I was on my own this time. My family was not in attendance - just my running family who I would be meeting there. I arrived at the state park late Friday night for camping. The gate was closed. *sigh* I was trying to figure out what to do when I thought I would go see if it was actually locked. I got out and saw that the lock was not actually latched - woo! Opened the gate and did my first B and E into a state park at night. I had been here last year, but driving through the streams on the way in was way cooler in the dark.
When I arrived there were 2 people there and a big campfire. Several others arrived and we hung out for a while and talked running stuff around the fire.
I called it a night about 11:00. I slept on an air mattress, in sleeping bag, in my warm Jeep. Had it nice and warm when I went to bed, then shut the car off, but woke up at 5:00 cold so I turned it back on for a while to warm back up. Slept a bit more as the other runners started to arrive.
I was thinking back to last year when I was here. I ran the half. My grandmother had passed away a few days prior and this race was just a brief stop on a long trip to another state to attend the funeral. My mind was not on the race at all. It was hard to focus and I never did find my rhythm. Also the person who got me to sign up for this race so we could run together decided to run their own race. Since I was not able to keep the pace, I was on my own on the trail, just trying to take in the events of the past few days and thinking about the things that were to come in the coming two days. It was tough.
Back to marathon day - lots of folks began arriving around 7:30. I had gotten up, had breakfast, changed into my clothes and was ready. It was sunny and cool, but heading for a high in the 50’s. Just about perfect running conditions. I was not sure what to expect. I was hoping for a great race, but coming off of 2 injuries it was hard to tell. I would just have to wait and see how the day unfolded. I had 3 goals - one: to finish without pain in my IT band, two: to finish without a new injury, and three: to log my slowest marathon time ever. It was just that tough of a course.
9:00 am arrived and we were off. Just like I had wanted to, I plowed through that stream at mile .05 and walked up that first hill. Last year I ran it and never did recover from going out too fast. I was slightly irritated at the bottleneck of people who slowed down at the creek crossing trying not to get their feet wet. Come on, it is a mountain trail run with 12 creek crossings! You signed up for this, remember? I think some of them ended up getting splashed when I passed them…. *he he* Anyway…..
Spent some time with James plant very early on. Then was trying to keep with Bill Weimer and Mark Long. We stopped often to take pictures - there was some beautiful scenery! Couldn’t keep going without snapping some pics.
After 7+ miles of rolling hills we arrived at the aid station where the half marathoners turned back and the marathoners keep going. New territory - bring it on!
It did not take long for the rolling hills to turn into a steep assent. We took a trail that said “strenuous” yeah, it was! The next 2 miles we ascended 600 feet, followed by a one mile, 160 foot decent followed by a mile and a half 820 foot assent. It was the toughest single track I have ever done. Mostly rocks and some packed gravel. Looking up at the hill I could not believe it just kept going! I passed many people at this point of the course. I could tell many folks were not sure of their footing and were not too confident with the single track, and others just lost steam on the hill. At one point I looked at my Garmin and it showed that I was holding a blistering 23 minute per mile pace, and my heart rate was pegged at 175 bpm - in the 90th %. It was tough and exhilarating at the same time. I wanted to make it to the top to see that view!!!
The aid station at the top of the mountain was the best sight ever. I made it! This is about the time that James Plant caught back up with me and we ran many miles together on the decent back down the mountain. This was tricky too. Can’t take the down hills too fast with the difficulty of the trail. You also don’t want to take them too fast or you risk injuring your knees. The shaded side of the mountain was chilly, but you got to the sunny side and it was warm with the heat radiating off the rock. There were many rock climbers out scaling the pinnacle. That sport is not for me, but it was cool to watch the people out there doing it.
Jim and I ran 6 or 7 miles together. I enjoyed his company a lot. We took pictures, talked and laughed a lot. I had to take a rest stop and said I would catch up, but never caught up with him. The last 6 miles I did not see a soul. Just me, the trail and my iPod. I ran, walked, sang and enjoyed the beautiful day. I think the word for it was “awesomeness” (copyright - James Plant)
As I was coming towards the end I saw arrows that said “finish, that way“. It renewed my spirit and I picked up the pace again. I was so glad to see those last 2 big creek crossings followed by the finish line! Joey was there and got a picture of me finishing. He had finished over 30 minutes ahead of me. Jim was about 10 minutes ahead.
Found my way to my friends, the pizza and chocolate milk. Not sure it gets much better than a day like today. The weather was great and I ran with no pain which was so encouraging. I felt like if I could do this race without pain then I am well on my way to doing well at U100. I was concerned about running that long with wet feet, but I did not get any blisters either - woo! Met my goals - slowest marathon ever at 5:33 (not quite DFL, but close), no ITB pain and felt great.
Couple things I loved about this race. The views are spectacular. Especially from the top! I thought the half was an amazing race last year. I found out that the fun does not begin until after mile 7. Creek crossings rock, especially when you pass someone who is trying to not get their feet wet. The level of difficulty of the trails and the extreme elevation gain/loss was something that I loved. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but I loved every painful minute of that climb. All smiles here.
I will be back again next year. I wonder what color the mug will be?