Holy Hills ‘Merica!

“Remember that deciding is not doing, and wanting is not choosing.  Transformation will take place not because of what you decide you want, but because of what you choose to do.” -Eric Greitens

Transformation is “choosing and doing,” for lack of more sophisticated word choice. Yesterday, I ran the Firecracker 4 Mile. Being a newbie for this race…I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up for it 2 months ago.

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Mother Nature had graced us with perfect conditions…clear skies, light breeze, no unbearable heat to be felt (yet…).

The distance wasn’t the issue here. Training for my sprint triathlon and having run half marathons, four miles is a warm up on most days.  I have been maintaining a 9:20 pace recently as well, which is a huge improvement from when I began running 2 years ago with a 11:30 pace!

It was…the hills.  Not just one, or two, or even three…then entire race was 4 miles of hills.

Hills.  Some runners love them…pursue them…view them as a battle to be won.  Others, like myself,  have yet to embrace the beauty of running hills in a race.  Hills to me is an equal nemesis as water crossings when I’m hiking.  One hill, one water crossing is doable…not yet squashing the psyche.

But this was a race….with consecutive hills…there was a timing chip and pride to maintain.  So…

Transformation is “choosing and doing.”  And transformed once again, I would become…

The race began at 8:00 a.m.  The participants were full of the American spirit! Most were donned red, white and blue from head to toe.  My stomach performed its usual pre-race antics.  Like I mentioned, the temperature was ideal at the start…a breezy 64 degrees.

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I was pretty unfamiliar with the race venue, being that I live on the west side of the area. Unfamiliarity tends to raise my anxiety level when it comes to races (and many other things!).  I studied the race map, but honestly, it only provided a blank visual to fill my mind.  Having no concept for what I was about the do, I did what I always do in these types of situations: pace back and forth, with my earbuds blasting race music in my ears.

Not the best strategy but hey, it calms my nerves up until the 3,2,1 GO! countdown blares through the microphone.

I had met up with some friends at the start of the race (knowing full well that would be the last I see of these strong runners until the finish line…they are much much faster than me).

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Back to the transformation point:  before me, as we began to run, was a huge hill.  Ok…I thought in my head, just use your “hill mantra.”

Up, up, up , up, up…I repeat in my head.  Also, I hear “I don’t know but I’ve been told…” chanting in the background for some strange reason.

Then, just like that, one hill conquered! I lift my eyes to view the sight before me…you’ve got to be kidding me!! Two more grand hills!   My mantra felt weak and useless…but I forged ahead..conquering each hill.

Up, up, (I don’t know what I’ve been told…) up, up…

Hearing my current pace through my earbuds was slightly discouraging as well…my goal was to finish under 38 minutes.  At this point, after 1.5 miles of hills, I was running a 9:57 pace.  Still doable in my mind, but I would have to dig deep for the remaining 2.5 miles.

I seriously considered snapping a photo of the hills but couldn’t manage the multi-tasking of maintaining my breath and reaching for my phone in my Nathan waistband! #oldladyproblems

Enjoying the brief downhill off the 3rd hill, the course turned right onto a road called Turk Hill.  Yes…hill. As in, “Let’s do it again kids!”  Hill #4 I barely remember because this was about the time the race also opened up into full sun…hot! No shade anywhere in sight!

Despite my particular challenges for this race, I found myself smiling throughout the pain. The boy scout troops in the local area were volunteering at the water stops and those little faces certainly brightened up my day!! Polite, encouraging, respectful young boys full of smiles and “You got this!” shouting from their voices.

You have to be present during the struggles…there are always bright spots when enduring hardships! Thanks to these little guys proudly serving water and America!

The race leveled out for the next 1/2 mile at mile 3…I was able to increase my pace here for a bit while trying my best to ignore the rising, sweltering heat at this point.

Just a mile to go…then just a half mile…then…as the course turned back into the park:  WHAMMY!  The final 1/2 mile of the race finishes on a hill!!! Are you kidding me ‘merica?!

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No…America was not kidding.  America is very serious when it comes to hard work, grit and perseverance.  So this girl would have to dig down deep, deep into the pit of her soul and harness some serious inner grit.  My calves were on fire…the burning infiltrated my hamstrings. A relentless pounding in my heart could be heard through my ears.   Tightening my core..I gave it all I had to cross that finish line!

39:46 with a 9:57 pace.  Not what I was hoping for…but I was extremely proud of myself for getting in under 40 minutes considering my cluelessness about the course and its challenges!

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Transformation is “choosing and doing.”  This was another “mountain” for me to climb. For many runners yesterday, this race was a walk in the park.  But for me, it was my “nemesis race.”  A race consisting of obstacles that typically send me straight into the ground.

I didn’t preview the course. I had no clue what I was getting myself into…

But:

Not knowing everything cannot be an excuse for not doing anything.” -Eric Greitens.

Maybe life should be more like this:

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Yes..life happens on the hills (and flat hair? No thanks!)  Holy hills ‘merica…and thank goodness! The Land of the Free provided another opportunity to test courage and character.  If we don’t experience pain, challenges, hardships in life, we strip ourselves of happiness.

We need the struggle.  We need the obstacles.  Or we will never grow in resilience.

Enduring with purpose through pain = resilience = inner wholeness = grace & happiness

Thank you America for the beautiful 4 miles of happiness. Run happy. Run often. Smile always.

Saluting from the hilltop,

J

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