The good news was that it was the first day of the race and it was the shortest day... 18 miles.
I felt prepared when I got to the race on Friday morning. My gameplan was to go nice and easy. I had 3 days of this trail running bullshit, no need to go all out on Day 1.
Ready to get this shit over with.
The morning was cool and overcast and I was hoping it would stay that way for the next... ohhh.. 5 hours or so .
Our Nashville Posse
Before we knew it (and after fashioning a regular water bottle into a handheld water bottle with electrical tape and ingenuity, because someone left their handheld water bottle in the hotel room (not me, by the way, and I had no part in the engineering of the new handheld))... it was time to line up at the start.
The start line. (Photo by Jeff Bartlett)
My goal was to try and maintain a 12:30 pace for most of the race. Of course I'd walk up the steep uphills (although there aren't too many on this course), but I'd try to make up for it on the downhills. So, I figured maintaining 12:30s on a fairly technical, but flat trail would be perfect. And my goal was to finish under the cut-off time of 5 hours (although, with the weather starting out so nice, I was hoping for a sub 4:30).
When we started... I realized why I truly hated Raccoon Mountain. Because I've never been able to run MY race for the first few miles. The course isn't full of crazy elevations, and because of that... people go out super fast and even though I started out in the back of the pack, I got caught up with a crowd barreling through the trail like I was only running a 5 mile race. My first few miles were all under 12 minute miles. My breathing was heavy. Sweat was pouring out of me... It was not pretty.
I tried slowing down a bit after the first aid station. But, I somehow got stuck in the lead of a pack of about 5 runners.. none of which were eager to pass (I know, because I offered). As we flew through the trail, chit chatting along the way... the inevitable happened... I fell. Flat on my face with a group of 5 runners behind me to witness it all. I picked myself off, slunked off to the side of the trail, told everyone I was okay and hopped in at the back of the line. I slowed down and started feeling a lot better.
Honestly, though the fall hurt and scuffed up my knees pretty bad... it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me, because it forced me to finally slow down and run my own race. The next few miles were the best miles I had all day. I settled into a nice, even pace... my breath settled down and I started enjoying the run.
By around mile 13 or so, though... I could tell that the faster pace in the beginning and the stupid nutrition plan I was using (I was just drinking water at aid stations and filling my handheld with water only) was starting to upset my stomach.
Typical aid station fare: peanut m&ms, fig netwons, gels, peanut butter stuffed pretzels,
sliced apples, oranges and bananas. (Photo by Jeff Bartlett).
For the next 5 miles I struggled. I ran when I could, I stopped and felt like I was going to throw up a number of times. I even ventured off the trail in search of some big ass leaves to use in case I needed to take a crap.
With about 2 miles left I let a gentleman pass by and he asked how I was doing. I told him fine, except my stomach was really upset. He offered me salt tabs which I refused (clearly, I'm an idiot... I thought to myself... well, I'm not cramping, I don't need salt tabs) and he tried to have me keep up with him, but I couldn't. And then, as soon as he got out of sight... my right calf started cramping... to be followed my left calf. Oh my god, welcome to my life...
The one saving grace was that my garmin was wayyyy off, so when I thought I had many more miles to go, I only had a few, and before I knew it... I was hitting the pavement and nearing the finish line where I tried to kick a bit in the end... I ended up finishing in 4:02. Plenty of time to spare the cut off.
Afterwards I felt like shit and I was told that the salt tabs would have helped my stomach, that if I'm only drinking water on the course, that I need to be taking salt tabs to keep it from souring on my stomach. A lesson that I would take with me on the following days...
Day one FINISHED! 18 miles on Raccoon Mountain done... and only a little blood to show for it...