Squam Lake Ridge Race. More than just a race.
The Squam Lake Ridge Race, put on by the Squam Lakes Association, is a race that I plan to confront again next year. This year the race defeated me. Plain and simple. I wasn’t up to the challenge. I let my mind take control of my performance and that was the end of it.
I woke up on the morning of the race after a restless night of sleep. I had gone to bed to late. I did not nourish or hydrate properly (eating foods that would upset my stomach and perhaps had a taste of wine . . .) During the night the rain fell on our tin roof in drumming sheets. The rain woke my 3 year old who climbed into bed next to me somewhere around 3:45 a.m. too close to when my alarm would be going off for the race. I never truly fell back to sleep and felt groggy as I slid into my racing clothes wondering if the driving rain would continue through the morning. It was pitch black outside which matched my mood. It did not feel like a day to race but I went anyway. I was committed and had a friend coming along.
Driving to the race my mood perked up with the company of a good friend as we chatted about running, adventures, and life. Thankfully as the sun came up the rain subsided. Being that this race was in its first year we weren’t sure if we’d be the only ones at the race. But steadily the runners arrived. By runners I mean super fit ultrarunners in disguise, who at the start peeled of their rain gear revealing muscular quads and calves ready to “kill” the first climb to the top of the ridge and intense grit and determination. I felt intimidated at the start. I felt sluggish. I had forgotten my mojo at home.
The start of the race was low-key. I went out too fast and felt the wind leave my lungs as soon as we began climbing the first peak. That’s where the negative self-talk began. Damn that little voice in my head . . . ! The uphill climb was tough. The rocks were smooth and slippery and in some places I felt as though I was climbing a ladder. Running became a full body sport. I worked to find hand holds and was thankful for my strong shoulders and lats as they were needed to hoist myself up and over boulders in places.
Eventually I reached the top. I felt defeated and my energy was low. A couple of runners passed me as I hit this low point and I even said that they could go on by because I had lost my energy. An awesome runner friend offered me a GU but at this point I knew that it was more than fuel that was missing. I had hit my low-point. The miles in this race were spent soul searching. Why was I putting so much pressure on myself? Why was I pushing so hard? Why was I running away? Why wasn’t I enjoying what I had. I spent the next 4 miles sliding over slick rocks and struggling to stay upright. I fell down hard. Losing my breath for a moment. Eventually I came to a point in the race that made it all worth it.
It was amazing. The trees opened up as rays of sunlight broke through the clouds revealing a silver Squam Lake spanning for miles below me. I remembered why I was there. I picked myself up and decided to push on just as I am doing now. I must pick myself and get going in a forward direction. This race was a turning point for me. It helped me to see myself. I am strong and I am the one who will cary myself through when things get hard.
I finished the race. It wasn’t about my time it was about finishing. It wasn’t easy. I challenged my body and worked hard to bring everything back into a positive focus. It is what I am doing now every single day. I am moving forward . . . slowly . . . one foot in front of the other. It will take time but I will get myself back to where I want to be.
It’s funny how sometimes just when you need it most life throws you into a situation that helps you to see again. I see everything around me now and I am thankful.