Mega Xtreme 2013
I saw that little red needle slide past more posted speed limits than is typical for my driving as I raced to the start line for the 2013 Megatransect. My driving was a result of needing to leave from my house the morning of the race instead of camping out as I did last year and the untimely waking of LBM as I was walking out the door. But a few moments of cuddling had LBM back in dream land and me out the door and headed into what might be the fastest miles of the day.
Thankfully I arrived safely and I prayed that would be the theme of the day. I quickly got my bib and visited a real bathroom one last time before I finally took a breath and joined the growing crowd of fellow Megatransectors at the start line.
My hasty arrival didn't really allow me to enjoy the pre-race activities that add to the Mega experience. The Mega offers over night campers and early arrivals a light breakfast, small expo and energizing party atmosphere. I did have just enough time to see a few trail friends. Nicole was able to find me just before the start. We had done the event together last year when her father was sidelined. Unfortunately 2013 found her dad sidelined again but she had a friend, Joel with her this year. We chatted before it was time to start running but with few words from our RD it was ready, set, GO!
Nicole and Joel tearing up the trails
The Megatransect has a large field of runners for the amount of technical single track that the course covers. Happily it also has a few miles of country roads to help the field of runners spread out before entering the trails. The first three miles went quickly by as I weaved around runners trying to find my pace in the cool morning air. It's a perfect morning for running. As we start what will be a day full of climbing I'm rapidly remembering just how challenging this course will be as we leave the country roads and enter the trails.
aka Link Trail
If you remember my experience at the Mega last year (HERE) you will remember that the Link Trail was not my favorite portion of the race. Not because I didn't enjoy the mile climb or the two miles down. It was because of the number of trail runners and the different personalities of that many different trail runners all hitting the same technical single track at the same time. But in case you missed my opinion last year, I'll share it again.
Trail Etiquette 101
If you find yourself on a trail nestled nicely into your own personal pace and that pace happens to be faster than those around you, it's not big deal. You simply announce your desire to pass the runner in front of you with a polite "on your left (or right)" to indicate which side you would like to pass on. Then it is the passing runner's responsibility to GET OVER and pass. The exception to this passing runner gets over rule would be when the passing runner is running downhill then the uphill runner would yield and get over. Don't even get me started on the use of headphones on trails...
Back to the Trails
On the Link trail, which is very technical and narrow, like many runners I had trouble finding a comfortable pace. The upside to the congestion and bad trail manners is that I found myself running with Nicole for a few miles. It was great to catch up as we passed the miles. But somewhere just shy of the boulder field I lost Nicole on a downhill and I was on my own to enjoy the scenery.
The Boulder Field
If you have ever done the Mega you will understand my need to share so many photos. The boulders on the Mega course are without explanation. It is just a geological feature unique to the Mega and the reason many come time and time again to challenge themselves with what seems like a short easy day in the woods.
As challenging as the boulder fields are it is one of the few courses on which I feel like I might have at least been related to a few mountain goats in a previous life. I simply get giddy when I climb out of the tree line and see all those rocks! I paused briefly to snap a photo of some trail friends that I met last year at the Mega and I was off.
Giddy with Mega excitement!
About half way to the top.
Rattlesnake Ridge to First Aid Station
With the excitement of the boulder field behind me I wanted to quickly get through the next section which I knew was along a very narrow ridge line for about a half mile before a rocky decent to the first aid station. Once I was through the initial congestion of single track I was able to pass a few runners and get into a more comfortable pace. I chatted probably more than my fellow trail companions wanted as we made our way into the first aid station. At the aid station I topped my pack off with water, grabbed a banana section and was happily told there was a "make-shift" toilet. I had been trying to ignore the fact that all my morning rushing had resulted in a very upset stomach and I had hopes that a potty stop would settle the issue. It did not. I left the aid station still not feeling well and under fueled.
The next section was through an area that was considered more runnable. One of the words that was floated around in the weeks prior to the event was more runnable. I think that more runnable would only apply if you had much strength left in your legs after the first challenging section. I did enjoy the softness under foot as I ran my way into the next aid station. At the aid station (about 14 miles) I was hoping for some caffeine to help take the edge off my increasing stomach pains. I had not been drinking much water since refilling at the first full aid station. The water had an off taste to me and I worried that it was adding to my upset stomach. A wonderful volunteer offered me her coke since the aid stations didn't have any soda. I thought the gesture was amazing but I declined taking her up on it. It was a great example of how amazing the aid station volunteers were all along the course. I ate more banana, had some grapes and a piece of peanut butter sandwich. Then I saw another nice feature of the Mega - port-a-potties! I'm not above a nature call but when it's just not your best running day a "real" bathroom is a wonderful thing!
The next section which would take us back to the first full aid station (on return around 17.5 miles) would add a repeating element into the Mega mix, water. Lots of water crossings. This is an element I love! The majority of this new section featured some very soft footing. After running on rocks and roots even short distances without having to watch every step helped me feel like I was flying along the trail. That was until I got lost in my head and quickly found myself rolling down the trail thanks to a nearly invisible little root that grabbed my toe.
But the amazing sights along the way quickly removed any lingering aches from my tumble.
The waterfalls were amazing. The photographer inside me wanted to spend some serious time documenting the beauty but a few hasty shots of the falls and a few shots for fellow runners were all I indulged in.
GIANT STEPS & ROTE OVERLOOK
The Giant Steps were as amazing as last year. My legs were already feeling the combined effects of the 50 miles I stupidly ran in the days before the Mega and climbs and descents I had already covered on the course. Much of this year's Mega I spent running solo. I would fall in and out of little groups of trail brethren. I shared my cheeriness with many new trail friends as I made my way along the course.
A genuine smile!
I knew as I paused to take in the view that there was still at least one big challenge before exiting the trails so I didn't waste much time before getting back on the move. I had fallen in with a couple runners but I quickly had to pick the pace back up and run my own race. Beside my cheerfulness is sometimes best shared in small doses. A speedy downhill run on the Luge Trail quickly had me entering the final aid station.
I have to pause for a moment to comment on the aid stations and volunteers that help make the Mega the amazing event it is year after year. Every volunteer was cheerful and helpful. There was the usual ultra goodies. Since it was an off tummy day for me during the majority of the run, I stuck to my own fuel bars, bananas, grapes and a few squares of peanut butter sandwiches.
RAW TRAIL, LINK TRAIL & GREEN MILE
I had picked up some natural hiking poles (since I had proven my brilliance and left mine in the back of my car) and they quickly became useful as I left the aid station and begin the journey through the Raw Trail. Many Megatransectors will say that the Raw Trail is terrible which it is really challenging but pushing myself to keep my pace up as my heart rate soars is one of my favorite parts of ultra trail running. Those around me grumbled as we made our way up and through the climb. Just when runner think they have reached the top the climb continues. For me that only added to my giddiness, as I would tire I would around at all the amazing beauty I was surrounded in and just like that, I was pushing to see what was coming next! I didn't stop for photos or even a look back knowing that once I was at the top I had a wonderful downhill run to pick up some speed. The second time through the Link Trail is always a much better experience than the first. Every climb is now a decent, every decent is now a climb but the drive to push is so much stronger without the crowd of runners and with the knowledge of just how close the finish was. And there it was that short forest road leading us back to the country roads we traveled to start this Mega adventure.
I was running alone and chatted with those I passed as I made my way down the road, around the corner, across the bridge and to the dreaded "green mile". Those who have run with me know that I was filled with "woohoos" as I made my way up to the top of the grassy hillside only to cruise back down and run the longest mile of the race. The scenery was amazing. Across the field I watched the mountain grow up into the sky as I ran. I thought about where we had been on that mountain side. although my legs and lungs were burning I already missed it.
A last push around the parking lot to the finish line and what began as a race to the start line finished the same way. Sorry to those I passed as I gave my last push of the day but I wanted to finish the day the same way I had started.
Mega Xtreme 2013 - 8:08
Did I miss something? Did we run together? Tell me what I should add.