Well I’m sitting in a B and B in La Malbaie, Quebec, a small town just over an hour outside of Quebec City. Tick tock goes the clock…But first a little bit of information.
This week I have barely even had time to look at the treadmill never mind get on one but I’m not stressing because this is the taper week. Yes that’s right. Taper. The end is near. The hours spent sweating and cursing, dousing with sunscreen and bug spray, of counting kilometres and calories are almost done.
I finished my shift at midnight Wednesday night. OK technically Thursday morning. I tried to catch a quick nap but no luck so I headed out into a torrential downpour. Once I got out of the city, I stopped at a rest stop and put my head back for a snooze and had better luck this time. Funny that I can sleep in my car in a parking lot with no problem but a room designed for people to sleep in? Forget about it.
I stumbled out of my car and into Tim Horton’s and tried to order a breakfast bagel and coffee. In the end, my still sleepy brain was unable to form a complete sentence and I ended up just pointing at the menu and grunting.
As I was driving eastward, there was still rain to contend with and random lane closures that reduced the highway to a single lane. Even though it was still early, the transport trucks slowed me down.
I picked a friend up in Montreal and we made the trip the rest of the way along the shore of the St. Lawrence River. There may have been a stop for cheese at one of the many “fromageries” we passed by (you know there totally was a stop and we ate ALL the cheeses they had). The rain was still coming down but it was not as bad as it had been in Toronto. And then we rolled into the fog. Fog so thick it made me wish for the rain to come back. The kind of fog that’s so thick you can barely see the headlights coming at you until they are passing by. Then -poof- it was gone.
We drove into La Malbaie and followed the St. Lawrence River until we got to our B & B, Gite Dentelles et Pignons. Now I have mixed feeling about B & B’s: on one hand you’re staying in a stranger’s house. On the other hand, they tend to be cheaper. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as we walked up to the house. The design is, let’s just say, quaint. I’m not a fan of dolls and yet they were everywhere. But our hosts, Pierre and Susan, were so incredibly gracious and kind. Our room was clean with two queen beds, and the washroom was almost another bedroom.
We drove out into town and after hunting for a restaurant, we finally decided on La Boheme Steakhouse. The first impression was of a sports bar with saddles on display and lots of wood furniture and a large fireplace outside. It seemed really nice. It would have been great if the food delivered what the design promised. The only way to describe my food was “meh”. Mediocre at best.
I crawled into bed and passed out in no time which is an oddity for me. Breakfast more than made up for the disappointing dinner. Pierre would not even let me pour my own coffee. The homemade cakes and cookies and muffins and spreads were proudly on display and the crepe that I had with creme anglaise and fruit was incredible.
I went for a walk around town to get my bearings. I went to a few stores and thought of all kinds of things I could buy and then caught myself: why was I creating issues in my mind? It’s one thing to be prepared but I have to carry everything on my back. There are aid stations with first aid stations. So why did I find myself scoping out the shelves of the drug store? The nerves were starting to set in.
I briefly toyed with the idea of a light run but the thought of putting on my shoes just did not appeal to me. I found some spectacular views along the river and sat on the rocks down by the water, stopping briefly to stare at a gorgeous old church. Then it was lunch time.
We went to Joe’s for smoked meat and even though the service was less than stellar, the food was fantastic. But the urge for a little sweetness was calling to us so we went to a bakery just down the road. Even though I am a confirmed choco-holic, I grabbed the carrot cake. So good.
Then it was time to go. Tick tock goes the clock.
The reason I have been training and running, why I have been sharing my stories with you, my experiments with food and shoes has almost arrived. The Ultra Trail Hurricana. I am making my first attempt at completing an ultra marathon this weekend. And did I sign up a 50 km run for that first attempt? No. Perhaps the 65 km course. Of course not. I jumped in with both feet. I signed up for the 50 mile (80 km for the metrically minded) course. A distance that I have never attempted before.
We went to pick up my race kit at the finish line. My friend was supposed to do the 65 km race but was sidelined by an injury. I stood and looked at the people around me: lithe and lean, these were people that just looked like athletes; the kind of people that would roll over whatever terrain the trail threw at them. I didn’t feel like I fit in and it wasn’t just my lousy grasp of French. I felt like an imposter. I mean who am I to even think that I can share the trail with them?
Tick tock goes the clock.
We went to an amazing restaurant that was recommended by Pierre : Restaurant L’Orchidee. Wow. Great food and great prices. Definitely a must visit if you’re in town.
Then it was time to pack my gear. And here was where I had an epiphany: I had almost a pound of my drink all in individual little baggies and when I put it in my pack and lifted it, I realized how heavy it was. It was as though all the weight in that pack was the weight of my nervousness. I’ve run more than half the distance on my own. In every sense. No aid stations, no supplemental food, no volunteers, no first aiders, no one else. Me. Here I was thinking that I was doing this all on my own; that it was just me against the trail. But this isn’t to make me fail. The whole purpose is to lift me up.
Then it hit me: I’m not competing against all those runners I saw. I’m not racing against a mountain. I’m not trying to beat any clock but the cut-off. I’m competing against the overweight (let’s not sugar-coat it – fat) and out of shape girl that I was just three years ago. I’m competing against the doubt and despair and negativity. Against the voice in the back of my mind that says “You can’t do this. You’re not good enough.”
Well with all do respect to that voice: FUCK YOU. I made it this far. I have every right to stand at that start line tomorrow morning. I went from barely being able to walk a few blocks at a brisk pace to finishing 50 km in just over seven hours. Is it a great time? No. But it’s my time. And now I’m going to make that mountain mine.
Tick tock goes the clock.