Notes about the race that were made clear before the start:
No aid stations or water
Steep four miles up at the start and down at the finish
Shuttle bus to the start
Since it has been forever since I last toed the line, I ended up getting really nervous before the start. I was excited, but I had a feeling it was going to be a gnarly race. At the same time, I was focused primarily on the first four miles, the ascent. I read that there was a 2,000 foot elevation gain in those first miles, and that's what I wanted to run. I figured once I got to the top, I could carefully make my way to the finish line, even if I ended up walking bits of the course. Oh who am I kidding? I didn't want to walk! I gave myself that option, because I haven't been training much over an hour these days. This race was bound to take me into the two hour plus range, even if I had a good day.
The race started well. I ran strong but not crazy to the top, and was in pretty good shape by the time the trail evened out into some nice rolling sections. I even managed to keep my place for probably another mile or so. Someone yelled that I was third or fourth woman. At this point, I was in no-man's land, so I just held steady.
A few times I had to ask people on the trail if I was headed the right direction, and everyone assured me that I was. I was following the orange ribbons in various spots along the course, tied to trees or stuck near the side of the trail. Apparently, I wasn't the only one confused, though. Much later, I ran into a lady coming up a different way right before the final descent. She looked surprised to see me and a few other runners coming from the other direction and announced, "I think I went off course!"
All was fine until I started to go down and down and down. I may or may not have grabbed a tree branch to help me down one extra steep part. I kept telling myself to take it easy and stay upright. That became my main goal, not falling. Droves of people passed me. I passed a few back on the short uphill sections, but the majority of the remainder of the course was a lot of steep downhill.
As far as the rest of my adventure, at about 50 minutes, I basically stopped racing. Everything happened at once: the elephant jumped on my back, my foot started hurting, my hips were complaining, my stomach began to grumble and my head fell out of the game. I was TIRED. I still had a long way to go, and it was still a matter of surviving, getting down the brutal descents in one piece. 10 minutes later, I had a gel, which helped with my energy. I was glad I opted for chocolate instead of bacon flavor at the store. I can't imagine bacon-flavored goo sliding down my throat when my tummy is already unsettled, but that option is available for those who have the guts.
Are we there yet?
The course was beautiful, full of dips into forested valleys and climbs along pretty ridges. A lot of maneuvering took place in the last half of the race, making my way between hikers, mountain bikers and other runners. I did my best to get out of the way of those agile individuals who can fly down the mountain, because near the end, I was just trying to stay in one piece and get to the finish line sans bloody knees.
Right before the end, I came to another fork in the road. I started to go down one way but hesitated. Shortly after, a very nice lady stopped at the fork too. I asked if she knew which way we should go, and she said she was pretty sure it was the way I wasn't heading. I quickly jogged up and ran the rest of the way with her to the end. I wasn't going to try to out kick someone who had just pulled me back onto the correct course, so I settled in behind her to the finish.
Everyone there was very nice, except for one old man who passed me near the end. That was hard to take. He was one of those grunters who emitted strange sounds with every foot strike. Though it looked like he was shuffling along, swinging his arms forcefully, he was actually moving along at a good clip on the descents. I say he wasn't all that nice, because he yelled, "Fuck!" and mumbled some unintelligible things at a biker who was in the man's way but trying hard to get out of the determined old guy's path.
After the race, I had to get home quickly, because I had a half day at work to complete. By the time I left work, I was ready for more food, even though I ate well after the race. I wandered over to Salt and grabbed the last seat at the bar. Otherwise it would have been a 35-minute wait, and I knew I wouldn't last. Fries, a cheeseburger and half a beer hit the spot beautifully.
I don't know how far back I slid in the rankings, probably quite a bit, but I had my shining moment when I heard I was in 3rd or 4th place smack in the middle of the race. Considering all I have been through over the last few years, often thinking I may never run again, I'm pleasantly surprised how well my little body moved around on that course. I had to conquer some huge fears to get there, so there was at least one major goal accomplished.
I'm pretty sore and tired and maybe even a little bit cranky now, but I'm glad I did it. I think in the future, once I can walk normally again, I will stick to shorter, more uphill races.
**ETA - The final results are:
Place overall: 11th
Place in age group: 4th
|I'm usually asleep at 6:37 a.m., but that's when I left.|
|Catching the shuttle to the start.|
|Wider trail at the start that narrowed quickly. I like the big cushy wide part.|
|No, my socks don't match, but they are at least the same brand.|
This song was stuck in my head throughout the entire race. Since it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit it: