Luckily - it ended up being a high of the mid-40s, but DRY! The sky was clear and beautiful, a nice crisp fall morning. I woke up on time, but it NEVER fails - trying to get a whole family of people up and out the door always takes longer than it should. Neither my husband nor my kid are morning people - its a battle every time. Because of this, we were running 15 minutes late and I was frantically gathering coats and gloves for the kids.
Unfortunately in my madness I forgot my fuel belt - this meant I had no fuel and no water. After having a mini-melt down I called my mom and she was able to "talk me off the edge." We decided I would stop at the convenience store and get a bag of mints and use the water on the course and pray I would be okay. By time I made it to Ouabache State Park I had mostly gathered myself. While I still wasn't looking forward to 16 miles of trail running, I knew that no matter how ugly it would be that I could finish.
The time came and we lined up. Both the 5.3 milers and the 16 milers all line up and start together so I lined up about 3/4 of the way back despite the "gun time" because I didn't want to get caught up in running too fast. Much of the first lap was a blur.
For most of the first lap I was running in a pack of about 6-8 people and I felt like I was running strong. I spent much of the time staring at the ground watching for roots, mud, and other hazards - luckily runners are pretty friendly people so they would shout out a warning and we would pass it back the line. A little over 4 miles in I came upon the hay bales for the first time - up and over I went and then I kept on trucking. One fun part of this race is that you get to run by the buffalo enclosure during the race - I was happy to see that they were close enough to see this year. (Though, I still don't know how people can see the cute buffalo and then eat a bison burger after the race?!?) Around mile 5, I popped a mint into my mouth and put it in my cheek - hoping it would keep my body energized. The last little bit of trail before the end of the loop was a muddy/rutted mess and I nearly fell on my butt so I decided I would walk that short section each time. By the end of the first loop I was tired and feeling like I might not make it. But, I finished that first loop in around 51 minutes (I forget the exact clock time) and I headed back into the woods for the second.
Less than a mile into the second loop I had a moment of panic when I realized I no longer had my (brand new) cell phone - I had lost in somewhere on the course. I stopped dead in my tracks looking in a circle around my feet hoping that it was there - it wasn't. A couple of nice ladies came upon me and asked if I was okay - I assured them I was but that I had lost my phone. They told me to keep running my race, there was nothing I could do about it now. Probably the best advice of the day - they assured me that someone would find it and all would be okay. I was no longer in a pack, but there were some people "near" me so I never felt alone. I ran most of that second loop in a panic that I had lost my phone. I kept hoping that I would find it at the hay bales. Luckily, as I scaled the hay bales for the second time and shouted to my husband that my phone was lost a family standing near him told me they had found it and it was at the start/finish line. WHEW - what a relief!
|You can see how much time I lost being cautious with the hay bales|
Unfortunately, by now I had lost all company at this point, I was running completely by myself. I was afraid I might run off course because it wasn't really marked per say other than following the areas that were walked down. Luckily, I was able to keep focused and stay on course. Things got rough though, after several close calls in lap two where I rolled my ankles I was starting to feel tired and my joints were "loose" and feeling weak.
Between the loneliness of the course and my fear of injuring tired muscles I started walking more. I did happen across a couple other racers who were walking so I knew that at very least I wasn't going to be last. I think I passed 2 people that last lap. That last climb over the hay bales was a bit of a tease - I knew I was close, but it still felt like I had so far to go! And quite possibly even harder was having to run past my car with less than half a mile to go - I wanted nothing more than to go climb in my van and warm up. Instead, I pushed on knowing I was so close to being done. As I was finishing up I had to dodge people walking back to their cars who had already finished. Luckily, they were all very encouraging so that helped.
As I exited the trail I saw my hubby and kids - and the clock. I wanted to finish in 1:45 and I saw it was still a possibility. So, I put forth every ounce of energy I had left - and honestly at that point it wasn't a whole lot. It wasn't pretty but I had just run 16.35 miles on trails - and I wasn't last (my only real goal). I had hoped to come in at 10 minute miles or faster and I just missed that (10:02 pace) - without the cell phone snafu I am sure I would have made it. Or, you know... without all the darn walking that last lap. :-/
Despite my poor performance the last lap I did manage to score second in my age group (we will ignore the fact that there were only two people in my age group). Overall I was 40 out of 57 with a finishing time of 2:43:56.9.