Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dirty Dog 15k Trail Run - Race Report

I don't know if I've ever said anything on this blog about it, but I get headaches.  They range everywhere from the thankfully rare totally debilitating migraine to the mild annoying dull ache that can last anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 days. 

Ok so now you're probably thinking, "what do your headaches have to do with a race report?"  Only this - I woke up with fairly bad one on Friday morning.  Not a migraine, but stuffy headed sinus headache that had the left side of my head pounding and left me with a slightly queasy feeling all day.  It really drained my energy and I was super tired and dragging through the work day.  Since I wasn't feeling that great (and had some stuff that had to be done at home) I opted to skip to the Friday night packet pick-up and pizza party at Robert's Running Shop, and headed for home.  Marc and I got in the car to go run some errands and pick up some dinner, and I started feeling even worse.  We got food, came home, I tried to eat, and then proceeded to crash on the couch for the rest of the night. I was a little worried that I wouldn't be able to run the race.

Slept fairly well, and woke up to get ready for the race.  Thankfully, the headache was gone and I was feeling pretty good.  I was slightly nervous because I've never run a trail run by myself and the thought was a little scary.  But I was more excited than nervous, so I gathered up all my stuff and hit the road for the forest.

Picked up my race bib and t-shirt, bought a DD15K sticker for the car, and then went through my pre-race ritual of making sure the car key that I carry with me really will open the car doors. (i lock and unlock the driver's door at least 3 times before every race, just to make sure I won't be locked out. It always works, but I still have to check it.multiple.times.every.race.) 

Start time came and off I went with the crowd of people and dogs.  Got about 200 yards into the run and the remnants of the day before's headache showed up and I started feeling really sick; not good.  I slowed down and told myself I couldn't quit before I even got to the trails since there was a possibility the feeling would pass.  So I gave myself until the first aid station to feel better; if I was still sick when I got there, I'd drop out.

Thankfully, I started feeling better and was able to continue on with the race.  I was going slower than I had hoped/planned, but was ok with that.  As I started to head down Pine Ridge Trail, I was reminded that a bad day on the trail beats a good day on the road.  There's just something about being in the woods....

 I successfully navigated the rocky, rooty downhill, only to stumble and twist my ankle on the smooth flat section at the bottom (really? of all places to do that - not a rock or root or anything anywhere close)  A few test steps let me know that it was fine so on I went, through the second aid station and across the road.

And there it was.  White Hollow Trail, which seems to go straight up the side of the mountain.  Yuck. As I struggled up the trail, I swear there were times when I felt I would go faster if I stood still.  That sucker is steep.  I literally felt like I fought my way to the top - it was so hard and so steep.  The trail chewed me up and spit me out onto Middle Ridge Road. 

I was relieved to be off the steep single track, but then I made the turn onto the road, only to face another uphill section.  I was so tired and worn out; I just wanted this whole thing to be over.  I felt like I had no more strength in me to climb yet another hill.  Why had I even thought that doing this race was a good idea?  I was tired and lonely, and couldn't hold back the tears.  I cried as I walked on.  Sniffling along, I was feeling sorry for myself and just feeling pretty crappy mentally.

And then I started looking around and taking in my surroundings.  I reached a break in the trees and could look out from the ridge top to an absolutely beautiful view.  It was a beautiful day and I was in a beautiful place; the wonder of nature took over and a feeling of peace settled down on me.  Call it a spiritual awakening on the mountaintop if you will.  Whatever it was, it revived my spirit.

I continued on with a new attitude of "i'm not running a race, i'm enjoying a beautiful day in the woods".  I walked when I needed to, ran when i could, and pressed on through the course, finally reaching the turn for the last downhill to the finish.  There's something about knowing the end is close that gives me a burst of energy.  I was feeling good and jogged down the trail as fast as my feet would let me.  I was having some issues with my shoes feeling too short, and the downhill seemed to make my toes feel crammed into the ends of the shoes, which was pretty painful and I was ready to cry again.  But I remembered last year there was a photographer on this section of the trail and just in case he was there again, I didn't want to be crying in a picture.

And then:  Woo hoo!!  I did it!  I conquered the challenge! I finished!

When I run races, I usually have at least 2 or 3 potential goals that I'm running for.  This one had three:
#1 - to finish,  #2 - to finish in the same time as my last half, and/or #3 - to finish in 2 hours.
When I set the goals, I knew #3 was a dream and was more than likely not going to happen, #2 was a possibility, and #1 was pretty much a given.  Once out on the course, for the first time in a race, even #1 seemed like it wasn't likely.  But I pushed on through the difficulties and I crossed that finish line.

And that, my friends, is a pretty big accomplishment.

Race details:
distance:  9.3 miles
Time:  2:29:29
Avg pace: 16:11 mpm
Overall Finish:  279 of 296
Age Group finish:  30 of 34

Mile 4 is where the tears started.

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