Sunday, February 8, 2015

Uwharrie Withdrawal

Lately, I've started to think of my body as a checking account of sorts. I slowly build up a healthy balance with regular exercise and healthy living, only to overdraw the account with racing, beer, injuries and general stupidity. Going into Uwharrie with an overdrawn account is not a great idea. Old Uncle Uwharrie exacts a high toll on any runner foolish enough to stumble down his trail over his rocky hills and streams. And have no doubt, Uncle Uwharrie will be paid in full, regardless of how fast or slowly you run.

Debts Public and Private
"I'm done." That's all I could think of as I climbed the big hill towards the 8 mile aid station. Both of my knees were shouting at me. With every step, they yelled "IDIOT!!" over and over in my mind. What the hell was I thinking? I hadn't run more than 13 miles in nearly a year and a half! Not to mention the knee surgery that fell within that window. Even attempting 20 miles on a pancake flat greenway, bordered by singing daisies showering me with codeine laced pollen would be stupid. Running 20 miles in Uwharrie would simply be insanity. Well, welcome to Crazytown! I'm mayor, police chief, and resident drunk, all rolled into one.

I'm in last place,
just behind a lost glove.

Loans from Friends
Unfortunately, the mayor of Crazytown is an honorary position with no salary, so when Uncle Uwharrie demanded payment around mile 8, I couldn't even bounce a check. Luckily, my friend Harold was at the aid station. His confidence and encouragement (and pushiness) got me back on the trail when my own self doubt and self debt was about to derail my race. Staring down 12 more miles of Uwharrie with cranky knees is scary, but good friends can sometimes pay you forward.

After a long, lonely, painful stretch on the trail past the 8 mile aid station, I recovered a bit. My knees settled down and stopped screaming at me. I found a rhythm that worked - walk the hills; dance gingerly through the rocky streams; cruise the flats and downhills. But mostly, I just tried to enjoy the beautiful day.

The last few miles of the 20 mile race are wonderful. Not that they are easy (they are NOT), but it's the stretch when you begin passing all of your 40 miler friends (way too many to mention here!) on their second half. More deposits to my empty account at just the right moments. Simply excellent!

Paid in Full
Crossing the finish line this year was especially good for me. There have been times during the past year and a half when I thought I would not be able to run again, much less run Uwharrie again. Hearing the cheers of many friends as I crossed the line, and receiving my beautiful finisher's cup from friend-in-injury, Spinz, was fantastic. Satisfying on a level that is difficult to explain.

This year, somewhere around mile 13, it hit me. I really did miss Uwharrie. No matter how much I moan and complain about the stupid difficulty of running on a trail seemingly designed to destroy runners, Uwharrie really is a special place. Even with my legs burning and my heart threatening to turn itself inside out, cresting every hill in Uwharrie is a primitive pleasure. In the same moment that I realized I had Uwharrie withdrawal, I also realized that Uwharrie has deposited some of the my most precious memories. Someday, when my running bank account has been completely depleted, I'll have only my memories, but I'll be rich.