I guess I'll start at the beginning...
FIRST of all... I want to apologize to anyone that was following me on raceday morning. YES, that was my Silver SUV with the 26.2 sticker on it. And YES, that was me who somehow ended up leading a pack of 94 cars up signal mountain and YES that was me who missed two turns and had to turn around and backtrack. But, I hope that taught you a lesson... never just follow the car with the 26.2 sticker to a race. Cause, I can't read directions in the dark any better than you can! But.. anyway... sorry!
Despite that, I got to the race, saw and said hello to a friend and picked up my race packet, took care of my business in the porta potties and went back to my car (we had to park KINDA far away this year. Oh well). When I got to my car I got pinned up with my bib and took my time getting things situated, I had plenty of time. With about 15 minutes till the race start, I started making my way to the Start line.
The weather was a cool but dry mid 40s/low 50s. It was perfect, I was chilly standing around in short sleeves and shorts, but not freezing my ass off. I wasn't nervous at all. I knew I was trained well and prepared and I'd not only raced this exact race last year, but I'd seen parts of the course other times this year in other races. So, when the gun went off... I was just settling in for a long, fun, beautiful day.
I didn't discuss this with anyone... but I did have a goal. Last year, I ran it in 9:11 and this year, I just wanted to be around that time. I didn't want to go over 9:30. That was my real goal. But anything in the 9:00/9:15 range was perfect for me.
As usual, there was lots of jockeying going on in the first few miles.. people started too slow or too fast and so there was a lot of passing going on. But, ya know.. it's a trail race... and for a lot of people I met that day, it was their FIRST trail race (I cannot even imagine running the stumpjump 50k as your first trail race! But, I love the insanity!!!). The first 6 miles are the longest without a feeding station. And I knew what I had to go through to get there.. lots of downhill.
I felt good, I kept watching my watch, checking my time.. making sure I wasn't going out too fast and I got to the first feeding station in under an hour and a half. I was pleased. I ate one fig newton, had my water bottle refilled with Heed, grabbed another fig newton for the road and headed out.. and UP.
I wanted to get to the next feeding station, which was a little over 3 miles away and try to run as much as I could, knowing that there were some hilly spots in there that weren't going to be runnable.
At one point, I got into a train and we were chatting and I started to lose my balance and I tried to catch myself, but failed and fell down hard, lightly scraping my knee, but landing on my finger that was holding my handheld water bottle and I bent it forward as I landed and for a brief moment was sure that I had just broken my finger. I got up, looked at my hand, expecting my finger to be dangling from my hand or something, but to my relief it was still attached and I was able to bend my finger (with extreme pain), so I called the fall a success.. no broken bones! And kept going. My finger throbbed the rest of the day, but in the grand scheme of things, it was bearable.
We got into the 2nd feeding station and some guy came over to me immediately and was like.. "whoa... are you okay?" and I was like.. "yeah, why?" (as I munched on peanut m&ms) and he pointed down at my left knee and I looked down and I had a trail of blood that went all the way from my knee to my sock. "Oh," I said, "I didn't even realize." And then he took a picture of my bleeding knee. Awesome.
I left that aid station and knew that now was my chance... the next 10 miles were some of the easiest trails on the course. I got into another train.. towards the end... and no one was eager to let anyone pass (I later found out that it was their first trail race for a lot of them) and when the girl in the front wasn't taking advantage of the trail like I wanted to, I eventually told everyone that I was passing them... and I did and I took off.
A girl that was behind me followed me and we started chit-chatting. Turns out, it was her first 50k, her first trail race AND she lives like 2 miles from me!!! I kept telling her that if she wanted to pass me, then by all means to do so, but she said she was content...
Being familiar with the course is awesome... but it's also kinda crappy, too.. many times, I would think... ohhh the next aid station is just at the top of this hill! I remember! Only to realize that ummm.. no... it's not, I've still got another mile of hills that look just like that to go.
Last year I was obsessed with the Rock Garden. I was scared of it, scared of the stories of people busting their shins, having to crawl over rocks, getting lost and going the wrong way...This year, I knew it wasn't that bad, and even took the lead during the Rock Garden, this year.
It was about mile 20 when I realized that I was doing really well on time. But, I just considered it a buffer for my 9:00/9:15 finish. The last 6 miles of the course are brutal.
Yeah, that's right. Going from 1300 feet to 1950 feet in 1.5 miles at mile 26. FUN TIMES!
My new friend was still with me! And still pushing me along. It was great! She was very worried about the those miles 24-26. And rightly so. But me? I was kinda more worried about the last 4 miles, because I remembered that last year, they felt like they were about 10 miles.
By the time we made it up the steep incline and to the last aid station of the race, I was teasing some of the aid station workers about their Stroh beer (we had the same exact conversation last year) and I saw that my new friend had taken off. She was wanting to finish under 8 hours and I knew she was going to make it! Me? I was starting to adjust my goal time and figured if I can finish in 8:30 that that would be fantastic.
At this point, with 4 miles to go, I was at a little over 7 hours. I felt good, mentally... but my body was getting stiff and I knew that these last 4 miles weren't going to come easy. I left the aid station and started to make my way to the finish though...
Again, those last 4 miles were the worst. They aren't bad trails... fairly wide, mostly gravel or dirt... but, just knowing you're SO close to the finish. Knowing that you've been out there for 7+ hours... I pushed myself and made myself run as much as I possibly could. And with about 2 miles left, I realized... Hey.. I might can finish a whole hour better than last year. And then I was like.. FUCK! Why did I realize that? Now, I REALLY have to run more. Ugh!!!!!
The last half mile was on pavement (and includes a nasty uphill) and I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it in 8:11. I kept running though, I kept trying. Not giving up and even when I could see the clock and could see that I still had a minute or two to get there, I was still unsure if my legs would actually get me there in time.
But, as you know.. they did! I finished in 8:10! And my new friend, she came in at 7:59!!!! I talked to her and some other friends after the race and then hobbled over to try and get my free grilled cheese from the hamburger truck (which an email during the week said that there would be grilled cheeses offered for those who didnt want a hamburger). And OF COURSE... the guy told me.. "No, we don't have any grilled cheese today." WTF? All you need is cheese and bun!!! Just skip the hamburger! But, he walked away from me and I was too tired to argue or get bitchy and decided to just head back to my car and eat an energy bar that I had (yeah, because I hadn't had enough sugar during the course of the day. ugh).
Anyway, it was the perfect day, the perfect training, the perfect fueling (light breakfast, a cookie/M&Ms or chips at each aid station, lots of Heed, and a couple of endurolyte pills during the course of the day) and the perfect race result!
I was thrilled.. and still am! (Although my quads are still very, very angry at me. They don't call the race a meatgrinder for nothing!)