The week leading up to this race was far less than stellar for me. Despite my optimism that my body would "shape up" in time to race, Friday I took a half sick day from work and napped until the hubby returned from work. Not a great sign. Instead of packing the car, we sat on the couch discussing the options and he decided it was best if we both just stayed home. Call me obstinate, but as soon as he said that I quickly decided for better or worse I was going to start this race. I guess you learn how much you want something if given the option to bail you decide otherwise, I had been looking forward to being out on the trails and even if it meant dropping down to the 16 mile option I wanted to give it a fair chance.
Come race morning, despite sharing a twin bed (better than the floor!) I had slept well and was feeling somewhat better. I only ate half my breakfast but the coffee was good! We hit the road for the starting line and blasted some good tunes along the way, which immediately put me in a better mood. An hour later my camelback was packed and we were off. This race has 3 distances: 16, 30, 50 miles and everyone starts together so it's hard to know who's in what race. I opted to run with my hubby and the awesomely large group of VT Ultra runners for the first 5 miles which was a pretty delightful way to start the day. It was definitely a little faster than I needed to start given the slight uphill grade, but we joked and laughed and it was the perfect distraction to get me going. After 5 miles of easy rail trail, we hit the technical trails and the real race had begun...
|Pre-race shoe shot with our new matching trail gaiters :)|
Early in the race I enjoyed some good conversation with a few runners but by mile 10 I found myself secluded on the foggy and dark mountain. I was in no way my normal energetic chipper self and a few hours of solitude on the trails seemed like the perfect remedy. After almost 3 hours I finally started to catch a good groove and enjoy myself (probably because we were finally moving downhill) and shortly thereafter I reached the turnaround point.
I took the second half of the race one mile at a time. Some miles seemed to crawl by and despite my efforts to push fluids and electrolytes, the humidity caused me to cramp pretty badly. I was also falling asleep, which I've learned is a sign that I'm not eating enough, so I pushed the calories a little more and risked my stomach feeling upset. At a certain point, your fueling plan goes out the window and you eat whatever is most appealing and tolerable. When I made it to the last aid station, mountain dew, watermelon and chocolate never tasted better! Once again, the volunteers were stellar (thanks Tammy!) and did whatever they could to provide comfort, encouragement and prepare us for the final stretch of trail ahead.
|Photo by Mary Shannon Johnston|
Maybe it was the mix of my expresso gel and the mountain dew (probably), but a few miles later (about mile 24) I finally reached the point where I was feeling great. I still wasn't moving overly fast, but for the first time in the race I was feeling my normal "running is amazing!" self. The high point of my day was reaching mile 26 and feeling accomplished to have run my first marathon in many months. How had I forgotten that running a marathon was part of this experience?! Anyway, I was running downhill feeling awesome and could hear cracks of thunder from above. I love thunderstorms and a big one was definitely brewing. I prayed hard that a downpour would quickly follow. Even though it would definitely make the technical downhill a little more dangerous, trail running in the rain makes me very happy! But nonetheless, the rain held off until after I finished...
Eventually I reached a paved road and knew I would shortly be back in Damascus and at the finish line. With my moon shoes it felt so great to be back on the pavement and I was ready to bounce my way to the finish line. Still, I took my time, running strong and steady. Part of me wasn't ready to be done!
|Finished, elated, feeling much better than when I started.|
|I love functional and delicious finishers awards!|
|The hubby finishing with a new PR!|
|A bit of post-race R & R!|