Monday, March 12, 2012

3 races, 64.2 miles, lots of fun times!

That's a lot of running!

The focus this winter was trail running.  To help celebrate turning the big 4-0 this year, Bethany was going to sign up for the 50k, so naturally I said I'd run it with her.  (Do I have "SUCKER" tattooed on my forehead?!)  Turns out we were not alone--Lynn and Molly said they wanted to run it too so we had more company and the training was quite fun!

The Richmond Road Runners sponsors two trail runs leading up to Holiday Lake, a 10 miler in early December (Bear Creek) and a 35k (Willis River) in January.  Lots of our friends ran the two as well, so we made weekends out of both races.  Last year was the first time I had run Bear Creek, so I knew the course and what to expect.  This year I finished 15 minutes faster, but I think alot of that time is due to the fact that we didn't get lost in the last 2 miles like last year.  Here's a small sampling of our group prerace: me, Lynn, Bryan, Molly, Bethany, Emmie, and Jill.

Christmas came and went, and soon we were gearing up for the Willis River 35k.  This race starts in the same place as the 10 miler, but runs in the opposite direction.  That other direction must be much lower in elevation, as it was beyond MUDDY.  We're talking suck-the-shoes-off-your-feet muddy.  The course is an out and back, and I felt good up to about mile 15.  Then I got really sick of skirting around all the damn mud.  Molly and I ended up coming into the finish line together; we made the 5 hour cut off and had we wanted to keep going, we could've done the 50k.  No thanks!  I needed a shower, chili, and time in front of the fire.  We had 2 crock pots of chili cooking while we ran, and I can't tell you how delicious it tasted post race!!!  Of course I brought cupcakes.
 Dirty legs!
 Glad to be done: Cindy, Jill, Bethany, Lynn, me, and Molly
 Doggies playing!
 Joey and Lulu Snuggling
Bethany and Jake (Sophie is the brown lump in front)

At the finish of the 35k I couldn't imagine running for another 2+ hours.  I was a bit nervous heading into Holiday Lake, mainly because I didn't know what the course would be like.  I heard there wasn't as much mud and more fire roads.  The four of us doing the race all stayed at a nice B&B in Appomatox not far from the race site.  The state park where the race is held has bunk houses where most people stay--yuck.  We were much more comfy in our carriage house, which had a full kitchen, plenty of hot water, and breakfast on Sunday morning.  Bethany and I drove down together, and pulled in to the B&B just before Molly and Lynn.  We found our rooms, dumped our stuff, ate a quick bite and headed to the packet pick up/race meeting.

This 50k is really well attended by top trail running legends.  There was one guy sitting at our table that the race director introduced--he had just the previous year run ACROSS THE COUNTRY.  The kid is just 23 years old and has written a book about his experience.  Such an amazing accomplishment.  I felt totally out of my league.

Packets picked up, it was time to head home and hop in bed.  I think we were all asleep by 9:30--we were hoping to be in bed much earlier, but that race director likes to talk!  Race morning dawned, blessedly warmer than the 19 degrees originally forecast.  We had all packed umpteen different layers, so were well covered for any possibility.  We got to the race start, checked in, peed, and it was time to go!  It was dark!  The race started at 6:30am, so we're all standing around with headlamps on.  Love the low-key attitude at Holiday Lake--there was no professional singing of the national anthem, so everyone just sang on their own.  Can't say it sounded that great, but it was special in it's own way.  "Ready! Set! Go!" marked the start, and we were all off heading up the hill.

By the first aid station at mile 4 it was warm (about 40 degrees), so we all peeled off some layers and kept going.  An hour in, poor Bethany tripped and really whacked her thigh on some hidden rock.  We walked a bit, chatted her up, and tried to put it behind us.  She is one tough cookie!  Her leg was swollen for the entire race, and she had quite a contusion.  There were definitely fewer hills and less mud than Willis River, so we tootled along well for the first loop.
The last 2ish miles before the turn around, the trail hugs the lake and gets very winding and full of trip hazards.  It was here that Lynn took a bad spill, landing on her shoulder.  Like the Tough Mudder she is, she got up, brushed off, maybe cursed a bit, but kept going.  She was in some serious pain, and coming into the half way point, we could see her shoulder wasn't right. (Turns out she had dislocated her shoulder!)

Bethany's husband Bart and Lynn's boyfriend Mike had come out and were there at the turn around.  I refilled my camelback (made the mistake of adding 2 Nuun's to it--too much!), we all refueled, and headed back out. The weather was getting colder, and the wind had picked up significantly. 
 By mile 21 I was hitting my wall.  We were 5 hours in, and I just was running out of steam.  Bethany and Molly were feeling good, so they kept on, and Lynn hung back and kept me company until mile 28.  We made it to this last aid station with 20 mintues to spare before the cut off.  At this point I was almost hoping not to make it, just so I could be done.  The guys manning the tent, however, pushed food at us, and sent us on our merry way.  Ooof.  Now I was on my own (Lynn ran down Bethany and Molly and they all finished in under 7 hours).  Close to where Bethany fell in the morning, Bart and Mike found me.  Bart was a dear and ran/walked with me for the last 5ish miles.  That last aid station 4 miles out was a turning point for me.  Most of the trail became downhill, and I was able to talk myself into a little 4 mile "recovery run" to get to the end.  I was so glad I finished!  I can't believe I propelled myself, on foot, for over 33 miles!
We celebrated with margaritas and mexican food, and then cupcakes before hitting the sack!  The four of us girls were so hungry the next morning, and while our B&B breakfast was yummy, we could've eaten at least 3 times as much food than what they gave us.  Recovery after that race felt slow--I was super tired all week following that, and even swimming wore me out!  Just 3 weeks later was my next race--the Napa Valley Marathon!  (more on that to come!)