The big day has finally arrived: race day! After a scintillating day of work, we drove up north and checked into our hotel. It was Austin’s first time in a motel. He made himself comfortable, as is his custom:
King-sized bed means everyone has plenty of space, especially yours truly!
I don’t know if it was all of the great group training runs or if ignorance is bliss, but I was feeling strangely at ease going into this race. I set up my gear and settled in for a good nights sleep:
The next morning, I was up just before my alarm. (Thanks Austin!) I have my pre-run routine down pretty well at this point, so it was a pretty calm morning, (except for the wrong turn out of the hotel. Gah!) But despite that little hiccup, we made it there with plenty of time to check in and all that jazz.
The boy even took a pre-race picture of me, all raring to go:
Trail races take low tech to a whole other level. After checking in, I followed a crowd of people out to the parking lot. Where we milled around until someone yelled instructions over a bullhorn and we queued up in a different part of the parking lot. 😉
After some hilarious pre-race instructions, (the gist of which was “don’t fall off of a cliff”) we were off. It was very crowded at the start. The woman in front of me was clearly very frustrated by this, but I just took it easy and didn’t waste any energy.
Eventually it spread out a bit:
(It helped that people like me would stop to take photos… )
Eventually, the trail got much more technical. I couldn’t help snapping pics of the scenery as we went along. Some of them weren’t in focus, but still pretty. It was hard to believe we’d be crossing that bridge (twice).
Given that this was the course map, I was really worried about getting lost:
But they did a really good job of marking the trail. Which can’t have been easy:
As we went along, it seemed like the views just got better and better:
I mean, seriously! Look at this!
While I was taking the picture above, a nice racer behind me offered to take my photo:
As the race wore on, I won’t lie – I was tired! The trails were very technical and there was quite a lot of climbing. Some of it was very similar to trails we’d run in training, so I was grateful for that experience. But there were things hurting that hadn’t hurt before, so there were definitely tough points. Signs like this definitely didn’t help:
Not to mention there were sections of trail that involved climbing over downed trees. This is definitely not a sport for the faint of heart.
The wheels were starting to come off a little bit. I wanted to just lie down next to the trail and take a little nap, but I pressed on. Unfortunately for me, the toughest part of the course is second half:
It has these steep, relentless climbs that not even the beautiful views could overcome. (I was too dizzy from being out of breath to enjoy much of anything.) I wheezed my way up them and cursed the course makers and geography in general. The “good” thing about trail running is there really isn’t any option to quit. So, I put my head down and got it done. All time goals had gone out the window by this point, so it was just about finishing the thing.
I’d been trading places with the lady who’d taken my picture at the mid-way point and as we closed on the final mile, she and I were very close together. Her significant other was cheering her in and was kind enough to add me to the mix. He assured us that there was one last hill and then we just had to run a little bit more to the finish line. (That turned out to be a strange run through the parking lot, but there weren’t any more hills!) He’d raced also, so he didn’t want to run up that hill again, so he shouted encouragement and off we went. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to cross a finish line. That race was TOUGH.
The boy was there cheering, as were a number of ladies from my training group. I pretty much crossed the finish line and went right to the pizza line. (That’s right, someone was making wood-fired pizza at the finish. Trail running rocks!) T had to take over my spot because I needed to sit. He loaded me up with a bunch of snacks and the world’s most delicious Coca Cola. I cheered and snacked until he brought me pizza. It was perfection.
Then I changed out of my sweaty clothes and we hit the road for home. I’d had these grandiose notions of going out for a delicious dinner, but, when all was said and done, I had no energy for anything other than a hot bath and ordering a pizza which I ate on the couch. As always, T was an amazing support crew. He wrangled the dogs for the many hours that I raced and then drove home and took excellent care of me. He’s the best.