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Chapter 4 : The Descent

A recap from the Cirque Series A' Basin Trail race in Colorado on September 9th.


Taking my first step down from the peak was like stepping off a stair that you're not prepared for. My foot hit the ground with more force than I expected and my next step was about the same. I'd been really looking forward to going downhill, but the shake out run I'd done the day before left me feeling more sore than I would have liked to be and I was fairly certain it was the downhill that caused it. It made me nervous for what I was about to do. I still had 2,411' over the course of 4 miles to run down and my legs were already worn out.

I've done loads of hilly trail running around Austin and I've even hit some mountain trails out at Big Bend National Park (see my Run-Cation In Big Bend Blog Series for reviews of the trails I ran), but nothing that I've previously done could have prepared me for this.

For the first 400meters of the way down, every step felt like I was falling down another stair. Continuously unable to catch my step. I was trying to run, but I would gain speed so quickly! Rarely do I get nervous running downhill. I usually just let the momentum of the hill pull me along as I pick up my knees and fly. It's exhilarating, and one of the reasons I love trail running so much. I'm extremely comfortable with my body's limits and years of sport has taught me to trust my footwork, but this didn't just make me nervous; it frightened me. I've never moved so fast downhill.

When I got back to the med station at the ski lift, where the cold looking volunteers stood passing out water, and electrolytes, I convinced myself that that would be the hardest and most technical part of the downhill. On the way up that stretch seemed to be the steepest point, so I was telling myself that if I could do that the rest would just be easier. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when we're doing hard things. I felt confident that we'd be running down wide ski slopes and not over large jagged rocks like at the top. Boy, was wrong I wrong.

We turned a quick corner and wind down a narrow slope with a drop off to the left side. I was flying on this hill but knew that one wrong step would have me sliding on the gravel. Apparently, one of the top 5 finishers did fall on his way down and finished the race with a bloody ripped up shoulder. I was not trying to have that happen to me. But slowing down was difficult because of the large gravel rocks that covered the ground. I was worried that if I went too fast I would loose my footing and if I tried to slow down too much I would slide on the rocks and tumble down the mountain. The best option was to just do my best to maintain the pace I'd created on this portion. The trail had to flatten out eventually. Mile 7 was the fastest mile that I ran at 9 minutes. I know that 9 minutes for a mile doesn't sound that fast, but consider this, that portion of the course cut across multiple double blue and black slopes. I don't know how Garmin comes up with this metric, but my watch says that my fasts speed during that portion of the race was 39mph and the fasts pace that I reached was 1 minute and 32 seconds per mile. To say that I was zooming down the trail is an understatement.

About half way to mile 8 the trail finally flattened out and actually... we went BACK UPHILL... I could hardly believe it. Literally, the trail started uphill again! I walked. At this point I was really feeling my legs. I kept checking my watch to see how much farther I needed to go. The course description on their website says that the trail was 8.8 miles, but like I mentioned in chapter 3, my watch said that I ran a total of 9.5 miles. It was in this moment when we turned to go back uphill that I realized that I still had a long way to go. My heart started to sink.

I was hurting. Like actually hurting. My hips were locking up with every step. My Tibialis Anterior muscles on both legs were seizing up. I didn't even know they could do that! My knees... actually my knees felt fine! All the weight training that I do every week keeps my knees really healthy. I do a lot of work specifically to help keep my knee joints in good shape. But my core... Oh my... my core was beyond toast. Until now I thought that I've always done a good job keeping my core strong as well but after this race I know that I could do better. My hips were beginning to dip every time I took a step and arms were flailing all over the place, no longer assisting with my balance at all. My whole core was starting to give out and my form was completely falling apart. I was running like a rag doll.

Your legs are going to give out. The wall is coming. The thought whispered into my mind like the voice of an inner demon you've been battling for years. I immediately started to panic.

My legs are going to give out! You're going to hit a wall!

The voice was consistent and torturous, and it started repeating itself uncontrollably. I'd been running short steep switchbacks for the past half mile or so in a clump of trees separating two slopes. On the trail I dodged roots, rocks and limbs while taking tight turns over boulders and fallen trees. Technically, I was running, but I mostly felt like I was tumbling down the trail. With every step I took, an outburst of grunting ensued. I was starting to fall apart physically and mentally.

The trail flattened out for a moment and I tried to catch a grip on myself. One of the things that made this race so challenging was that there were no spectators. Unless my friends and family hiked up the trail before me, they were really only able to be in very specific places on the course and at the start/finish line. A crowd is something that always pushes me through on any race that I've done. The spectators cheering make such a difference in your mood throughout the race. I'm always so grateful to have them there helping push you along when you're at your lowest. At this point I was certain that I wouldn't see my hype squad until I crossed the timing strips, and that was really getting to me.

I guessed that I was about a mile from the finish line and my mind was not in a good spot. I wanted to run all the way to the end, but the negative thoughts in my head were so loud. I knew that I wouldn't get to see anyone again on the course. I was considering walking again, but I was also concerned that if I stopped I wouldn't start running again.

The trail finally popped us out of a patch of trees and onto a flat stretch.

This is a great place to start walking and pull myself together, I thought. Just as I was slowing down to walk, I heard it.



It was my people. They were in the exact right spot at the exact right time. My heart soared and I started to tear up. It's amazing how emotional a hard race can make you. You're proving so much to yourself when you finish something like a race. It's the feeling I keep chasing with every registration. As I ran by I gave everyone a high five and with each touch I got a jolt of energy. Just as fast as they came up I was running away from them, and as I ran off I heard them echoing behind me.


My husband knows that one really gets me. It was everything I need to get me through to the finish line. He shouted it as I ran head first into another patch of trees and switchbacks.

I was on a new level.

One mile to go. Less than 10 minutes of work. I can do this. I've done harder things in my life than this! My body is strong. I am strong.

I flew down the rest of the trail to the finish line. Chanting my mantras as I went. I can. I will. The finish line was in sight now. I sprinted through the black On arch and nearly collapsed into one of the people handing out medals. It was done. I did it. I couldn't believe that I did it. I was shook. Like a baby dear taking it's first steps, I walked to find my loved ones.

Once I'd calmed down from the excitement the leg stiffness set in. I was jello. A jello that stuck with me for the next 4 days. It was the sorest I've ever been in my life. The whole experience was incredible. One I'll never forget. The soreness was completely worth it. It sounds crazy but I'm ready for the next one.


Thank you so much for reading! I'm grateful to you for following along. I had the best time with this race and I'm already looking into other trail races like it that I can sign up for.

If you made it this far please consider leaving me a comment. Let me know, would you sign up for something like this or am I totally crazy?

For more content follow my Instagram: SoFast_Sonya

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2 комментария

You are crazy!! But in the best way 😝

Coach Sonya
Coach Sonya
12 окт. 2023 г.
Ответ пользователю

Hahaha! Thanks girl! It was truly an amazing experience.

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