This has been our last race of the season for the last 3 years. And once again it did not disappoint.
Just to re-cap Dan and I spend a lot of time from May – October running on this course (and the trails around it) when we visit the family cottage. Dan decided to run the 10km race again (watch less, since he forgot it at home) and I opted for the 17.5km distance. Our friend Mitch was also running the 17.5km and was astounded by the fact that we knew no one at this race-it’s not an ultra so most of the familiar faces and friends we’ve made the last couple of years are absent at this event.
The plan; I didn’t have one. After my DNF at Mogollon, I hadn’t been doing all that much training. I wasn’t as bummed about it this time as I was the first, but I kind of felt like running and I needed a break, so yoga and I started hanging out, and then this race snuck up on me. I’m in the middle of an inspiring fell running book (Feet in the Clouds), so I decided to race like a fell runner, which seems to be – run like hell and hope you can hang on. Maybe not the best plan, but I had nothing else going for me.
The race started at 10am under very ominous skies that thankfully never developed into any real weather, it was cool but our motley crew still rocked our shorts.
Last race of the season, because a race any later in the year would require long pants.
The first 500 meters or so there is a little spur around the drive-way/parking lot, I like to boot this bit and get out in front of as many of the hill walkers as possible, it’s too easy to start walking when everyone around you is. As I started to head up the ski hill, it hit me how little hill running I’ve been doing of late, my legs were burning as were the lungs, but you know what, it was exhilarating. A little voice in the back of my mind reminded me that I would “pay for this later”, I told that voice to “shut up and let me enjoy this please!?!”. Finally making it to the top I was sucking wind, but I refused to slow down, I love the single track at the top of the hill, and the decent I’m usually scared of on the backside I just bombed down like I had nothing to lose.
Dan waiting for the start of the 10km
Next section is single track along the bottom of the hill, I settled into a slower pace, mainly because I was getting tired (oops only 3km in!) but I love me a challenge. I blew through aid the aid station wondering why people wearing CamelBaks were stopping for water, the next section just kind of rolls, it’s part single track and part ATV track, we hit the first “water challenge” about 5km in, I giggled watching people trying to go around. When this course is wet, there is no going around, so I plowed straight through, receiving a few complaints for “splashing” but hey “I’m on the other side now, come get me!”, yeah never saw them again. What people need to realise is that even if you make it around the “water challenges” the track following is usually wet and very slippery, your feet will get wet and dirty (I actually heard someone complain about the dirt on their shoes), the track is sort of clay so the kicker is that all the mud sticks to your shoes and your feet feel about 10lbs heavier when you hit the rail trail. The rail trail is a nice section to open things up so I took the opportunity to scoot by a few people, then back onto ATV track to the bottom of the hill, its single track back up to the top with a few log obstacles thrown in to make sure you’re paying attention. On my climb back to the top of the hill I had to switch to a hike, I was feeling like I was going to barf, but thought it was still a little too early in the race for that. I bombed back down the front side of the hill and ran straight up to the water station and stopped for a glass of water, was it me or was it getting warm? Nausea has a way of messing with your core temperature. Anyway first 7.5km done in 43:34, now it was time for the 10km section.
Look at that form! Yes, I’m a heel striker and no I’m not trying to change it.
I love the first 5km, they are pretty flat and I needed that, what I had forgotten about was the water. Water, water everywhere. I watched as some people nimbly danced along the edge of the water and the brush, but took my usual route of right through the middle. To people reading this and thinking about doing this race I should warn you that my way is not necessarily the best way, some of the water sections are deep (past my knee at one) and some are long (so long that there was a real threat of losing my shoe and I seemed to pick up a lot of silt) but I’m not a graceful enough runner to not end up falling in. First 5km down in 29:39, now to the last 5km, which would see some more hill action.
Mitch has a lovely gait, but I still kicked his butt (I have to while I still have the chance)!
There is a small out and back on this section so, there were (10km) runners coming at me as I started out, it’s always interesting to see who will yield to whom on this section, since I was still utilising my run through the water technique I didn’t encounter any of that awkwardness. As I was running up the hill that “never looks that bad” but somehow always kicks my ass, my old friend from last year caught up to me, Jim, he is probably approaching 60 and so so much faster than me. He humored me for a bit letting me lead through the fun downhill single track (side note: if it takes two runners screaming at you to let them by, your music is probably too loud, and I don’t mean just for this race, I mean in general), once we hopped the drainage ditch and hit the ATV track he waved good-bye and went back to kicking my butt. I spent the rest of this section picking off runners who had gone out too hard (apparently I wasn’t the only one doing this) and misleading people through deep puddles of water. I chatted a bit to a young guy who was running his furthest distance yet, he was happy for some company, it’s weird for me to see people down in such short races, but it’s all perspective, and it was his longest run ever, I told him he should be celebrating, he was going to set a PB, the smile that came across his face when he realised this is why I like running. We finally popped out onto the last bit of road back to the finish, he of course sprinted away from me (after saying thanks) and I pretended to sprint after him (I still have zero kick) to finish in 1:47:57, good enough for 8th female (and yes there were more than 8 females), not too shabby for an under trained and out of shape ultra runner.
Post race was delicious as usual with chili and cookies, also all you could drink McDonald’s coffee from a coffee truck, which brings me to my next point, man has this race grown! Nearly 700 participants this year, there is definitely some growing pains happening (mostly that people are being pains and complaining). The spirit of this race is no frills fun, which is what it delivers, the website makes it very clear that you will be covered in mud (duh, it’s a trail race) and there is an award for “most lost” so no, the course markings are not every 5 feet. I have no fear that the awesome RD Sandy will keep this race true to its roots and if people are look for a 5 Peaks Race, then that is what they should run. I for one can’t wait to see what next year will bring.