Throughout the 16-mile race, running up and down a mountain in the heat of the day, I found that I was not mentally as strong as I had trained to be.
Not because of the heat and humidity that characterizes my new life in the Deep South, although that was making everything about running harder than it had been in the west and Midwest. I wasn’t struggling because this was my first race back in almost a year, a year that was mentally and emotionally so tough that running was largely out of the question except for a few miles in the morning to prepare my mind for the day ahead.
Yes, I was out of shape and unused to running in sauna-like conditions, but I was mostly struggling because I knew that even after I finished the race today, I had another race tomorrow. And, in contrast to the “gentle” inclines and descents from Saturday’s race, tomorrow’s race would be 20 delightfully difficult trail miles.
I hadn’t signed up for two difficult races coincidentally held on consecutive days, I’d signed up for one stage race. Intentionally. The race was the Birmingham Stage Race, a three- or two-day event that was the result of a race organizer’s dream to run up and around the major trail systems in the Birmingham, Ala., area. While I was only able to do the two-day stage race option because of a Friday meeting (fortuitously, as it turned out, because stage racing is for real hard), the three-day option had started with another tough and technical trail Friday morning.
It’s called stage racing, and it’s amazing.