Race #16: Arrogance and Integrity at Valley of the Flowers Half Marathon
With 15 half-marathons behind me, all I do is watch out for the "challenging" races. My attitude for everything else: "How hard can it be?" Arrogance was the only extra training I brought to the Valley of the Flowers race.
The paragraph long description of the race included the sentence: "The course is hilly and very scenic with majestic views of the Lompoc Valley and the La Purisma Mission." It didn't say "mountainous." It didn't say "challenging climbs." It said "hilly." Sure, this picture was included on the information page. I assumed it was to show the location's beautiful backdrop.
That aqua area is actually a steady 175 foot climb up a "hill" in just over 4 miles and a descent back down in about a half-mile. When I arrived at the base of the aqua loop, I was ecstatic. My first climb, even if unanticipated. It was beautiful. I even pulled out my phone to capture a Facebook Live moment of me twirling atop. "This is a great course!" I said to the pair of encouraging volunteers I passed at the hill's bottom. "You're the most enthusiastic person out here," one of the volunteers replied.
As I walked off to complete the last 5 something miles of the race, I wondered why. It only took a few hundred feet to find out. A volunteer who's job it was to make sure racers crossed at the straight pink line at the bottom of the route map said, "Just one big ol' hill and you're done."
Boy was I irritated as I found myself on the same lap I'd taken twice earlier. She'd made me anxious for no good reason. As I assured myself she was just pulling my chain, another part of my brain started doing math. Finishing the same lap around the basin would leave me a couple miles short. There had to be a turn somewhere. I gladly reasoned it was probably out into some hitherto unseen valley. I didn't bother paying attention to the route in advance. How hard could it be?
It wasn't until mile nine that I encountered the turn up a hill. The trail wound about. Two hours in, it was hotter at 10am than it was when the race started. It was at the turn a bit into mile 10 that the steep final ascent toward the water towers became clear. Or so I thought. There's one last leg directly up to the water tower. The steepest part of the race.
My integrity was given a good run approaching mile 10 all the way to the top. That big ol' hill included a steep 23 story climb in just over a mile. The last of the runners would pass me as they headed down the mountain. Each time one of the last of the runners passed me with a variation of "That was hard!" on their tired faces, I would say to myself, "If she went all the way to the top, I can." "If he can, I can." "If she did, I will." Oh, arrogant pride.
It intensified my sense of integrity. Let me be fully frank about it: I heard a small voice suggest turning around when I was alone on a long stretches of the path with no one in sight. "Who would know?" I would know.
My commitment to arrogance is incompatible with cheating, quitting or cutting a corner.
Winning might be hard on the body, but stopping short of personal victory is even harder on the soul.