Sunday, June 15, 2008
Aliens on Bird Ridge
The Saturday epic hike we had planned never happened. Brian crashed pretty hard 3 times in his downhill mountain bike race on Friday night and was really hurting, so we canceled it. That was ok because it was cloudy and rainy and dreary out, and I took the chance to get some stuff done around the house. I also thought, hmm, maybe I'll rest up and do the Bird Ridge race seriously on Sunday.
Today I woke up at 7am, drove down to Bird Ridge and had Brian drop me off for the race while he went and rode his bike on some trails down near the creek. I quickly found out the race was full and I was not getting in.
I ran up and down the highway for awhile looking for Brian's car hoping that I would catch him before he took off on his bike. I think I ended up running 4 miles trying to find him. But no such luck. I ran back to the start of the race and decided to see how far up the mountain I could get before the first wave of runners came up.
I pushed hard up the mountain like I was racing. I pretended that I was out in front and no one could catch me. It felt good. My breath was hard, but steady and it never got out of control. I didn't have any thoughts of what am I doing here. I felt like I belonged there. Maybe it was because there was no pressure of a race, no pressure of the crowd disappearing ahead of me. I was out there on my own and I could stop at any time. I didn't HAVE to go to the top, I wanted to.
I thought the elite men would be coming up any minute but they didn't come, so I kept pushing. Finally about 3/4 of the way up the ridge, I heard some heavy breathing behind me. I found a good spot out of the way to get some pictures and then they started coming.
I have never watched a race like this before. I really don't ever spend time watching a race, and I NEVER see the people that are out in front. They looked alien to me. When they are there all together, these elite athletes, their muscles perfectly toned, no fat anywhere to be found, breathing heavily and steadily in unison, moving with precision gracefully up the mountain, they looked like a sea of aliens coming up at me.
I can still hear the breathing in my head. I was standing on a rock in the middle of where the trail splits and they were surrounding me. They kept coming, none of them looking up. "Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh". It was an eery sound that you never hear when you are participating in a race, because all you can hear is your own breath.
It made me think about why we participate in events like these. Some might call it torture. But I think when we push ourselves to our limits, when we push so hard that all we can think is "Breathe..breathe...breathe", it reminds us that we are alive. It reminds us that at any moment our bodies could decide to stop on us. Maybe we just want to get the most out of them before that happens.