|Some of the BYB Survivors.|
I nudged my dad as we watched the other runners come through the chute. “Did you hear that?” I asked, turning tired eyes toward him. “That’s how it was.”
Going into the fourth and final Backyard Burn Trail Series race, I took comfort in the fact that I could opt out of the race and still finish second overall. But it did little to calm my nerves, not on the course billed as the hardest and most technical. Not after winning the last two outright.
All week, I kept this race near the front of my mind yet felt altogether Zen about it…until 6:00 Sunday morning. I opened my eyes, glanced at the clock, and felt a surge of energy shoot through me. Whoa, whoa! I pleaded with myself. There’s still an hour to sleep. But it was no use.
With several friends running the race, I spent the 30 minutes before the gun chatting and joking around, which helped to take the edge off. At 9:00, however, there was still a race to be run.
The first .6 miles climbed the park’s paved road. I wanted to separate myself from as many five milers as possible and eliminate the awkward business of trying to pass on single track.
A blue-shirted runner caught up to his friend and said, “Hey! Yeah, I’m just running the five today.” I took careful note of him and wove my way through two runners to get ahead of him before we hit the trail.
The pack strung out into a neat single file line as we descended into the woods. The trees created a narrow corridor that made our road pace feel suddenly reckless and thundering. I fought to hold the pace and my form as I dodged roots, rocks, and potholes. A stray arm shot out here, an awkward foot plant there. I could feel my heart beating in the white flashes at the corners of my eyes.
We came to the farthest point of the loop and began our way back to the road. I took a moment to look up and see the ridgeline high above us. We had some climbing to do. Behind me, I’d gapped the blue shirt but the same had happened ahead of me. Per usual, I ran alone.
|The final podium.|