While I've done many types of athletic events since, the newest one ever was a trail race last June. It was a trail 10k which I got lucky enough to win. But far better than that, it would be only a little over two months later that I'd be heading back out there with friends and one very special family member, Kiana to do another 10k on a new course. Some people say go big or go home but why not go big as you're staying away from home and while it was Kiana's first 10k, her first trail race, and her first time camping, it would be both of ours first time ever night race.
We'd gone and run trail a couple of times to practice but each time had been in broad daylight but that's a start, as an old track coach used to say practice doesn't make perfect but it does make progress. There was a time in road races where obviously it was my job to be behind her in a stroller, as she progressed on her own two feet, I was beside her or ahead of her pacing, occasionally behind her when she bolted. On the trail when it's single track, there isn't always the luxury of switching places early so we practiced with me both behind her and ahead of her. We never could quite decide which one we liked better.
We practiced setting up the tent since I hadn't set one up since well before brain surgery and my memory isn't what it used to be. We didn't practice making s'mores ;); figured we had a little more forgivable room if errors were made in that arena. Still I've never been seen Kiana more pumped about the prospect of it, maybe because there were so many new things and the practice runs had taught her that trail has a lot less monotony than road races. Plus she was going to get to wear a headlamp for the first time.
When we got up there, it wasn't long before she was swinging on a tree... I tried to little avail to try to get her to conserve her energy for the race. We watched friends take off in the 60k half an hour before our start and the 30k 15 minute before ours. Kiana didn't seem to blink at all in how relaxed she was. I was a little jealous and thought maybe I should have been on the swing more. When we took off, I told her she was going to have to figure out what felt normal on this since it wasn't like road and I didn't know the terrain... In simple honesty I thought she was gunning out way too fast when she was passing people by mile 2. I'd given her the same hope I do in every race, we can go as slow as we want but let's not walk.
She kept going and about the halfway mark we saw a gorgeous sunset and a beautiful moon. She pointed out how orange they both were. I almost redirected her to focus since I didn't want her to fall. But I figured it was right in nature to absorb it plus I realized in races of so many types I've missed the scenery from trying to gun. Once I noticed the moon I realized she was right and I was grateful and a little jealous that she's already focused on not missing things like that.
It got pretty dark going over some rocks and I stayed in front of her for the rest of the race trying to light up and light back things. She still took a few falls but she'd get up and keep moving through all of them. She kept passing people, not once getting passed and continued to ask me to tell her when there was about a mile left. I asked her why she wanted to know that. She said just to let her know so I did and at that point she sped up... At that point I was hoping she wouldn't collapse effort wise. Still with the speed she took up she literally collapsed over a rock. The lady behind her who she had just passed graciously said check yourself and she said okay and outloud just said while running "Okay checking, it hurts, checking it hurts, okay it hurts, it hurts" and kept moving. She would finish the race in about 1:22 after a few falls and scratches.
When it was over and we got our medals I noticed the inscription on the band, those who don't take a
chance won't get a chance. Almost 5 years ago I thought I was out of chances but that night I'd done a 10k at a much faster pace than I imagined and plenty faster than many people with much longer legs and bigger lungs, though if you ask me there may not be anyone alive in the universe with a bigger or better heart. We cheered people and made drawings. Once it was getting close to 10 PM well past her bedtime, I told her it was time to start getting ready for bed. Yeah that took all of a second before she pointed out we hadn't made s'mores yet and she wasn't going to bed without that. It took me just as much time to say that she was right.
We sat there and cooked s'mores, cheered on friends and strangers as they got to the finish line while eating s'mores. Finally I got her to bed. I couldn't sleep, don't know if it was from the good company, the post race elations, the gorgeous night but I ended up sitting next to the lake taking it all in. Sitting there comfortable at times in both conversation and other times in quiet, I realized that once upon a time I thought my best days, my best steps were behind me and I was dead wrong. That night I was glad that I hadn't focus too much of the fact that I'd be dead someday and that getting it right, at least for one night was being open to new possibilities in new places that even with some new falls were more than worth taking the chance.