|Finishing, hand in hand! Picture courtesy John Wallace III|
Our plan: no taper for the race, car camp Friday night where the race starts, race the next morning and after finishing the race drive as long as possible so that we could arrive at LT by early Sunday afternoon (15 hour drive). I ran the race on the heels of a 85 mile training week and with TRT tour in the back of my mind. I had no room to get injured or to recover; I had to play it safe. Ha, who am I kidding? Just running the race wasn't playing it safe, but I was up for a good challenge.
Another interesting bit of race info, James planned to run the race pretty mellow. His only goal: to get under 11 hours. So I said, let's run together! We have run a few of the same races, but it's always every man and woman for him/herself. This would be a fun opportunity to actually run shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride, assuming that we both could keep up a 10-ish hour pace. I figured it wouldn't be too difficult for either of us. My biggest challenge was my lack of taper. James' challenges would be to not go out too fast and to hope he didn't get "dead legs" feeling that he sometimes unexplainably gets. Additionally, we had a big scare just 4 days before the race when James had to go to the emergency room after choking on food and not being able to eat, drink, or swallow anything including his own saliva for 30 hours. The doctor diagnosed him with a esophi-something-something-itis. Basically, it's inflammation, swelling, narrowing, and sometimes scarring of the esophagus. Most likely caused by allergies to foods. Since he's been having this problem for 10 years, just never this bad, it's important that he finds out what he's allergic to. James was on a liquid diet for 4 days before the race and was only able to eat solid foods the night before the race.
One thing is for sure in racing: there is always something, often many things, that seem to go wrong before and during a race. There are always excuses for not performing well, dropping from a race, or not starting it at all. So we toed the line Saturday morning despite many "setbacks," determined to have a fun day (hopefully) together. The morning was brilliantly sunny, but shady and cold at the start line. James and I started out very conservatively. I had a little piece of paper with our splits based on a 10 hour pace, and despite taking it easy, we reached the first aid station 9 minutes early, a big deal since it was only 4 miles!
The race course is simple: two major climbs and two major descents, ending with a 6.5 mile mostly rolling/flat along the river. Listed below are our splits and some description of that portion of the race. In parenthesis are the splits for running a 10 hour pace. We ended up running 10:23.
Camp Shepard mile 3.9 in 36:31 (45) pretty flat until Camp Shepard. The first climb really begins around this aid station and last until approx mile 14. Sometimes gradual sometimes not. About 10 miles worth of climbing.
|Cruising and joking through the first few miles, picture courtesy John Pearch (thanks for making us look fast)|
|Smiling up to Corral Pass, picture courtesy Brandon Williams|
Ranger Creek mile 22.1 in 4:33:52 (4:25:00). From this point on (except for my bonk up to Fawn Ridge) we began to pass people. Our steady pace was paying off. It was around this descent that I began to feel the dreaded achilles pain and crunchiness.*
Buck Creek mile 27.2 in 5:27:11 (5:24:00) Feeling hot, we were about to start the second and last major climb of the day at the peak of the heat of the day. A few miles from Buck Creek I began to feel very nauseous. A ginger chew and a few miles down the trail revived my tummy, and I was able to pick the pace back up after Fawn Ridge. James ran ahead of me for a few miles during my bonk, but he waited for me for 6-8 minutes at Fawn Ridge. I lost 17 minutes off our goal time in 4 miles, yikes!
|Getting hot at Buck Creek Aid Station. James et moi, picture courtesy Brandon Williams|
|Our look, "OMG it's Brandon Williams!" Picture courtesy Brandon Williams|
|Almost at Sun Top, Photo courtesy Glenn Tachiyama|
Skookum Flats mile 43.4 in 9:04:58 (8:42:00) The downhill section to Skookum was were James and I began to get a little competitive. We thought I was probably somewhere near or in the top 10 women and so we began to pick the women off. It can be a little difficult to tell who is an early starter and who isn't. A large number of people did the early start, meaning they began the race one hour earlier than those of us who did the regular start. For the record, I dislike the early start option. It's confusing who you are competing with and a lot of runners do it so that they can get home earlier (you know who you are), but really it is only for people who might not make the cut-off time. We made up a lot of time on the downhill to Skookum. We ran 8:45's for 6.5 miles and made up 23 minutes! By Skookum, we were just 21 minutes off target.
Finish at the Airfield mile 50 in 10:23:?? (10:00:00) The last section, 6.5 miles along the river, seemed to take forever. My achilles had started hurting* coming down from the first climb to Buck Creek and I was really feeling it. It wasn't slowing me down, but I was worried about the TRT tour. I felt like I was bonking again on this section. James' pace keep pulling me forward. He'd pull ahead and I'd keep working my body to keep up. Everything in my body wanted to walk to that finish. I knew I didn't have enough calories and that was part of the trouble. I felt sleepy, wanted to be done, and felt like I was so far from the finish. This is often the most mentally difficult time in the race. When you just don't want to run anymore, when that desire is diminished or even gone, you can lose a lot of time. We completed the last 6.5 miles at 12:15 minute pace, close to our needed average for a 10 hour finish, but we weren't able to make up the 20 minutes to finish in 10 hours or less, but close enough.
About 3 miles into the last 6.5 along the river a girl passed James and me. We exchanged disappointed glances, knowing she was a regular starter. We had checked with an aid station worker at Skookum Flats and she said I was probably in 11th place, so it was a little upsetting to get passed, especially when I felt so vulnerable and weak. I told James that I could not go after her yet. We still had 3.5 miles to go. About 1.5 miles from the finish James had run ahead and I saw him at a corner waiting for me, "She's only a little ahead of you and she looks way worse. She's walking a lot." He told me this and I thought, no I really don't want to fight for this. I just want to give up. But a part of me was excited and as we rounded a corner, we picked up the pace and breezed past her. I never saw her again. We held our place and pace to the finish, hand in hand. It was our first race that we ran most of the way together and finished together. What fun to share such an epic journey! I loved that James helped pull some competitiveness out of me. It's definitely a "muscle" that I plan to strengthen.
|Coming toward the finish , just 150 meters or so! Our look says, I thought this moment would never come. Seriously. Picture courtesy Christine Ballard|
|Picture courtesy Steven Kelly|
|Picture taken after finishing, now, off to Tahoe... Picture courtesy Brandon Williams|
** Note about the achilles: I've had this achilles trouble before. I took 3 weeks off in June to recover from my achilles tendinitis, and after WR it was pretty "crunchy" feeling, just like back in June. Miraculously, I was able to avoid further injury after WR by icing 2x day, self-inflicted deep tissue massage for the calf, ankle, achilles and foot, and an ibuprofen 200mg every morning. I wore a soft wrap around my ankle to keep pressure from the shoe off the tendons as well (thanks Chris for the wrap). By the end of the TRT tour, and even after a week of whopping 125 miles of running including WR (my biggest mileage week ever), the achilles was all better. Incredible considering the mileage I put in the week after WR. I continue to ice, wear the brace, and massage the area. Cascade Crest 100 here I come!!!!!!!!!!!