The Hard Way

Came Friday night and I just didn’t felt like running. I had no will or motivation to go and do it. Not sure if I was scared of the weather, the crazy conditions, lack of training post injury or I just wasn’t feeling it. One hour later I was sitting on the bus heading to the start line. Still wondering what on earth I’m doing. Because I know myself. Once I start, I want to finish. Oh how much easier it would be not to start at all.

I gave myself few days after the race to find the right words to describe it. I still haven’t found many. Truth is – unless you’ve been there, you will never understand. Races in Alps are on beautiful maintained paths. The weather there may be adverse and ascents cruel. But this ‘thing’ in Azores…. that was wild.

I’ve never experienced so much fear being in mountains. I’ve never been so uncomfortable. I was sobbing. I cried. I didn’t wanted to be there. But there was nowhere else to go. So I kept going. So many moments when I wanted to curl in a little ball under a rock and stay there. Shivering. Worried about hypothermia. Yet another knee deep muddy cow field full of shit to cross. Screaming inside. Crying outside. Descending slippery wet muddy landslides. Down into the river. Holding onto rope trying to get up. Crossing some tropic forest full of wet plants. Slipping. Not falling.

Running 14 hours in darkness and 10 hours in daylight. Running with headtorch in torrential rain and in mist make you feel like there is a crowd of black flies flying into your head. Just keep moving, don’t stop. Whatever happens, don’t stop – says Romao who walks behind me. Joao is in front securing the route. If I would be here alone, I would be already dead. Fallen from cliff. Lying in mud. No one would even find me. The marks disappeared. Must be because of the strong winds. Or they vanished in mud. Crossing (yet another) cow field without any signposts won’t get you anywhere. 10 or 12 of us. Lost together. Thermal blankets on. Waiting for 30 minutes for the organiser to arrive and show us direction. I don’t want to be here. I hate it. I’ve never been so cold. Or negative. Still so thankful I’m not alone.

Hail. The highest peak might be only 900m tall but if you are in middle of Atlantic Ocean, it feels higher than Mont Blanc. Trying to walk through bushes full of thorns. Covering my face with hands as the hail hurts my eyes and cheeks do badly.

No wonder no one lived here before Portuguese sailors discovered this island in 14th century. The nature here is damn strong and so powerful. It is so green it will hurt your eyes. Everything grows. Everywhere. I feel like the island doesn’t want any human beings here. Definitely not me.

I thought the distance will be my challenge. But it was the weather and organisation. Maybe in summer, maybe, maybe it would be safer. If you think I’m exaggerating: out of 280 people only 79 finished. Maybe in summer the 30 – 45 km/h winds won’t blow away the marks. Maybe the constant rain won’t cause so many landslides. Maybe there won’t be so many streams to run in. Maybe I’m too soft. Maybe I’m too sensible.

But I got through in one piece. With no physical pain (let’s not mention the mental one though!) and no injuries. For someone who was wearing air cast boot since mid June… that’s the biggest achievement there ever was. More than finish line, more than medal, more than placing 3rd in my category and 7th female overall. First 100k (112k actually) done.

I should be thankful it was so horrible as everything that will follow will be probably be easier. Why oh why do I always have to learn the hard way?

 

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