Some people get tattoos to commemorate important accomplishments. I have a dimple. When I smile big, there's an indentation on my left cheekbone, compliments of my first 100 miler, the 2004 Massanutten. I was running the section called the Jawbone and had navigated the rocky outcroppings without any problems. Then on a nice, flat section of trail, a small rock reached up and grabbed my foot, and I fell hard, onto another rock. I landed on my hip and face, blackening my eye, chipping my cheekbone and leaving a plate sized bruise on my hip.
I would like to say that was my worst experience of the run, but I think the 28 blisters topped that. I know how many there were because Tony made me drain them all, sitting in a hot bath, right before he dumped salt on them. We weren't married yet. He must have had a lot of confidence in our relationship, because ordinarily, that might be a deal-breaker. Then again, he was the one who talked me into running the Massanutten as my first 100.
"If you can finish that one, you'll know you can finish any of them." That's good logic, but I suffered so badly that I had no interest in another 100 for a couple of years.
So, here I am, seven years later, headed back to the scene of the crime. I'm not sure why, because although I don't remember what the suffering felt like, I do remember that I suffered. A lot. My only really good memory of the run was crossing the finish line. Oh, and the ice cream sandwiches at Elizabeth Furnace.
Here's what I remember.
There were rocks. Not the nice, stable North Carolina rocks, but the nasty little pointy ones that roll around and chase you down the hill.
Hallucinations. The man in the green raincoat looking at a map with Tony. And the double blazes that indicated we were almost to Elizabeth Furnace. I looked at those three times to make sure they were real. They weren't.
Crying on the climb from Edinburg Gap to Woodstock Tower and telling Tony that my feet hurt so bad, I didn't think I could keep going. Tony reminding me of the story of the blind AT hiker who constantly tripped and fell during the 2000 mile journey. "He didn't quit, " he said. Fine. I'll suck it up.
Having to use my hands on my quads to make them climb the last really steep mountain.
Looking and feeling like an accident victim for a week after the run.
Now, one week before the race, I sit here and wonder why I am doing it. I already feel a little banged up. My knee and hip hurts. I've been having some nausea issues. I can't breathe with all this pollen. Tony's knee is hurting and he can't pace me. If I had good sense, I would just stay home.
But then again, if I had good sense, I would find another sport. No excuses. Let's just see if I've learned anything in the past seven years.