I woke up bright and early. My plan was to get to the finish area by 7:00 and head over to the start area with a few other runners to warm-up...at least that's what I was planning. The race is a point to point race. Well, I met up with a few other runners and I introduced myself to them (they all already new each other) and we drove to the start (about 6 miles away) in two cars. When we got there I discovered that there was Facebook miscommunication between myself and the guy in charge of this "warm-up". Turns out they are there to help with the course and they are running it from finish to start to make sure all the markers are there. Crap! I said if I had the endurance I would run with them to the start and then race it when the race started. The guy in charge of the run said he felt horrible and I replied it was my own stupidity as well (FB post reads: "Whoever wants to run before the start of the race meet at the start at 7 so we can head to the finish and run by 7:15"). Oh well. I was about to ask for a lift back and even said i may just run/ walk back to the start. BUT, Phil, who I just met, hands me his keys and says go ahead and take my car back. Give the keys to Greg who is in charge of the race. He also said this way he won't have to hitch a ride back to pick his car up. Cool! No problem and I made it back without getting lost (which is a shocker) or denting his car.
So, now to the race...
I m a fairly strong runner and have done well in three shorter distance races this year (3rd OA in a 6k trail run, 2nd in my AG in a 5k and 5th in my AG in a 6.66 mile trail run) and I was unsure how I would do in a half marathon, so I started in the back half- probably closer to 2/3 back. 200 yards into the race is a stream crossing. So, at the horn, everyone sprints to get there and get over quickly. I end up near the back and that ended up hurting me in the long run, though at the time I didn't care. I got over the stream nice and wet and continued on a wide path/ dirt road for about a 1/2 mile until we hit the trails. I passed many people at this point. As we got to the point where we headed up hill on the trails, it's a walk. Too many people can't run up it and the trail is narrow. Now I'm mad at myself for not starting near the front. Now I HAVE to walk and I didn't want to! I eventually made my way past many others by clipping through the branches and weeds that were making the trail tight saying "excuse me" and "pardon me" and on your left" repeatedly. I was able to get running again (still up hill) and pass some other here and there. After cresting the hill and running on the flats for a while, I hit a pint where it is stopped! It took a few seconds for me to realize that there was a huge tree across the trail and there was definitely room for one and only one at a time.
After getting past the tree (whacked my knee, too) I was able to keep running and pass a lot of people going both up and down hill. There were some huge ups on this course. After the initial uphill in the first mile (200 foot gain in 1/2 mile), we then had the biggest climb of the day- 600 foot gain in less than 2 miles. I was able to run the entire way up! I knew it would cause me to hurt later, but at this pint I was thinking I'll make it hurt real bad until halfway and cruise in from there (Mile 1-3: 11:51, 10:03, 10:48). From there, it was basically downhill from mile 3.3 to mile 6 with a short, steep uphill at mile 5 (130 foot gain in 1/4 mile- Mile 4-6: 9:08, 8:29, 9:36).
Miles 6-8 were basically the reverse of 3-5- all uphill with a short downhill. Mile six had a 260 foot gain in about .4 miles! Yikes it hurt! I did walk at that point for a little but then managed to keep going- the constant attacking horse flies helped with that (as they did throughout the race- Miles 7-8: 12:38, 10:31)
Mile 9 was, literally, all downhill! I did mile nine in 7:11! I flew downhill! At this point, and for the rest of the race, I passed only a few people here and there. Mile 9 was also on the road.
Miles 10-13.1 were constant ups and downs Miles 10 and 11 were also on the road (10-11: 10:11, 11:30). Even where I was at in the race at this point, on the road, I walked a couple sections here and there as were many other people- even the women who were near me and they were fighting for 2-5th overall!
Around mile 12 (or even earlier) is where the fun began. Yeah, more fun than the downed trees, stream, mud and hug puddles. At this point, the mud was thicker and deeper in patches. There were even 4-5 sections where the race organizers had dug out 1-3 foot deep pits that were filled with mud and water! Wasn't that nice? Not only that, we had to wade through a stream and even needed rope to get out of one of the pits. But that's not all! We also got to run up a stream for about a 1/3 of a mile as well! That was mixed in with ankle deep mud as well (this was naturally made)! After all that, there was a pile of sneakers where, if you lost on in the mud, you could take a replacement from the pile to get you to the end. Mile 12 was in 11:53 and mile 13 (all clean trail) was 8:15!
In total, there were 2 streams to cross, 1 to run up, ankle deep mud sections and dug out mud pits. Massive amounts of skunk cabbage along one stretch and flies along many other stretches. Heat and humidity as well. AND a whopping 2,010 feet of elevation!! Also? Yeah, I tried to run with a new energy drink in my bottle- stupid! My stomach was cramping up by mile one. I dumped it after mile 4 or so and got water put in it at an aid station at mile 6. I would have done that earlier, but I couldn't get my bottle open at mile 2. My stomach was not right until later that night.
I ended up finishing 65th out of just over 300 starters and 10th in my age group. I am not sure if I could have medalled if I had started near the front, only time will tell (that would be by tomorrow night...I figure I lost 3-5 minutes because of walkers in the way in the first 4 miles- time I could have been running and also not broken my stride). My time was 2:10 and some change...
Overall, I LOVED this race and I can't wait to do it again next year!!!! The only changes? Run with my usual energy drink and TRUST my abilities. I underestimated myself. For those that don't know (my whole 2 followers), I am new to running (I did triathlons last year and 1 triathlon the year before that- before then, I was 60 pounds heavier and could barely make it up the stair without breaking a sweat or panting). This year I am only focused on running! I do not really like doing laps and I don't swim well enough to go it alone in a lake. I do love riding my bike, but I have not been doing that at all since I have fallen in love with running, again...but that's another post...maybe later this week...