There. That's it. My race report! That pretty much sums it up.
It's becoming tradition that the e-burg gang drives out to my place on Saturday early enough to pick-up our race packets, chill out, barbecue, tell stories, laugh, and pretend to organize our race gear. We try to get to sleep early enough and head to the race start after a good breakfast.
This year, just Tim and I were going to run the 50k again, while David, Jody, Ethan and Willy had all decided to run the 25k. We got there a few minutes before the start and, for a change, took off our extra layers of clothes as the early sun was promising warm weather.
My goals were: 1) To have fun. That's always my goal cuz if it ain't fun then there's no reason for it. 2) To run like a trail runner again... that is, without my ankle brace and without that nagging phobia of re-spraining my ankle that I've had for 5 years now since surgery. 3) If it turned out to be a good day, I wanted to run under 5 hours. I figured that was a doable goal.
Being familiar with the first loop because of our training runs was very helpful. I knew where to walk, run, eat. I enjoyed this loop very much. I didn't care a bit about who was ahead or behind or my standing or who I passed or who passed me. I ran at a conversation pace. I had wanted to run faster than that, but I got into some nice trail conversation with Molly from MT (it was her first 50k) and Lew from Spokane (who is running his first Western States this year). I was quite pleased that I ran through the rocky section without any trouble. That gave me a boost of confidence, but I know all too well not to let confidence turn to cockiness on the trails ever again!
(pic from one of our training runs on the course)
I finished the first loop in about 2:25 if I remember correctly. I set out on the second feeling very good, like it was my first. I decided to pick up the pace. I was running alone as Molly went ahead when I made a pit stop and Lew was back just a bit. I liked running alone. I wanted to hear my breaths instead of my voice. Every once in a while I would catch sight of Molly running ahead. And I could sense her occasional hesitation about whether she was on the correct trail. For some reason, the markings didn't seem as reliable as they were on the first loop. Or maybe it was just because I knew that first loop very well. I wanted to at least reassure her that I too was paying attention to the markings and, while I wasn't totally sure we were on the right trail, I at least thought we were! We motored on and eventually, I passed a few runners.
The times when I questioned the route sucked some of the energy out of me, but for the most part, I felt fine. I decided it was time to stop singing aloud to myself and start pushing the pace. I wanted to work; I was in the mood for it. Eventually, I spotted Emily in the distance. She won the women's race last year. When we came to an aid station, she stopped and I passed on by. I ran down the hill and kept running....and kept running...and kept running... until I came to a trail intersection with trail markings going in another direction. Huh? I stopped. Damn! Then I see a runner coming towards me from another trail.
"Hey, did you just come from that aid station up there?" I pointed up the hill.
"Damn! Damn! Damn!" I was so mad, now frantically wondering where the hell I went wrong. Before the aid station, just after? Emily was there at the station too, so it must've been right. Maybe this runner is wrong?
"I'm at about mile 22 if that helps," he said and motored on.
Fuck. I had to think quick about what to do. Should I follow this runner? Would it just lead me back to the aid station again? Would it cut distance from the course? Add more distance? I hated to think the best answer was to go back up that freakin' hill, but it was the best decision I could make. So, up I went. I was not happy. When the guy manning the aid station was in sight, I asked which way to go. He was kind enough to jump up and run to the turn in the trail off to the right. It was clearly marked. I had majorly missed it. My bad. Crap. But oh well, right? What can you do? I picked up the pace. Now, I wanted to see how much of that 8 minutes I could make up.
So, as I head down the right trail, I see Molly and Lew walking toward me! Huh? We all stared blankly at each other for a second. WTF?
"Is this an out 'n back?" asked Lew.
"I have no freakin' clue. Did you hit that station up there?"
No, they hadn't either. I must've been crazy. Was there really even a station up there?? I figured my only way forward was to well, run forward. Whether I had added more distance (other than going the 8 minutes off trail), I had no idea, but at least I was now headed toward the finish. It took me awhile to set into a pace and to leave the anxiety behind on the trail. I got back into my groove though now with a little more purpose. I wondered how far Emily was ahead.
It wasn't until the course started hugging the river that I knew where I was, where I could push the pace, where the hills were (that I was now gonna run!) and how much further I had to go. So, I pushed. It felt good to work.
About 30 or 40 minutes after my detour, I spotted Emily ahead. After the long uphill to the aid station by the road, she let me by. I'm glad I remembered those last miles are long ones. It was too early to barn door it. So, I just kept within and fought the desire to slow down and "not care" about my finish time. I knew I'd have to keep up the pace to break 5 hours, so I did.
When I crossed the finish line in 4:58:55, I was satisfied.
It's always satisfying when you are able to meet all your goals. I had fun. I felt like a real trail runner because my ankle held up without a brace and I wasn't paralyzed by the fear of re-spraining it. I finished in a reasonable time for me. Also, my recovery has been easy. No troubles. Other than a stiff right ankle, I'm fine. Ran Monday and Tuesday, but will take a rest day today. I'm thinking I really need to learn that it's ok to run harder. I should at least run hard enough to feel sore the next day!
I just love this race! It's one of my all-time favorites. The scenic views rock. The rocks rock! It draws some fantastic competition, and there are distances for everyone.
Tim did great (despite getting lost too) and finished in 4:22, 7th overall. David, Willy, Jody and Ethan all did very well in the 25k. We returned home and fired up a tasty barbecue for everyone.
Good friends, good times. What more could you ask for!
Full results are HERE.
PS - Wanna read another report from the race? This one has EXCELLENT pictures from the course. See Scott's blog entry.
(these are my handsome boyz!)