At the spur of the moment, on a sunny day in December, I decided to take a leap and sign up for my first 50k – the beast known to many as the Horseshoe Trail Run at Jack Brooks park which is held by TROT in January. This park and I have had our issues with each other during the Night Moves Races in 2016, but I felt it was time to return and face “Mr. Brooks” once again, cause this chick doesn’t like to back down from a challenge. And she doesn’t like it when someone (or something) tries to break her inner spirit. So it was on!
Days prior to the race, the Houston area received a significant amount of rain which caused flooding in many areas, which included Jack Brooks Park. I began to question myself as to whether I should skip the race or drop to a lower distance. With this being my first 50k, it made the anxiety kick up a notch (ok more like five notches).
A couple of days prior to the race, I received the anticipated email from TROT to update everyone on the trail conditions. The moment I saw the coveted “100% FUN” mentioned in the email, I began the traditional #FUROB chant cause when “100% FUN” is mentioned, that means you got a fking challenge ahead of you. But it also means that you can take this situation, grab a hold of it by its balls, and just go have some damn FUN. So then and there, I decided to stick with the 50k and just have fun.
The morning of the race, I show up, toes to the starting line, ready to kick Mr. Brooks ass. I was excited, yet nervous like a school kid about to give a speech in front of the class. I started to question my ability. Can I do this? Am I ready? Was I crazy to sign up for this last minute? The answer to all those questions was YES. So let’s get this party started. It’s finally geaux time.
As I start the race, I feel good and smiling. Holy shit I am doing this! Then we turn the corner to hit the inner trails and the 100% FUN begins. During the first of five loops, I realized I was in for a challenge that was more overwhelming than what I anticipated. Started to question myself again, as I sloshed through the dense, gripping mud and slid down those devious, slippery hills that wanted to throw me back to the bottom of the pit. Took a few deep breaths and told myself to keep going. One step at a time. And whatever you do, don’t cry.
During my 2nd and 3rd loops (yes I made it this far), I was struggling on many levels. The demon of Jack Brooks was really trying to break my spirit, my strength, my will to achieve a new goal. But during the 3rd loop, I came upon a group of runners who were doing the 5k and 10k distances. Some were sitting at the bottom of a very tough hill, in tears. This was their first race and they felt defeated that they couldn’t overcome the grimy, muddy obstacle ahead of them. They wanted to succeed at this race with our all their heart. So I stopped and talked to them and created a plan to help them overcome this hurdle. After much team work, all the runners scaled that muddy demon and made it to the top! Every one of them hugged me and thanked me for taking time out of my own race to help them achieve their own goals. They showed the same blood, sweat, and tears that many of us experience – whether it’s a 5K or a 50K. It all means the same. You are putting forth so much of your inner strength to do something you thought you could never, ever do. But if you have the right foundation in place, anything can be achieved.
With about 2 miles left in the 3rd loop, the doubt started to hit like Miley Cyrus on wrecking ball. I started to stumble and fall, over and over. I cut my hand at some point, not sure where, but looked down and noticed the blood covering my hand. Remember earlier when I told myself not to cry? Well the tears started to flow down my dirty cheeks, trying to persuade me this can’t be done. Just quit Julie, it’s over. A few minutes later I told myself I would regret giving up. I’ve fought many demons in the past, so why can’t I put this demon to rest? Took some deep inner breaths, wiped the dirty tears from my face, and moved forward. That’s all you can do.
I come across the start line to finish my third loop. I see my boyfriend on the side, cheering me on. That always warms my heart, knowing he is there for me. Gives me strength I never had before. I turn the corner to the aid station and my good friend Victor is there to greet me. He can see the tears in my eyes, but doesn’t acknowledge it. Instead he reminded me there was so much support there to help me finish this, so don’t quit. He also took the time to clean up my bloody hand and wrapped it up with much care. Everyone is telling me I can do this, I have the strength, both mental and physical. So off I go for loop 4.
During loops 4 and 5, the struggle was becoming harder. The depths of hell were trying to drag my tired body to the ground. I realized I was one of the last runners still attempting to finish this bitch. Although it was sad to know I was close to last place, I also know I hadn’t given up. I kept remembering what Victor told me. I can hear the TROT award celebrations going on, hearing Rob on the speaker reminded me I was close to “home”. One step at a time, Julie. You got this. Then, I finally exit the trails and find the road that will lead me back “home”. Crap I hope they didn’t forget I was out there….and there better still be some damn beer left!
As I start my way down the road, I start to see human life once again. It’s my good friend Jeremy, who’s waving me come in. My legs are feeling weak, my arms just want to curl up. If I crash during this last section, I’ll never forgive myself. Then I hear RD Rob saying something on the speakers. I hear him calling my name. “Cmon Julie, we are here waiting for you!!”. Cheers from spectators were lifting up my tired body, encouraging me to give it all I got. It was amazing! My legs suddenly felt like they belonged to a wild stallion! I gave it all I got to cross the finish line. I felt so empowered. And to see all my wonderful friends who helped me get where I am today. My heart just swelled. I splash over the finish line, and RD Rob gave me his infamous hug, although I really wanted to just collapse right there. Remember earlier when I told myself not to cry? I did, again. But these were tears created by a foundation which I call my family. Tears that showed I have strength beyond what many people in my past said I didn’t have. So as I take my well-earned medal, I fall into the arms of my best friend…..and smiled.