I showed up early, got a good parking space and waited in line to pick up my registration. I joked with the other runners, "We all are standing in line here and then we're all going to stand in line by the Port-a-Potties." Another runner kindly offered to hold my spot so I could go to the bathroom.
"Oh, no," I gently refused. "I always have to go 2 miles into the race so I'm going to run 3 miles and then go." She started laughing. Glancing at my face, she quickly stopped.
"Oh. You're serious?" she asked
"Yeah. I'm supposed to run 12 today," I said sheepishly. Funny. Is it a bad sign when we're embarrassed to admit exactly how high our training volume is? Additionally, supposed to is from my training plan generated by my "coach" aka ME.
I started my GPS and gently warmed up with a casual 3 miles. My running buddies from my regular Sunday group, standing in line for the bathroom, of course, refused to join me but they cheered me on as I passed nonetheless. I had just enough time to do my 3 miles, shed my warm up clothes, stand in line for the bathroom, do my business (in one with no toilet paper--argh), and trot to the start line before the gun went off. Perfect! I was nice and loose and warmed up.
I fell into my rhythm instantly since I'd been running for the past 30 minutes anyway. The trail was even and well-packed. I couldn't wait. It had been advertised as "flat and fast". Later I would discover that the race organizers were big, fat LIARS! 1/2 mile into the run, a sharp right funnelling onto a single-track trail forced us all to an agonizingly slow walk. We walked down the first hill.
"Awwww," I whined.
"You like the downhills, huh?" a very fit, very fast-looking guy in front said.
"Yeah, but not the ups," I confessed. The crowd thinned out, and we all started hitting it. I somehow had gotten caught in a very fast pack. Not too keen on letting them discover that my legs can't run as fast as my mouth, I sprinted with them, letting them carry me along. We hit the first hill, and I redlined up the entire thing, panting for breath at the top. Unfortunately, my efforts, though valiant, weren't enough to overcome my lack of speed, and the cheetahs left me in the dust. The very hill I had been praying for to thin out the crowds had weeded me out as well. Next time, next time...
Then the downhills began. I allowed myself to recover briefly before taking off. Downhills are my specialty. Right? I sprinted down, dancing from side to side to break up the sharp incline, pounding on my quads. My ego refused to let me back off. I reasoned that I will either hurt myself or get better at trail running. Survival of the fittest, right? Miraculously, I made it safely to the bottom of each hill before struggling to climb up the next one. I refused to let myself walk, gasping and wheezing up each one. Wasn't this supposed to be a flat course?
A flat section appeared about mile 4-6 and wound through a very nice residential section. I avoided the deep rivets created by heavy horse hooves in wet mud. When the barn appeared, I breathed in deeply, relishing in the pleasant aroma. The horses stared at us in bewilderment, ears erect, muscles tense, alert and ready to flee. What are those silly humans running from? I think they expected to see a giant mountain lion closing in on our heels.
I tried to pass a woman in front of me but was closed in on both sides by other runners. She shrieked suddenly as she leapt over a giant hole in the ground. I didn't have time to react. I tried to leap over it in mid-air but my ankle twisted sharply on impact. My ankle, which was already not happy from several close calls when sprinting down steep hills, screamed out in pain. I limped for a few steps, and, thankfully, the pain subsided. I would have to watch my step more carefully. My ankle was now one mistep away from a bad sprain. Still, I had to concentrate on making sure my feet landed solidly under me to avoid the sharp, stabbing ache in my left foot when I forgot. As the run continued, and the endorphins flowed thick in my blood, the pain subsided. However, a nagging tug in the back of my head made me worry about what my next run would be like.
We reached the aid station at mile 6. The park ranger directed us safely across a street with fast-moving cars. "Come and get it!" he beckoned. "We have water, Gatorade, and a dead rattler at mile 7.4." For some reason, I thought he said, "We have Dead Metal Tickets at mile 7.4." I laughed at him and he looked at me in all seriousness and said, "No really. There's a rattler at mile 7.4. But it's dead." This gave me something to look forward to. I proceeded on, curious to find the dead rattler. Sure enough, at mile 7.4, a 4-foot long rattler appeared. I was thankful he had told me it was dead because instinct told me to stop in my tracks. Still, I proceeded cautiously, not running over it until I was sure it was safe (it's head had been bashed in; it was definitely dead).
Now, I was getting excited. We were close to the end. In true Xterra form, a creek appeared in the middle of our path. I tried to daintily leap over it, landing solidly in the center of the stream on my left foot. Oh, well. At least I was close to the end. My footsteps sounded heavy and uneven now. Thud, squelch, thud, squelch, thud, squelch. How embarrassing. I began to notice a burning on my inner thighs. No, not that kind of burning--like ouch, pain burning. C'mon! It began to spread like fire. What on earth was that? Could it be....chafing? I have never, ever, in my life chafed before. All I know was that it H.U.R.T.! I guess I'm getting fat. I used all my efforts to ignore it but I knew Monday would not be fun. Guess I need Body Glide next time for my fat thighs.
The last, final hill appeared. At this point, I had figured out that it was faster and more efficient to power walk up the steepest inclines and then begin running as soon as the % grade began to drop. It allowed me to maintain the most even speed without requiring as much recovery time at the top. However, I had still been sprinting recklessly down every hill. My quads, hams and calves were toast but so were everyone else's. I glanced at my watch. 9.5 Where the hell was the finish line? Isn't a 15K 9.3? I would later find out the race was actually 9.8 miles. I sure as hell wish I had known that going in. For me, knowledge is power when racing; I rely heavily on visualization. The last 1/3 mile took forever. The trail continued rising up, up, up. I could see the baseball fields where we had started in the distance, way over my head. How was I going to make it up there? A voice in my head started egging me on, Okay, this is it--Last Chance Workout. After this, you can nap. You can take Monday off. Final push. It worked. I pumped my arms and forced myself to keep running. No more power walking.
Running up the final hill at the Black Mountain Trail Race. It was so beautiful. I'm the little red dot coming up the trail.
Still running but I wanted to walk!
Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, I saw Brent and Alec at the top of the hill. They were cheering me on, "Go, Rachel! You can do it!" Damn it! I wanted to walk soooo badly. I just couldn't run another step. But I couldn't walk with them watching and cheering me on! I somehow forced myself to keep running. At the top, Alec joined me for the final 1K to the finish line. He kept urging me on, "Go, Rachel! Good job!" as he ran beside me. All I could do is wheeze in response. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah," I gasped. "Almost there." He was very cute but I wish he would have stopped running right in front of me! I was too tired to stop and too close to the finish to slow down; I came dangerously close to falling on top of him in a heap several times.
Alec cheering me on at the finish.
Hey! Watch out, kid! I ain't stopping!
I crossed the finish line and caught my breath. I was 10 minutes faster than the last (hillier) trail race even though it was a mile longer! And, I ran 12.8 (note 0.8 bonus miles) instead of 12 total miles for my long run! Whoo-hoo! I was pretty stoked. Alec participated in the 1K kids scramble a few minutes later (which he had just run with me across the chute). Plus, he had just come from a tri club, kid's duathlon. He got his exercise in for the day! And a medal, which made him happy.
Alec on his bike at the duathlon (he's getting a new one for his B-day in May).
Alec running at his kid's duathlon.
Alec proudly displaying his medal from the Xterra kid's scramble and race number from the kid's duathlon.
I went home to stretch and gingerly lowered myself into my ice bath. My ankle (thank God) is fine. My plantar fascitis on my right foot is a little annoyed but is still on the mend. Yes, I'm having a hard time walking down the stairs today, and my quads, calves, hip flexors and IT bands are really mad at me. No, I'm not going to stop recklessly sprinting down hills, especially on trails. Sorry. The worst injury I sustained was the chafing on my inner thighs. The skin has been scraped off on an area about the size of a Hallmark card. It hurt so bad on Monday, I couldn't put on pants without some creative bandages (band-aids were no good--the wounds were too big). A little Neosporin, some gauze, and athletic tape has been doing wonders.
Not for the faint of heart. Extreme chafing as seen the next day on my inner thigh. Yes, it hurts as bad as it looks.