It has been a long time since I posted. As I started thinking about what to write, my thoughts settled to The Ascent Run. Held on August 12, 2012, this was another day I learned about myself. Notice I say another day.
The Ascent was held August 12, 2012. This run began at the Blue Ridge Mountain Club shelter near the base of a mountain with the finish at the entrance gate off Reynolds Parkway, near Blowing Rock, NC. Advertisements stated The Ascent to be The Hardest Hill Climbs in the South at 3.7 miles with over 1,300 feet of elevation gain.
I thought this would be a fun and challenging event. The weather was perfect. There were 43 runners at the starting line and I placed myself strategically in the middle of the pack, off to the side. I had promised my family I would be careful, walking if needed, and come home with no injuries. This placement at the starting line was part of this strategy. Someone casually stated that the first hill was the steepest with a 19 percent grade.
The gun went off and 75 yards into the race the 19 percent grade quickly began separating the pack, showing no mercy. As far as I could see, each runner held their own with everyone walking at some point on this first section. We pressed onward and upward. Eventually I found myself alone surrounded by fantastic views off the side of the mountain. The pack had really spread.
I experienced many feelings during this event. There was excitement at the beginning, followed by stubbornness at being passed, competitiveness as I caught up with other runners, and more pain than I had experienced before during any practice or event. There were even moments when I hurt so bad that I calculated it was closer to return to the start than move forward to the finish. I blocked those thoughts and settled myself into finishing.
Exactly 59 minutes and change later, I came into view of the finish line which was a short and steep up-hill section. Everyone started cheering and yelling there was still time to finish under one hour if I could hurry forward. The final time was 59:54:00. I finished 43 out of 43 participants. I finished. Last. I was pleased. I finished. This was my first time ever in last place. It was humbling and I finished. I was reminded of the preciousness of life, the beauty of the world and how fortunate I was to get to participate.
I caught a ride with some fellow runners to the starting line where the celebratory party was starting. Food was cooking on grills and everyone was talking about the toughness of the run. While not The Bear, those with The Bear experience mutually agreed that this run was close to it in toughness. Blowing Rock Brewery was one of the sponsors and they donated many cases of beer to celebrate our achievement.
I took home a 6-pack of IPA and Ale and a t-shirt. I also asked for an event poster to remind myself of the education The Ascent provided. When I got home I proudly displayed my winnings to my family. I plan to return to The Ascent in 2013, and also, the further from the event I get, the more fond and pleasant my memories become.