I got up around 5:00 a.m. and had my oatmeal. A breakfast I rarely deviate from. I didn't have the coffee though, G2 instead. Then got dressed, gathered up my race number, headphones etc., and headed to the park. I was there an hour early. I sat in my car for 45 minutes listening to the radio and watching everyone prepare for their 31 mile trek through the woods. The award for best warm-up routine goes to J.C. Guzman. (fellow 7 Hills club member)
I've watched J.C. warm-up on many occasions and it still cracks me up every time. The smile that it put on my face is probably what helped me get out of my car. I was terrified to run this race. I felt incredibly unprepared, and self doubt was hitting me hard. The longest run I had made since the Austin Marathon in February was about 13 miles. What was I doing running a 50K? J.C.'s pre-race ritual suddenly made me feel at home, at ease, or something like that, and I headed to the start line.
There I ran into Karen and Pete. Karen was running her first 50K too, and also seemed to have some apprehensions. We spent a few minutes arguing over who was less prepared, and then came to the conclusion that we were just going to have fun with it and just shoot for a finish. Ken was also there, lined up ready to run his 5th race of a marathon distance or greater this year. That man amazes me. I hope when I'm 66 I can still run five marathons a year. J.C. and Felix were lined up in the front. Not speaking. In their racing zone I guess. 7 Hiller, Curtis Barton, offered me a few tips. One was to hang back at first, so you get to do the passing, instead of getting passed. I liked the idea. It's much more fun to be the passer than the passee. Out of nowhere Tommy Stunz and his son Jakeb, who were both running the 25K, appeared. Their start time wasn't until an hour later, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them. Very sweet of them to get up early to come see us all off.
And off we were. As soon as we climbed the hill up Park Road 40 and entered the trail head, I was at peace with my decision to run this race. These were my trails, and I felt right at home. I didn't even turn any music on. Just enjoyed the sounds of the forest waking up. After winding through the inside trail we came out on the park service road, where there was an aid station manned by Phillip Clark, one of my 7 Hills friends. Phillip offered me everything from his hand held water bottle, to his mp3 player, to some gu, to....you get the point. Very nice. The first time I ever ran trails at the park Phillip carried my fuel belt for about 4 miles because I had a cramp. I love my running club.
It was here that the course took us on the first out-and-back. Two things I hate in races are double loops and out-and-backs. This course had both, and I was not looking forward to them. I quickly decided that my hatred of out-and-backs was ill-judged. On my 'out' I got to see all the leaders making their 'back', and every single one of them gave me words of encouragement. Trail runners are really nice! Looking strong, great job, keep it up, way to go girl, run faster (from J.C.). I then, in turn, did the same for the runners I passed on my way back.
So the tone was set. The weather was perfect, I was at home on my trails, the people were great, and I felt really strong. I settled into my pace and had a blast. Surprisingly, the trails were not in bad shape. There were some hairy spots on the back side of the lake, but I managed to tip-toe around them in true girly fashion. I guess I'll have to work on my fear of mud if I ever want to be a real trail runner. The course was great. A combination of the inner and outer loops, so you had some serious trail running riddled with roots and stumps, but then got a break on the jeep roads. I ran on some trails that I never even knew were there. Very interesting.
I stopped at every aid station. Had some Powerade or Heed (Which made me laugh. Couldn't help but think of So I Married An Axe Murderer - 'Heed pants, now!', 'It's like an orange on a toothpick'). Anyhoo, yeah, I stopped at every one of them and chatted with the very friendly volunteers. I wasn't really worried about my time. In fact, I stopped at the mid-way aid station for about 15 minutes. I had a little sandwich, took some electrolyte tablets, dumped all the trail debris out of my shoes, sent out a few text messages, chatted some more. Then headed out for my second loop.
I was worried about this second loop. It's really hard for me to not think 'oh my gosh, I have to do that all over again!', but I felt fine. I did turn the music on for this one though. Enough nature. It was time to jam out. My second loop went just as smoothly as my first one, with one exception. I nearly ate it, hard! I kicked the crap out of a root with my right foot and was sailing for the ground. I grasped for a nearby youpon and managed to save myself. Whew! I hate to fall.
I'm not sure how, but my energy level never really wavered, and sans gel. My second loop was the same speed as my first, which was really cool because I actually got to pass people. This is something very foreign to me. I'm not normally the passer. I made it to the finish line in 5:49:29. Having no idea what a 50K time for me should be, I felt pretty happy about it. Paul Stone, the race director, commented to me that it was really good for my first time.
It's game on for Sunmart in December. I didn't take this 50K very seriously, but I'm going to give it an all out effort next time. I think I am beginning to find my inner distance runner. Longer races seem to be much more my style. I don't really have the explosive speed (although I'm working on it), but I can run consistently for a really long time. Kinda the tortoise factor.
Congratulations to all my friends who ran Hog's Hunt! Especially Adrienne, who was first female in the 25K, and Karen, who completed her first 50K in great fashion. I am anxious to hear how everyone did. No results are posted as of yet.
Shortly after returning home from the race I got a call from Jon Walk, who is running back-to-back half marathons this weekend in Kansas and Missouri. He was checking to see how we all survived Hog's Hunt. That was very sweet. Good luck today, Jon!
This morning it's back to reality. I was forced to come down from my ultra-marathoner high and resume my role as lowly pancake chef.