Or, how I stopped worrying and learned to love my age.
I just finished my first trail race. How cool is that?! I ran the Hagg Lake 25K last Saturday near Portland, Oregon and finished within 4 minutes of my goal time. Granted, I made my goal time very easy to attain. I didn’t want to pressure myself on my first trail run. It was a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day at the lake; a perfect day for stomping through the woods along the water at this traditionally VERY muddy single-track route.
My running partner, Leah, and I stayed at the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove the night before eating pasta, shooting pool and counting the hours till we were back in the pub enjoying some tall beers after the race. I was also counting the hours as I lay in bed, not sleeping, but thinking about going out too fast, what I would wear and how much I should eat during the race. Of course, I already knew the answers to these questions, but time is a funny thing, especially at night, so you mull them over till the gun goes off.
Time is indeed a funny thing, except when it comes to age. I was happy to turn 30, just out of the military, ready to be free of “the man” and stoked to start my next career as a ski bum. I was also freshly divorced after a 12-year marriage. Nothin’ funny about that.
My 40th birthday was awesome. My goal was to run a marathon before 40 and I did it, finishing Newport in 2005. Are you doing the math? That makes me 44. Nothin’ funny about that either.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling really great overall, at 44, but whoa, wait a sec, next birthday brings me to 45! That just sounds so close to 50, doesn’t it? Still not laughing.
My training for this trail race started out strong. My partner and I ran Ridgeline and Mt. Pisgah here in Eugene, alternating hills and mud puddles, trying to work in both of what we thought the race would bring. It worked well until I got slammed with some kind of upper-respiratory lung butter virus and I turned into an old hag. Hacking like an 80-year-old, 3-pack-a-day smoker (we’re talking a Camel straights hack, not a Marlboro lights hack), I could barely climb the stairs to my office without a break much less climb any sort of trail. Poor Leah. When we did run together I spent so much time farmer-blowing, spitting and coughing, I’m sure she thought she was going to have to perform CPR right there in the woods.
But I came around to do a couple more long-ish runs before Hagg Lake and felt fairly good on race day. We arrived at the start with just a few minutes to spare, the lake sparkling in the early spring sun, the race directors giving us their last instructions about how to pass or be passed on the trail. I was thinking about many things that morning, but not my age. Besides, mud, I found out, is the great equalizer. When you slip and slide and fall on your butt (like I did at about mile 9), it doesn’t matter if you’re 44 or 24, it’s pretty funny, at least it is to this ol’ hag!