When I determined to get fit last January, I knew I needed a goal of some kind. It had to be measureable, concrete, and reasonable. It hadn't been enough in the couple of previous years to just go to the gym without a plan. So, I signed up for the Granite Grinder, a trail half-marathon in Conyers, GA. Why such a long event? Well, from 1998-2003 I had been an endurance athlete. Never competitive, but consistent, I ran a series of 10Ks, 14Ks, half-marathons, marathons, and one ultra-marathon (50K.) I knew that my body takes a long time to warm up, so the longer distances are actually easier than the short ones. Trail events have always been my favorite--scenic, soft surfaces, and plenty of distractions to take the mind off the distance. So, I searched out a trail half-marathon and found the Granite Grinder. I had three full months to prepare.
With a goal in hand, I laid out a plan of long walk/runs, short treadmill workouts, weightlifting, and nutrition. It didn't take long to start feeling really good--like an athlete again. As the event drew closer, I evaluated my training. I knew I needed to do a long trail run/walk, but it's not so easy to find a partner who wants to spend a day on 12 miles of trails! So, my walking buddy and I took four mile loops on a local trail, and then I added to it on roads and a river-walking trail. All systems go.
Ten days before the half-marathon I felt a little tickle in my throat that turned into a sore throat very quickly. I hammered the vitamin C, olive leaf, zinc...but to no avail. I ended up with the worst cold I remembered it quite a while. My training schedule was on taper down mode, but full stop was not on my agenda. This cold, however, knocked me silly for a full week.
Still, I knew my training regimen had been good, so I wasn't too concerned with the half-marathon. I adjusted my goal time a bit, and Brian, Corinne and I set off this morning for Conyers, GA.
It was a glorious day. Warm, but not too warm, sunny, beautiful---I couldn't have asked for better. The first half of the event was pretty easy. Lots of hills, but soft terrain and plenty of beauty. I thought I might actually do better than my goal of a 15 minute mile average. Mile 7, however, marked a change. At that point, the granite part of the Granite Grinder name made itself known. Granite is uneven and unforgiving. And steep. Yikes! It was still tolerable, and I found that, although my pace had slowed, I was still doing better than 15 minute miles. Miles 11 and 12, however, were TORTURE. It was beautiful, but it was steep inclines with equally steep declines. There was thick mud on the softer portions of the trail that alternated with the unforgiving granite. Those two miles just about did me in. The combination of having been sick with inadequate trail training caught up to me.
Of course, by mile 12 I knew it was just a few minutes to the finish--and the granite was behind me. I jogged and walked until mile 13. Corinne took pictures as I jogged the last bit--uphill. At the finish, my time was 3 hours, 15 minutes---exactly a 15 minute mile average. Success!!!
Will I do this event again? Absolutely. I know the course now, and can train for it. I'd like to find another trail event before next year--preferably one without granite!
So, why do these events even though they take months of training and leave me tired and sore? Well, the first reason is that an event motivates me to train, which makes me healthy and fit. Secondly, trail runs are beautiful. This event, especially, displayed God's creation on a multitude of levels. From the softness of loose dirt trails to the solid nature of granite, I experienced an analogy of God's great love and God's unchanging laws. In the multiple shades of green on the trees and grasses, I witnessed God's delight in providing His children things to enjoy. The sun reminded me that, no matter what, winter is not forever--and that someday winter will be banished in an eternal spring. Persevering, especially when everything in my body says, "STOP," shows me that I can do anything in Christ--physical, emotional, or spirtual. He is my strength. He is my Rock. Running and walking reminds me to be grateful for a body that works as designed by God. I can see His creation; I can hear His song in the wind; I can feel His work in me as muscles continue to churn; I can taste and smell nature around me, knowing that God is the Creator of all.
For that reason, I will continue to participate in trail events until I absolutely cannot do so any longer or until Jesus comes to take me Home!