The mud, rocks, and roots gave way to the smooth, hard pavement. I have never been so happy to leave the woods and step foot onto a man-made surface. This transition from one surface to another usually signifies the end of a great trip, and though this wasn’t the end, it was darn close. I didn’t want to check my watch, but I knew that I had been running on, slipping on, and climbing on the Chubb Trail for over two hours at this point.
My race strategy worked perfectly. I started slow; much slower than it felt like I should have been going. I paced myself through the difficult climbs, tried to make good time by bombing down the rocky downhill sections, and put myself on cruise-control during the flat river bottom section. I saved enough energy through the first half of the race that I was able to push the intensity during the trip back.
My goal for this race was two-fold: first, to finish, and secondly, to leave everything I had out on the trail.
I turned the last corner and hit the last straightaway. I could see a flash of white ahead through the leaves; it had to be the banner at the finish line.
Five-hundred yards. Four-hundred yards. Three-
“Hey,” he shouted, “are you finishing?” I didn’t have the energy to speak back, so I simply nodded in confirmation.
“You missed it!” he shouted. “You missed a turn. Go back! Go back! There is one final loop of trail to the finish line. Didn’t she direct you to the turn off?”
No, she didn’t direct me. “Who is this ‘she’ anyway?” I wondered to myself. “No one was back there!”
I stopped, turned, and ran back as this man led me to the turn-off that I missed.
I was now making the transition from pavement back to trail. The previous transition, from trail to pavement, which I had celebrated just minutes before, wasn’t the end. The finish line had been in sight, but it had been a false hope. The final moments of sprinting down the straightaway didn’t lead me towards my victorious finish, but ended in the ultimate defeat – I thought I was finished, and I wasn’t.
I found myself back on the trail, doing my best to run up the last climb. I didn’t have any energy left, but somehow, someway, I had to find more to give. I played back the last couple of minutes in my head. I thought about how good it felt to be finishing strong, and then how horrible it felt to find out that I wasn’t there. My joy had quickly turned into frustration, anger, and disappointment. All of a sudden the connection between this race and hunting became even more real. There is a big difference between being close to success, and actually being successful. I have had plenty of “almost there” moments in hunting, the majority of which have ended in disappointment. These experiences are frustrating, and sometimes downright painful, but they are also what keep me coming back.
“A man who wants something will find a way; a man who doesn’t will find an excuse.”
– Stephen Dolley Jr.
I finally crossed the finish line, and glancing down at my watch, realized that I had just beat a time that I didn’t even think was possible. I certainly wasn’t the fastest man out there, but I had more than exceeded the expectations that I set for myself. Months of training had led up to this point, and after 15.5 miles of running, victory had never tasted so sweet.
The hundreds of training miles and dozens of 4:00 am runs in the dark were now worth it. Just a few months ago finishing this race felt like an impossibility, but now it was a reality.
There is something truly astonishing about setting your sights on a lofty goal, diligently to working towards it, and then finally attaining it. As cliché as it sounds, it is true – we are capable of much more than we often believe.
Find something that seems impossible and go after it. Pick a goal, make a plan, and get to work!
“I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible.”
– Saint Teresa
WILDERNESS ATHLETE GIVEAWAY
To celebrate my run, I thought it would be fun to share something that really helped me cross that finish line. Leave a comment below and be entered to win a 30 serving supply of Wilderness Athlete’s Energy & Focus. I will draw the winner some time next week. Good luck!