 2009 to run it. And even then, I just did the half.

Advance weather forecasts were not promising and the closer race day drew, the worse they got. The night before the race, it looked like we might be running not only in rain, but in temperatures in the mid-to-upper thirties. Which would be unpleasant. The forecast on race day had improved, though, and we actually had no rain and temperatures in the lower forties. Which sucks for spectators and volunteers, and I commiserate with them greatly, but which is fine for running as far as I'm concerned. The unexpectedly not-bad weather put a positive spin on the adventure.

The marathon and half-marathon are both point-to-point which was great in that it went from an uphill point to a downhill point but less than great in that it meant being bussed to the start. Which meant all the race logistics were pushed earlier in the morning - there was no showing up at 7:45, jump out of the car and start running. More like, get to the rodeo grounds at around 6:00, get to the trailhead a little before 7:00, and stand around anxiously waiting to run. That's just the way it is; you go with it and hope the run's worth the hassle.

It was. It was awesome. Sometimes when I'm slogging through a mediocre, uninspiring run on a brutal Texas summer day and I start to wonder what the hell I'm putting myself through this crap for, well, by mile five of this race I knew. When the opportunity for running to be fun presents itself, I want to be able to grab it. When everything clicks, when I'm running seemingly effortlessly hard and not fighting the elements, and I'm surrounded by some of nature's greatest hits, there's not a better feeling in the world. I feel like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle falling into its proper place. I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Then I have to go uphill for a bit and the feeling fades, but not too much.

The trail is lovely (dark and deep) but I couldn't tell you much about it. The entire way I drank it in but it's not like I was taking mental photographs; I was too busy being happy. And running. And, eventually, feeling tired. We started crossing the occasional street as we got closer to Deadwood and as I crossed the finish line, I felt like I was overdosing on euphoria; I felt less like I had accomplished something and more like I had experienced a gift, sublime and rare. I was crying sans tears because I probably didn't have any spare moisture left in my body and searching for my breath which seemed to have finished a minute or two ahead of me. I walked around for a few moments as the ecstasy stabilized, and a chill set in, along with an insatiable greed to have those feelings back again.

Which is a good greed to have. I hope it's a greed that motivates me to train hard through the summer. I want to run.

No comments: