Really? As soon as I hit "submit" I freaked out. I was going to run 18.6 miles on a real trail, when I'd never even set foot on anything harder than a dirt trail with a few rocks here and there. IN JUNE? IN TEXAS???
Yes, I was going to do just that.
I did two trail runs on what has been called the most technical trail out here, Good Water Trail around Lake Georgetown. I loved it. I was still doing long runs, so the 30k distance wasn't horribly daunting to me. I really, honestly, was now most worried about the heat.
When I picked up my packet at Rogue Running Saturday morning there were a couple of other ladies there, one doing her first trail race as well, and they were every bit as nervous as me. But we knew that we wouldn't be last and that's all that matters....right? Oh, please don't let me be last. I didn't really care much about the time it would take me to complete this mission, but I just didn't want to be last across the finish line.
|Getting my stuff ready the night before|
There were a couple other friends doing the race as well, and one of them, Red, was so sweet to call me about a week before to calm my nerves and give me some tips. She made me feel so much better prepared, and to know I'd see her face that morning and get the chance to run some miles with her took a lot of the pressure off. I was going to this race alone, without the family, so anything familiar to me would be a bonus.
4am wakeup on Sunday, June 10, hitting the road by 4:45am, coffee in hand, music blaring, car packed with too much crap...and I'm off. It took me about an hour to arrive at Reveille Peak Ranch, by Burnet, Texas, and it was still dark when I got there. My little MINI got to do a little off-roading to park (I'm glad she was already dirty) and I was probably one of the first people there. Just how I like it. I hauled my stuff down to the start/finish area, set everything up (chair, cooler, backpack), wandered around, got my chip, and sat my butt down to decompress. I saw another friendly face, my buddy Todd from Round Rock Fit, so that put a smile on my face. He's been doing all sorts of trail races and didn't seem too scared, so I tried to take comfort in that.
|Quarry Lake at Reveille Peak Ranch|
|Hanging out, stuff ready to go|
|Right before the start...Red, Emily, me, and a badass Masters chick who looked how I felt|
I lined up with Red and her friend Emily at the start and before I knew it, we were running...or jogging....or going a little faster than walking...and what the heck, the start was uphill. How nice. I got my heart rate up fairly quickly from that, but soon enough we had leveled off and were running on dirt mostly for the first mile or so. A nice warm up to the hard stuff.
The course was 3 loops of 10k each, so my plan (as if I really expected to stick to any "plan") was to scout the course the first loop, but try not to run too fast on the easier sections, try to suck it up a little more on the second loop since I'd be familiar, and let my body do whatever it wanted on the third loop (read: walk as much as I wanted). As I'm chugging along with Red and Emily through the first three miles I'm realizing there isn't a lot of tree coverage on this course. We didn't have an issue with that in the first loop since we started at 7 and the sun was still behind the trees. But I knew some of these open spaces were going to hurt by 10am. I tried to put that out of my mind during this first loop. I also looked for some spots I might want to snap a few pictures in the second or third loops, because the area was really quite beautiful....I noticed this when I wasn't staring at my feet and the ground, trying not to trip and die.
This was definitely a technical course, but filled with mostly granite rock domes versus and lot of little rocks, plus there were a few dirt paths that gave our legs a break from the hard rocks. We crossed a few streams, the last of which I actually stumbled in a bit and soaked my foot to above my ankle (that was a weird feeling). We climbed a lot it seemed in the first 4 miles of the loop, so the last 2+ miles were kind of refreshing and a bit easier. I put this in the back of my mind to remember at the end of the race. Once we hit about 6 miles I expected that I'd be able to see the aid station and chip mat that would mark completion of loop 1, but it was nowhere in sight. I glanced at my watch, saw 6.38 miles and knew that even with a GPS being off a bit, we were definitely looking at a much longer loop than just 10k. 18.6 miles was turning into well over 19 now. Fun times.
I finally crossed the chip mat at 6.85 miles. Really....6.85 miles? That's not even close to 10k. My 30k trail race just turned into over 20 miles of torture. I mentally started preparing for that and sucked it up. What's another couple miles when I was already going to be out there for over 4 hours anyway? One positive was that I completed loop one in about 1 hour, 23 minutes, which was about 12:15 pace. I was really pleased with this, but I also hoped I hadn't gotten too carried away with my pace. I didn't feel like I was pushing myself too much. I felt pretty damn great, actually. Heat training was doing its job.
|Me and Todd during Loop 1...you can tell it's still early because I'm still smiling|
But then again, the sun wasn't on me yet.
About halfway through the second loop, fatigue started setting in, and the heat was more noticeable. I had slowed down for this loop purposefully, but still kept a decent pace, with a few walk breaks up the steeper rock domes and hills. There is one ascent about 3/4 of the way through the loop that is pretty brutal, especially on tired legs, and I made a mental note to try not to die right there when I hit it again 18 miles into the race. I was chugging the water, refilling more frequently than I expected, but I was very thirsty. I didn't bring enough Nuun tabs with me, so I had to switch to the Gatorade at the aid stations, but luckily they had made it diluted, so it wasn't difficult to make the transition. Speaking of the aid stations, I was so impressed with the spread they had at them. Chips, PB&J, Oreos, Clif shot blox, pretzels, potatoes...a little bit of everything. The Gu I brought with me wasn't nearly enough, so I made sure to refuel at the aid stations as well. The only thing that didn't sit well was the Coke I ingested about 12 miles in....but hey, it sounded good at the time!
|On Loop 2|
Back on the first loop I had gone ahead of Red and Emily, but I totally expected them to overtake me at some point. When I saw Red finishing up Loop 2 while I was heading out on Loop 3 I calculated I was probably just under a mile ahead of her at this point. Although the thought of beating an incredible athlete like Red was appealing, that just didn't seem right and I hoped she would find a way to catch up to me.
|Heading out onto Loop 3|
So now I'm on Loop 3....oh, this part sucked.
By now we're well into the 80s temperature wise, and my body is just TIRED. I tried running for a couple minutes at a time, but unfortunately my heart rate was spiking very quickly and it made me feel a bit light-headed, so I'd have to walk again. I tried walking quickly, but that was even hard on this terrain. My pace was definitely starting to suffer, although I was still very happy with how my overall time looked. I hit the third loop a few minutes under 3 hours, which was exactly where I wanted to be. I could feel the blisters forming on my feet so every step was getting painful. My back was sore from the pounding, so I had to concentrate on keeping my core strong, which was starting to make my abs sore. I knew I could finish, I just didn't know how ugly it was going to be.
I kept thinking about just making it to aid stations, and that would give me a boost. I knew getting water dumped over my head and refilling my handheld plus getting more salty foods would help. My fingers were so puffy at this point as well. Really, I was quite unattractive. But I persevered and made it to the first aid station. Only 5 miles to go at the this point. An hour 20 minutes hopefully (I was at 3:20 at this point), even with mostly walking. The next aid station was a little over 3 miles away. I fully planned to take pics, but even that didn't appeal to me anymore, so I didn't even bother. Kind of makes me sad now...because this was a beautiful place.
I really, honestly, couldn't believe how much the sun was on me during this loop. It was relentless and so very hot on all those rock domes. I tried running on as many flat sections that I could, but with my heart rate going up so quickly I just couldn't keep it up. I needed to be smart or I'd have some serious heat-related issues and be unable to finish. The good thing was that there were a couple guys I was leap-frogging during a lot of this leg (who, by the way, were AWESOME, because they kept telling me how great I was doing and that I was tearing up the course). To have someone in my sights was a comforting thing. I had spent a lot of the second leg alone, so this was much better. My next goal was making it to the last aid station, knowing that I'd only have 2 miles left after that.
Remember that steep rock dome I mentioned earlier? Yep, that sucked going up 18 miles into the race. SUCKED.
I heard Red call my name right behind me as I was heading to the aid station, and I was so glad to hear her voice! We chatted for a minute or two while I got my bottle refilled with just enough water for the last 2 miles. She said she'd been busting her ass that last loop trying to catch me, and it didn't make her feel any better knowing I'd been walking almost the whole thing. I couldn't believe she had enough in her to be running most of it (did I mention she's a total BADASS??). She scolded me for saying I was glad I wasn't going to beat her (I guess no one ever says that), but seriously, it would have been Armageddon if I ever beat Red (although, looking back, I did beat her in this year's Austin Marathon...but she was sick....so it doesn't really count...right??).
Having her near me as we exited the aid station was a little boost and I tried running for a few minutes, and felt okay. It wasn't fast or pretty, but at least it wasn't walking. She went ahead of me for good at about 18.7 miles.
It felt like the last couple miles were taking forever. 19.5 miles....okay, just one more to go.....19.8 miles...less than 3/4 of a mile....
And then BAM! I tripped, landed hard on my left thumb, and jacked up my right leg because my stupid knee locked up. My first thought was, holy crap, please don't let me have broken something! I shook it off, took a couple steps, didn't feel massive pain, and breathed a sigh of relief. I looked at my thumb and it was bleeding all around the nail, so I figured I probably detached part of it on the rock it hit. My right leg and glut were achy, but nothing was broken or torn, and I only had about a half mile to go. And I was bleeding! That made me happy in a sick, twisted kind of way.
I'm pretty certain that was the longest final half mile in a race I have ever experienced. (Actually, considering I was running about 12-13 pace, then yes, it technically was the longest final half mile in a race for me ever).
Crossing that finish line was the biggest relief, bigger than all my marathons. That was a harder race than my toughest marathon....and considering how the Austin Marathon felt in 2011 that's saying A LOT.
|So freaking happy to be done|
20.57 miles. 4 hours, 45 minutes. 13:54 minute overall pace.
|Official time was 4:45:49|
I was EXHAUSTED. And possibly totally dehydrated, despite the 100 ounces I probably consumed during the ordeal. I told a lot of people this was my poorest choice yet.
Red was there at the finish (she was done in 4:43) and she told me we were going to go get in the lake for a few minutes. I did as I was told, after getting my shoes off and grabbing some water. Oh, that lake water was fantastic, but I was slightly paranoid about getting fish-hooked by the girls casting their lines all around me, so I didn't stay in for very long. I also may have peed in the lake. Because you wanted to know that.
Sitting down in my chair was blissful. My heart rate was still massively high, and remained that way for a good 20 minutes. I had really hit my limit. As a matter of fact, I decided my physical limit was at 19.5 miles. How I got through the last mile is anyone's guess.
I spent the next hour and a half hanging out, eating a burger, getting rehydrated (and maybe dehydrated again with some alcohol...shhhh), and chatting with Todd and his friend. According to some of the other runners, this race was harder than the previous two in the series, and it took Todd over an hour longer to finish this one than the first one back in April. That made me feel better...I got a lot of kudos on how I did and that was so nice to hear. But damn, I was so spent. I really could've just taken a nap right then and there, but I had an hour to drive back home.
I made it home, in pain, feeling crappy, but in one piece, with nothing broken, nothing bloody, and only a couple freakishly long splinters stuck in my legs that took me 3 hours to notice. I keep telling people I'll never do that in June again....but this is me we're talking about. I never stick to my promises.
|Dirty (but not too bad), nasty toe blister, and a huge splinter in my calf that I didn't notice for 3 hours|
Despite the misery of the last 2 hours, this race was pretty spectacular, and I can totally see myself doing this distance again. Trail running is great...really really great...and I'm going to enjoy it more now. I really think I'd be happier in colder temps, however. (ya think??) Oh, and I wasn't last. As a matter of fact, out of 92 people (26 women, 66 men), I was 65th overall and the 12th woman. Better than I expected! Red was 2nd Masters...so very proud of her for that loop 3 push!
|Check out her awesome 2nd place Masters award|
Lastly, the San Francisco Half Marathon next month should feel like a piece of cake now! Please don't let there be a heat wave.
(note: Kudos to AzulOx Photography for their awesome photos during the race....and they were free to download!)