One Weekend, Two Extreme Trail Runs, Infinite Bragging Rights

When I had first clicked “register” for the “No Wimps!” Challenge, I had that nervous, “I can’t believe what I just did” feeling.  It went away as quickly as it came and it was replaced with the “I can do anything” feeling.  Well, that was a couple months ago.  Sure, I had mentioned to some people that I would be running the Trail Half on Saturday and the Trail 50K on Sunday, but it never really sank in what I had really gotten myself into until the week before.  Let’s rewind back to two weeks ago Monday, shall we. . .

I wake up with the worst head congestion and a scratchy throat.  Fantastic!  As if this doesn’t happen before EVERY stinkin’ big race weekend for me.  Sure it’s allergy season and this year has been awful for everyone, but somehow I’d managed to avoid most of the “normal” issues I experience until it hit me like a Mack Truck.  Since nothing had begun to drain, I went on with my normal Monday night group run.  It was TOUGH!  Way tougher than it should’ve been and we were taking it “easy” (9 min/mi) because my running buddy R had just ran a marathon the day before.

Well, it was all downhill from there.  My nose began to drain and drain it did ALL DAY Tuesday.  I took the day off from running and spent it with a box of Kleenex instead.  Wednesday came and I attempted my group run.  Thankfully, they were all tapering for Big Sur, so I tagged along for 3 miles.  Two miles in I was MISERABLE.  This was when I really began to worry about my races for the upcoming weekend.  Breathing isn’t really an option when it comes to running and all the drainage was making it almost impossible to breathe.  Ugh!  I decided it was time to take a mandatory rest period for Thursday AND Friday.  It was hard to do, but I needed to be as healthy as possible come Saturday morning. So, I rested, tore through box after box of Kleenex and tried to eat only because I needed the nourishment.  When you can’t taste anything, nothing is appetizing.

Saturday morning the alarm goes off and I’m still not 100% but, I’m excited to hit the trails.  After two days of complete rest, my legs just want to run.  The tricky part is how much do I let them run for the half?  My plan was to take it easy, super easy and use the half as a “preview” of the 50K.  I met a few folks at the local Park-n-Ride and off we went.  Travelling to races with friends is fun, especially when one friend is doing his first ever trail race and only third ever trail run.  Trails are so easy to get hooked on.  Love it!

Perhaps the best part of trail racing is the laid back feeling of it all.  There’s no jittery feelings of pacing strategy and pre-race excitement.  Just a little run in the woods with friends. . . I’m sure for those who can be competitive on trails this may be different, but in general the mood is WAY friendlier.  We hang around, chat with some other friends and soon we are off and running. . . uh, run/walking. . .

I started near the back of the pack to “hold back” for the race and take it easy.  What I didn’t foresee was just how easy they would move.  For the first couple miles, I had to allow myself to pick up the pace a little and pass some folks by, being sure to encourage and chat with them along the way.  I realized that when on trails I really need a few feet in front of me to be open, so I can see the trail and plot out the next steps to avoid roots/rocks.  Once I had found a happy place, it was smooth sailing.  I’m not sure of my pace at any given time as I opted to leave the Garmin at home and run with my new Timex watch.  I had planned on getting splits at each aid station, but I ditched that idea too.  I ran purely based on feel, which was very refreshing.

At about mile 6 or so, I fell into stride with a math professor who has been practicing Chi Running.  He had a very good stride rate and seemed very relaxed running.  We chatted about the course and running and the trails for the next few miles.  I thanked him for being such a steady pace setter and he in turn thanked me for pushing him ever so slightly a little faster than he would have been running otherwise.  These miles were pretty runnable, with very few hills.  Once we hit the hills toward the end, I lost him as my hiking skills seem to be much better than I thought.  I actually passed other people as I was hiking it up the hills!  From about mile 9 or so until the end I decided to pick it up a bit and try to pick people off one at a time.  I would say I was running at a moderate effort, but not anywhere near all out.  I maintained this to the finish for a 2:40 time, which was within the range of 2:30-2:45 that I had set for myself.

During the race I had two minor coughing fits but, for the most part my sinuses/allergies weren’t devastatingly bad.  Breathing was still a bit difficult, but manageable for a trail race.  Had this of been a road race weekend, it would have been miserable.  We hung around for a bit cheering the rest of the group on to their finishes and then it was home to shower, eat and rest up for Sunday’s 50K.

I ended up sleeping for most of the afternoon.  DBF came over and made me a giant bowl of tortellini pasta and garlic bread.  YUM!  I set all my gear out for the following day’s 50K – jacket, compression shorts, bra, shirt, CEP sleeves, socks, handheld, gels, honey stinger chews, endurolytes, Spibelt, warmup sweats and dry clothes for after the race.  Then it was right back to bed.  I was feeling better, but still nowhere near 100%.  The 50K seemed like quite a daunting task, but I REALLY wanted that “NO WIMPS” shirt and medal.

Sunday morning dawns and it is 27 degrees outside!!!  FREEZING!!!  Thankfully, as we were hanging around the start area there was much discussion as to how it would warm up about 20 degrees about an hour or so into the race.  That seemed like a quick warmup, but I knew that once I was moving, I would be fine with my short sleeves and jacket.  Before I had time to even get concerned the race began.  I gave my warmup pants to DBF and told him I’d see him in 6 1/2 – 7 1/2 hours at the finish.  I took off toward the single track and he went across the road to disc golf.

The first few miles were uneventful.  I chatted with a couple ladies that I’ve ran several events with but, I had to let them go as I could tell I was going much faster than I should be.  I knew I’d better stick with the plan of keeping my pace at a “go all day” speed and run my own race.  There would be plenty of people to chat with along the way.  Some Leadville 100 finishers were among those people.  I spent about 4 miles or so hearing all about Leadville and other ultras they had run.  They seemed to be going at a slower pace than I wanted so, after the next aid station where I had my handheld topped off and grabbed a pb&j square, I wished them luck and went on ahead.  I knew that this part was runnable and I wanted to let my legs go a bit quicker here before hitting the big hill for the first time.

When I got to the big hill, it seemed much larger than on Saturday.  I practiced my uphill hiking and reached the top to begin running again.  At this point, it is about two miles before the end of the 13 mile loop.  I just kept moving forward and before I knew it, I was coming through the start/finish area – 2:50:21 for 13.1 mile split.  I had my bottle refilled and grabbed some snacks and off I went.  I debated taking off my jacket at this point but, the wind was still a little chilly in some of the open areas.

The second loop was pretty uneventful.  I talked to some people and then I’d pass.  I ate a pb & j square at each aid station and drank Coke where they had it.  I still wasn’t able to taste much so, I only ate because I knew I needed to.  This was slightly disappointing for me because I really do enjoy tasting the food I eat and learning what kind of cravings I have during long trail runs.  I made sure to take an endurolyte at every hour and snacked on my Honey Stinger chews or had a gel when I felt I needed a little boost of energy.  About halfway through this loop I tied my coat around my waist.  I was hitting the runnable portion again and I picked it up a bit.  The big hill this time seemed to take FOREVER to power hike up, but I kept my arms pulling me forward and my legs taking quick steps.  I caught up to a group of ladies about to finish the full.  We chatted for a while and they seemed amazed that I was doing the 50K the day after the half.  I passed them about a mile from the end of the loop and I came in with Loop 2 13.1 mile split of 2:56:28.  Pretty consistent, I’d say.

Coming through the start/finish for the 2nd time wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined.  I looked around for DBF, hoping maybe I could give him my jacket.  I didn’t see him, so I pressed on.  Only 5 miles to go!!!  Of course, this would be the toughest 5 miles of the day.  The last two miles of the five I’d run once on Saturday and twice on Sunday because the 5 mile race shares those miles with the half/full.  The 50K is just the full course + 5 mile course.  I left the start/finish area pumped and knowing that I’d for sure beat my 7:26 from Woodstock last September.  I knew I just needed to keep pressing and give it all I had.  I took off following the yellow flags but, immediately I was unsure that I was even going the right way.

I hit a low point here.  No one in sight, I was on a dirt road and I just kept looking for yellow flags.  I wanted desperately to be back on the single track.  I longed for someone to chat with.  But, I pressed forward.  I could do this.  Once I was back on the single track, all the hills began.  First, just short and quick ones, then I gigantic one.  Okay, maybe gigantic is an overstatement but, at mile 28-29 it was a MONSTER.  There was a girl just up ahead of me struggling up it.  I decided I would try to chase her down, chat a minute and pass.  I’d been doing it all day right?  I soon was wishing her good luck and a strong finish as I passed her on yet another hill.  Then up ahead was a group of guys.  I targeted them to catch as well.  I got close, right on their heels but, I fell back a bit.  I’d get closer and chat for a minute but, I was never able to pass them.

I crossed the wooden bridge for the last time and emerged onto the grass clearing.  Finish line in sight I pushed with all I had left in the tank – 6:44:58 was my chip time!!!  A PR by 41 minutes!!!  I looked around for DBF and he was nowhere to be found.  I chatted with some of my running peeps and then made my way over to the parking lot.  Turns out DBF didn’t watch the time as well as he had planned.  Totally missed the finish.  Oh, well. . .

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