On Friday afternoon, I picked up the kiddos from school and gave the 11-year-old very specific instructions for babysitting his sisters until Dad got home an hour later. I
I got to my hotel--Patty's Inn, a former Microtel. My room was small, but I had a comfy queen-sized bed (all to myself!!!), a little desk, a flat screen tv, a bathroom, a coffee pot....what more could I want? The mirrored headboard was just a bonus I guess. (I suppose in an effort to make tiny rooms appear larger, Microtels put a mirrored wall up behind the bed in lieu of an actual headboard. Feng shui, I suppose....) The $52 price tag was right and they promised a 4:00 a.m. breakfast and late check out.
I relaxed for an hour and read a magazine, then headed over to packet pickup. I got a backpack, a shirt, and best of all, a cool technical hat with my name embroidered on the side. I ran into a running club buddy and we walked around the little town of Grand Rivers for a few minutes to see the sights. It is a TINY town, so after we'd seen them both, I went to meet blogging buddy Janice (Run Far and Strong) and her friend Coy and their husbands for dinner. The neatest thing about the running community is you can always have great conversations with people you don't really know! We had a very nice dinner and I got back to my hotel around 8:30. The race had a 6:00 a.m. start, so it was soon off to bed with a 4:25 a.m. alarm set. Well, actually three. I set the room's clock, and I had brought my daughter's Disney Princess clock as a back up and paranoidly set one on my cell phone as well.
I watched the hours go by on my many clocks. 10:30, 11:30, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00. At 4:05 a.m. after about a total of 12 minutes of sleep, I gave up and got dressed in my race clothes and went to breakfast. There was lots of stuff I couldn't eat with my gluten intolerance. Biscuits and gravy, bagels, waffles, cereal were not even tempting knowing I had a long run ahead. I settled for some fruit salad, oatmeal, and some coffee. More relaxation in the room and it was time to go.
The race had a 10K, a 23K, a marathon, a 60K, and a 50 mile option. The longer races all involve an 11.6 mile trail loop. Depending on your race, you do the loop 1, 2, 3, or 4 times plus a little on the road. There were about 600 or so runners, I'm guessing. I had intended to get in 16-18 for my long run, so I hoped to get in 1 or 1.5 before the race when it would likely hurt less. I got in .6 of a mile. I kept running into people from my running club and even I got to see my old friend from the Birmingham Marathon 2 years ago, Reid. He and I met at mile 12 and finished that thing together. I have a knack for making friends in races and staying with them for the long haul. Then we keep in touch on Facebook.
The race started with a slight uphill climb and about 1.6 miles on the road. I tried not to go out too fast. I ran with Troy and Melony from my running club for just a little bit, then I was on my own. When we turned onto the trail, it was immediately single file. Within a mile or so, the girl behind me started talking to me, and wouldn't you know it, we stayed together for the whole rest of the race. Her name was Erica and she was 27, but we had TONS to talk about. She was well versed on Crossfit, Paleo diet, running, gluten intolerance, and even ADHD. These are a few of my favorite topics to chat about on runs. She is also training for the Kentucky Derby Marathon in April, but we can't run that one together as she is much faster than I am. She was running the full yesterday and I was only doing 23K, so our paces matched up pretty well.
The trail was BEAUTIFUL. There were amazing views of the lake. I watched the sun rise over the lake as I ran the first mile and that was pretty amazing. It had rained almost 3 inches on Thursday, so the trail was a little muddy, but not crazy. There were several stream crossings and at least one fallen tree we had to hurdle. Lots of ups and downs and switchbacks. Amazingly, I only tripped once, but caught myself and I never rolled an ankle. In the Scenic City Trail Half Marathon, I think I rolled ankles 4-6 times. The roots and rocks weren't too bad. The 2nd half of the trail loop had A LOT of long up hill climbs and not too many downhills, but it was fine. I only walked 3 times, but didn't absolutely HAVE to. I was just taking it easy. Plus, as it was single file, if the person in front of you walked, you almost didn't have a choice. Sometimes there just wasn't anywhere to pass. We ran along the edge of a cliff at times with the lake down below. A misstep could lead to disaster! I feel good about how I ran nearly the whole race. Erika was great company and just the perfect pace. We were being cautious and really in no hurry. We even took our time at the aid stations, enjoying trail mix and m and m's and stuff. I probably wasted a little too much time at the three aid stations. Trail races are just so laid back!
Fatigue began to creep in around mile 10 and by 11 my left knee felt like it had a catch in it. I had powered up a hill instead of walking. Not smart, apparently. It continued to hurt and I backed off the pace a little.
Finally, at close to the 13 mile mark, my buddy and I parted ways. I headed back on the road and she started her 2nd loop. At the time, I remember thinking, "Thank GOD I don't have to run another loop." I was ready to be on level ground. My A. goal had been 2:45, but I realized by mile 10 that wasn't happening. I didn't quite push hard enough on the easier first half of the trail. My B. goal was under 3 hours, and my C. goal was under 3:04. A friend who was a similar pace to me had run it in 3:04 last year and I wanted to beat her time. Is that bad???
I didn't know exactly how much further I had, so I just pushed with whatever I had left on the road. Turns out, it was something like 1.5 miles, and 1.4 miles of it were up long, gradual hills! It was a different route than the start. I managed a 9:36 14th mile (which was stellar for me, I have rarely finished a long run or even a half marathon in the 9:30's) and then the last portion was a 9:06 pace. That was me really pushing. I finished in 2:50:15 (unofficial). My Garmin had me at 2:49:30 because I had started near the back and it took a while to cross the start line. I don't know if there was a chip reader at the start. There wasn't an actual mat on the ground, but maybe there was some other method? Results have yet to be posted. I ended with 14.37 miles.
After eating a tangerine, I took off and ran 3 more miles so I could get in 18 for the day (basically 14.4 + .6 at the start had me at 15). The first one was ok. The second one was hard. The third one was brutal. But I got in 18. Whew!
Recovery has been rough today. I really underfueled during the 18 miles. I had little water, Gatorade, and only two gels. (I didn't carry my own fluids like I usually do.) I did have the tangerine and 1/2 a banana and a handfull of trail mix once and about six M &M's on the course. My glycogen stores are really depleted. Quads and hip flexors and feet hurt. I had never run more than 9 miles straight in my trail shoes, and I did 18 in them. Yikes!
I think next year, I might want to do the full.
Next up: Kentucky Derby Marathon.
After that: MAYBE the Run Under the Stars endurance event. 50K, Baby!!