After having already run 40.8 miles this week, S'ghetti girl, LBM and I headed south right after work on Friday. The kids were excited for all the activites Hubbs had planned to entertain them while I was running, staying at a nice hotel with a pool didn't hurt either.
The drive went smoothly except for the hammering downpours as we drove through thunderstorms. I was glad to see the rain hopeful that it would lower the temperatures for the race tomorrow morning.
We arrive at our hotel around 7:30 p.m. The hotel is bustling. There was an Extreme Adventure Moto event taking place at the same area (The Cove Campground) that the race was to be held. At first this was interesting. I got to talk with one of the organizers of the event and several of the drivers as we patiently waiting to get our luggage and the two million "I can't go a night without it" child items up to our room without the benefit of a cart as they were all being used by the Extreme Adventure folks ~ mostly as a place to rest while they chatted and drank beer.
However being super girl for the weekend I easily managed the two kids and all the luggage and toys/blankets/snacks/race gear without interrupting their beer consumption. Once settled in we had only to wait for Hubbs would had been delayed with a work issue and would not arrive until 9. I had already been eating carb heavier meals but once Hubbs arrived we all went out for a rather late meal and to burn off some of the kids energy.
The plan had been for Hubbs to try to get LBM to sleep with him so that I could sleep what few hours we would have between lights out and the alarm. Things rarely go as planned. LBM would have nothing to do with Dad and of course wanted to make up for the lost hours of my run by sleeping latched on to me. Literally!
That was fine. Sleep. What was that?
I look at the clock and it was 2:23 a.m. and I am hearing a air wrench. I.am.not.kidding.
The wonderful Exterme Adventure folks were outside our side of the building changing tires on the rigged out jeeps. Yep. Then Hubbs wakes up and asks if I am hot. Well, yes it was hot in the room. Our ac was broken. I didn't sleep after that point. I just snuggled with LBM and waited to see 4:00.
I was suprised by how dark it was at 4 a.m. That is when I realized that I didn't have my contacts and would be running with my glasses on. Not a great idea when the risk of falling is so high.
I also noticed that it was still rain.hard. At least it would be cool.
It was so dark out! My crappy Palm would not flash!
Hubbs and I at the start
I get up and go through the routine of getting ready to run. I don't have to worry about nursing LBM since he spent the night with me. That saved me some time still we are out the door a little later than we wanted. So I was rushing at the start and had to jog to the potties no, outhouse when they were giving last instructions.
Thinking, "What that *#@! am I doing out here?"
With only 126 other crazies running it was an informal start with a "go." After only 5 minutes the lead fasties informed us that they had lead us up the wrong hill. Thanks. It would take two more side tracks before I would learn the lesson here.
The first 8 miles were up hill. Not just up a hill but up a 10 - 12% grade hill covered with mud, loose rock and leaves surrounded by a forest filled with posion ivy. It was great!
During this section we were to follow ribbons tied on trees since we were not on an offical trail, I fell into "running" with a group of about 20 other people with one young man speeding past us and saying something about getting to the start late. After about 10 minutes I notice that our little group is bunching up. There is a problem up ahead (of course this couldn't have happened at the bottom of the current hill we were going up!). The fasty fast runner had doubled back because he had not seen a ribbon for a while. We had gone the wrong way for about 3/4 of a mile! We doubled back to find where we had lost the course. We all joke about the extra distance and how we didn't need that. I continue to run with this group through the first aid station which was a blur in my mind. I had taken my new CamelBak which was mostly a blessing.
Those first 8+ miles took me just under 2 hours including one aid station. When I got to the second aid station which was set on an half mile out and back under electrical lines the steepest of which I couldn't see due to the dense fog in the morning, I thought that it had just taken me nearly twice as long to go that distance as it does when I am on the road. My legs were already covered in mud and scratches and I had nearly a marathon to go.
Between aid station #2 (which would also be #6 on the return trip) and number #3 there were stretches of wonderful single track trail (seriously we're talking deer trails here) separated by switch backs and trails covered with, you guess it rocks. Unrunnable rocks, break your ankle and fall down the side of the mountain rocks. So my pace was terrible but I tried to avoid all out walking everywhere I could.
At aid station # 3 (which would also be # 5) I actually copped a squat. This was the second time I showed all of nature my behind. The joys of ultra trail running. I took a banana half at this aid station and a couple pretzels plus a cup of soda (at aid stations I tried to avoid the junk carbs and stick with the better fueling options. Although while running ultras I treat myself to a soda with calories). I was taking Gu along the way that I was carrying plus one from an earlier aid station. I felt much better fueled for this race! I was carrying Heed in my pack and I drank often.
Next was an out and back to aid station # 4 on a wide trail. This was the first opportunity to see the fasties headed back on the return trip. I took noticed of the first few guys but mostly was interested in what the girls were doing who were in the lead. I did see one guy wearing Vibrams. He looked super strong. The lead ladies looked better than I thought I did. I encouraged everyone who passed by me and mostly they did the same. I did notice one girl running with a man. I don't know why I remembered her so well, maybe the pink trimmed Nike Dryfit shorts? She was one of the first 5 females at that point and going strong. I would see her again and think she was a little like that show about Beauty. The one where you are really judged on your beauty INSIDE. I'll explain.
But back to the trail section: This would be where I flew! I chicked off so many runners in this section and made up some serious time. I began to think I could actually get close to PRing. But I didn't want my excitement to make me go too fast when I never I was having more trouble with the down hills than the up hills. So I told myself I wouldn't walk until I got back through the aid station and returned to the woods after aid station # 5. And that's what I did.mostly.
Because this is where I started talking to another female runner who I made been trying to catch. We were too busy talking to look for ribbons we followed another runner who was headed up yet another hill. Wrong way. That is where I learned that I have to watch the trail for myself.all.the.time! Thankfully someone at the bottom of the hill yelled to us that we had gone the wrong way. We went to the top of the hill trying to catch the other runner but he was long gone. (I hope he got back on track!)
Once around the aid station - which of course was up a long winding hill - I really tried to pick the pace up. These down hills were mostly runnable. I quickly found myself running alone again. I kept telling myself that I could (would have to) slow down once I hit the switch backs in the woods but I would not walk any of this 11+ mile section. I did stop to pick up 3 salamanders and put them on the side of the road. I passed some runners who had been running with me earlier. They sounded German. She called me pig-tail girl and yelled some encouragement. As I was getting close to the aid station I saw miss pink-trimmed Nike Dryfit shorts. I wondered how she would have made such little progress since I last passed her. (she had been headed back and I was headed in to the turn around when I first saw her). Since I was really running at that point we exchanged only well wishes and I raced on but as I was leaving the aid station (another banana half, water, pretzels and a few gummie bears) I over heard her talking as she appoarched the volunteers. She was complaining about going off course and costing herself time and distance. She was probably not at her best due to fatigue however, it was her behavior that helped remind me that I DID NOT want to behave that way no matter how tired I got. So I continued to be smiling and up beat whenever I caught up with other runners. Quite a few commented about how/why I was so happy/positive that late in the race. It made me stop worrying about beating the 7 hour mark. I felt so good about HOW I was racing that day.
I made my way back to the switch backs, I passed several groups of guys who were walking. They did not appreciate my words of encouragement. Grouchy! I simply continued on my way. As I neared the middle of the switch back section I came across Mr. Vibrams. He was sitting along the trail rubbing his leg. (This was the third time I stopped to offer help to another runner) I chatted with him and asked 3 times if I should send help. I know that sometimes pride makes us not want to accept help when we should. He assured me that with 8ish miles to go he was going to finish. (And he did. I saw him come in as we were leaving the campgrounds. We put the car windows done and cheered.) The 4 man grouchy group passed me as I talked with Mr. Vibrams I would not see them again until the final aid station and their plan to walk had paid off for them because the were making great time in the last sections.
The final aid station was a repeater too. However, this is where I realized I had one regret. No one would ever believe that a race director would ever have people running up and down the section between the trail and the aid station. I wish I had carried my camera but the worry over a few more ounces kept me from doing it. I couldn't see it due to the fog and rain that morning but it was completely clear by noon. It was steep and rocky and breathtaking.
I got confirmation of 4 miles to go once I reached that aid station. I was literally jumping up and down and ready to hug every volunteer there. I could not get the smile off my face. Other runners who were headed out to the aid station as I was headed back kept telling me it was there.
That smile. I was having the time of my life!
Those last four miles I was completely alone. I worried that I would go off trail. Everything looked so different once the rain had stopped and the hills were no longer rocky mud filled rivers. But I didn't. I did think of all of you in those last miles (as I had thought of some of you all throughout my race). I thought how Steph was still running with more miles to go and wishing that I had more because I was having so much fun. I thought how encouraged I have felt from all of you who take the time to comment or email. I thought about how I would love to share the excitement and joy I feel for trail running with Hubbs or the kids someday. Mostly I just thanked God for seeing me through this without serious injury and wishing I could give that kind of joy to everyone I know.
The miles flew by and I could hear people and cheers. I knew I was getting close. I finally climbed down out of the mountain and was on the ground running with every thing I had yet. Hoping my family would be there to run in with me. I glanced at the watch. I couldn't believe how close I had come to be under 7 hours! I had told my Hubbs I honestly thought I need 8 to finish.
Some days you just amaze yourself. This day was one of those days for me.
I sprinted to the finish. There was my family, cheering me in.
3rd Female Master
Top 10 females
(I don't know my place yet)
48 out of 126
Almost under 7! I am so happy!
Goodbye old friends
Yeah, this is everywhere. Ouch!