Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Silence, Solitude and Suffering (or……..”The Mystery of why I signed up for the Mystery Mountain Marathon after swearing last year I would never do that race again”)

by Rami F. Odeh

I awoke at 4:30am on Sunday, 10/10/10 with some trepidation and nervousness, something I had not experienced in a while. Due to the economy and the fact that I do not enjoy competing in the summer, I have not "raced" since February of this year and this trail marathon would be only my 2nd race in 2010, I am sure this is a record since 1992 of the least amount of competitions done in a year.
In 2008 I did the 12 mile option of this race and swore I would NEVER, EVER do the marathon distance. It is a brutal course, mostly up and down and along the side of a mountain near the Tennessee border in Georgia. I was sore for a week after the 12 mile option! Of course, I signed up for the marathon the next year, mostly because I was training for my first 40 mile race and this looked like amazing training for it! Last year I finished the race in 5 hours and 42 minutes and swore I would NEVER, EVER do this marathon again. It has 15,000 feet of elevation change, most of it occurring between miles 18 and 22 (I conveniently forgot about this), is very, very rocky and has some of the steepest downhill’s I have ever run. Last year my quads were so sore I had to walk down stairs sideways for a week after the race. NEVER, EVER AGAIN.
Of course, I signed up for it again this year. My reasoning this time was it was a great time of year to race (I forgot I had to train for 12 weeks in the summer BEFORE the race) and that, again, it would be good training to finish the year and kick off my training for my first 50 miler in March of 2011. 9 years of college, 4 of them in Graduate school.....I am really not very smart.
Anyway, back to the spiritual lessons of the day: Silence, Suffering and Solitude -
Silence: I ran the first 11 miles with a good friend, his first trail race - went very easy, actually had to drop him at mile 8 because the pace was too slow and I knew it would be getting hot this day, felt completely awesome. Amazing how 12 miles feels so short when you know you are doing 26.2. After I left him, I put on my Ipod to enjoy 4 more hours of music and trails, and, it DIED! Now, this might not seem like a big deal, but I do all my running with music and there were not many people to talk to during this race, so this kind of freaked me out! I tried everything to fix it - it just was not in God's plan for me to listen to music on this day. Actually, the silence and the sounds of nature were very nice, it changed the experience, not for the better, just different.
Suffering: First of all, it was hot. Last year it was freezing and the race was still, by far, the hardest trail I had ever run. This year I was in shorts and a short sleeved shirt and I was sweating within a 1/2 mile! It actually warmed up to over 85 degrees, not good running weather for Rami (remember, I was pouring cold water over my head in the Pine Mountain 40 miler when the temp was in the 30's)! 2nd of all, I was in fantastic aerobic shape having done plenty of long runs, however, I was NOT in hill shape! I did a lot of running, but really nothing can prepare you for this course unless you go up and train on it! I felt completely fine until mile 18.5, the guy at the aid station said: you only have 7.5 miles left..........those 7.5 miles took me almost 2
Mystery Mountain Marathon - October 10, 2010
hours to complete! It really was miserable and it is a shame, because the 4 mile uphill (really, it is almost completely uphill for 4 miles straight) is very beautiful. I couldn’t enjoy a bit of it as I was just suffering, suffering suffering and wanting the day to be over. I came as close as I ever have to dropping out of a race at mile 22. At that point I just calculated that if I walked the whole rest of the way I could still finish in under the 8 hour time cut off. I used this time to try to connect to the lord, reaching out for help from him, reaching out to focus on the blessing that I am able to do this (staring at a bracelet I have that is in honor of a 13 year old in our school that has brain cancer) focusing on how wonderful I would feel at the end if I could finish, etc. God stayed with me but it was very, very hard. I cannot explain how emotionally low you get in these races, especially me when I get overheated.
Solitude: Because of the extreme nature of this race, there were only about 80 people in the marathon so there were many, many times when I spent a ton of time alone. Interestingly enough, the lesson here was this: I really enjoy solitude when I am training and feeling good but when I feel like crap - it really helps to have someone to be around, to talk to, suffer with, even just walk next too. I was walking with a guy that I probably would have absolutely nothing in common with outside of this 4 mile climb and it really helped to have another human near me. Although there did come a point when I was very, very low and I could tell he was feeling good that I was ready to throw him off the side of the trail :-) Luckily that feeling passed!
Somehow, I finished the race, 6 Hours and 4 minutes (amazingly, 28th overall), 22 minutes slower than last year. Felt absolutely exhausted, burnt out, miserable. Had a cold coke, jumped into a freezing lake and felt wonderful within 5 minutes....amazing how your mood can change instantly when one of these things are over.
- I weigh about 20 lbs less
- I do some serious hill training beforehand
- I completely forget the 4 mile uphill section!

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