It’s a pretty cool thing to find your face in the morning paper. When I started the morning l was tired to the bone from keeping a baby happy all night long. I was having trouble getting my head “in the game”, so to speak. My loving husband made me pancakes while I tried to get everything ready. The race was a 40-minute drive away and started at 7 o’clock, sharp. We had fifteen minutes to get ready and go, and Ezekiel was still fast asleep.
The night before, I had filled the bladder for the hydration vest with water and had frozen it. In the morning, I let it thaw just enough to yank it open and fill it up to near-overflowing with water. I had two bison bars in Ziplocs stuffed into my vest, as well as dried cranberries and some homemade peanut butter Rice Krispie treats. I also had two more water bottles in the front. I was set, but nervous.
We arrived with 20 minutes to spare, but every runner knows that the line for the bathrooms will take all the time. There were about ten people in front of me, I still hadn’t picked up my bib, and Ezekiel still needed to nurse. Cue the rising panic.
I had to hurry back to the car to quickly sunscreen up after getting my bib. I remembered that two years ago I had fried in the beating sun and I had no intention of experiencing that again. The five minute call rang out, and Ezekiel still needed to eat.
(He doesn’t realize I’m about to leave him for several hours.)
While I walked to the starting line, I covered up (barely!) with a blanket and let my baby finally eat. I was in the very back of the crowd, wrestling with a squirmy, thirsty child. I had to hand him over to my husband, Nate, when the gun went off the crowd began surging forward. I quickly buckled my vest together and set off, trying to get past the bulk of the people. I wish I had started in the front.
(The sea of fluorescent runners.)
The first mile was spent passing a lot of runners. I always feel awkward passing someone. Do I tell them “good job” or “keep it up” even though I’m running in front of them? Personally, I might find that condescending, but I know that oftentimes others enjoy encouragement more than I do. Sometimes I say sorry, but I honestly don’t know what the etiquette is. I’m still a newbie to this whole racing thing.
When we reached the first climb I knew I was in for a long few hours. I stopped and shook my legs out a couple of times. I regretted not training in high altitude. I regretted signing up for the race. Gosh, I was actually pretty grumpy for the first half.
(Nate, my unofficial photographer, caught me in a bad mood. I told him to leave me alone here.)
I tried to eat my bison bars but they suddenly tasted like rabbit food. The cranberries weren’t much better. I ended up spitting out some of my food on the trail as it was turning my stomach. While my nutrition was sub-par during the race, I stopped at most of the aid stations and took in plenty of electrolytes and fluids. Without those, I never would have made it.
After hitting up the halfway aid station, Jackson Gap, I ran alongside a guy from Portland for a couple miles. He pulled ahead of me on the hills, but I kept my pace steady and would occasionally catch him on the flat ground. Unfortunately, I rolled my right ankle on a sharp turn and lost him completely. The next two miles after that were spent wondering if I would be able to finish. I knew that little roll had done something to my ankle and I was hobbling. Because I had slammed my right knee in a training run, that whole leg was somewhat compromised. When I made it to the next aid station, however, I just drank more electrolytes and my husband and baby were there to cheer (or cry) me on. I kept going.
(Everybody at the race loved him.)
The next section had several miles of climb to it, and I admit, I was pretty low during this point. I walked often, sometimes completely stopping and doubling over, hands on my shaking legs and staring at the ground. The lack of food was really catching up to me, but I knew I had to continue. I arrived at the last aid station and took in more electrolytes. My contacts were clouded over and my eyes were itchy from the dry, grassy spots. Allergies are my bane. Someone gave me a sponge for my eyes. I tried to find something to eat that appealed, but someone told me that if nothing looked good, I might as well keep going since there were only five miles left.
The last five miles weren’t too terrible. I caught up with Strava Socks (his name is actually Kyle, but at the beginning I had been behind him staring at his labeled socks) and I followed him out of the trail and onto the road that led to the finish. There were campers and onlookers all along the road, yelling and cheering us on. I heard people yelling “first woman” and “here she comes” as I neared the end. Strava Socks pulled ahead for a sprint finish, but I didn’t feel like sprinting at that point. My husband was running alongside me, trying to get me to sprint. I said no.
(My official time was 4:27:31 because I started in the back.)
It was such a relief to cross that line. Several runner friends that had done the 15K were there and congratulated me as I tried to find food. They all looked so fresh, wearing colourful leis and holding beers. In some ways, I was jealous that they didn’t run as far, but at the same time I felt pretty accomplished. Maybe next year I’ll do it again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll be brave and do 50 miles instead. Runners have short-term memory loss, after all.