CAUTION: This is going to be a long-winded puppy of a post!
Xterra rolled into town yesterday with their inaugural trail half and full marathon races for our area. We had a number of other races planned during 2009 but, for a variety of reasons, couldn't make happen. I had started eyeing this event as soon as it was announced. I love running the trails at CMSP and love Xterra. If I knew how to swim, I would be doing Xterra triathlons!
I was kind of hem-hawing about actually going ahead and running it this past week. Due to the "issues" I have had with my hip and knee this past month, I have managed to get in only 3 runs a week for the past 4 weeks and didn't have much confidence in my fitness. To top it off, on Thursday, I felt a bit out of sorts and thought I might be coming down with a cold. Bummer! Finally decided to just go with it, regardless of speed (or lack of, in my case!), have some fun, meet some nice people, and enjoy a great run on great trails. Encouragement from Steve helped, too! I had no expectations - my goal was to survive and have fun!
The race started at 8:00am so we scooted out the door around 6:45 and headed down the road a piece to pick up our dear friend and local runner extraordinaire, Connilee, who was on a mission to snap a few photos for Colorado Runner Magazine. She graciously offered to "escort" me on part of the course and I agreed to be her "tour guide" as she has never explored the trails at CMSP. Bonus for both of us! BTW, she is 21 weeks pregnant and my pace was W-A-Y slower than what she coulda, shoulda run!!!
We arrived at the park with gloriously sunny, blue skies and a crisp 32 degrees. C set out to scout her photo op area at the top of the Talons. Steve and I headed out for a short warm-up on the little starter loop. He then headed to his first photo op area near the base of the Talons. I enjoyed the minutes before the race start chit-chatting with our neighbor, Marvin, and a couple other gals. The announcer called everyone to the starting area and I realized that Marvin and I had been doing our chit-chat near the front of the gathering crowd. I almost went into a panic - what in the world was I doing starting at the front??? I would be trampled as soon as the gun went off!!! But there was a different vibe to this race. Everyone seemed calm, mellow, smiling. It was the most relaxed race start I've ever been at - mountain biking or running. After the start gun went off, there was no pushing, elbowing, or trampling of slower runners. I LOVED it! Of course, people were ready to race - we were off!
We had little start loop, to get folks separated out, that was just under a mile long before we connected with the main loop.
A view back toward the start/finish area from partway up the starter loop.
People spread out fairly quickly. I just concentrated on running my own pace and metering my effort. After the first 1.5 miles or so, I was running with a string of 5 or 6 guys. Oddly, I didn't really notice any other women at this point.
Above is the eventual Half-Marathon winner. He is a pro Xterra triathlete. His winning time was 1:42. I know people will scratch their heads at the time - although not an expert analyst - I suspected this had the potential to be a slow course. There is a lot of off-camber trail with frequent twists and turns and constant undulations on the climbs as well as the descents. There's not much of a chance to get a steady rhythm going. Throw in some very technical sections and you've got yourself a fun trail race!
I made it to the top of the Talons and picked up my All Star Escort. You can just see her blue shoulder peaking out behind me. She asked how I was feeling - unexpectedly, I was feeling good, just carefully trying to meter the effort, although I mentioned that my legs felt a little "jello-y". Hmmm. Other than that, good. Interestingly enough, I still have not seen any other female racers at this point, 6.5 miles in. Weird.
Me and the Escort cruising a smooth level section, above. We are getting ready to head over to the Medicine Wheel trail - very technical - twisty, rocky, boulders, a slight uphill - about 9 miles in. The most technical parts of the course were in the last 4.5 miles. Tired bodies = course carnage!
We tiptoed carefully through Medicine Wheel and caught Blackmer for the push up the final climb to the top of Cougar's Shadow. Halfway up Blackmer, the wheels started to fall off. I was climbing so slowly. Then, for the first time in miles, I saw a couple of other female racers - pass me. I lost C, as she caught her toe and fell but told me she was ok, to keep going. Near the top of Blackmer, it hit. A twinge. In the calf. Then twinges in both calves. I chose to hike up the short, rocky climb at the entrance to Cougar. When I started to run, the twinges turned into knots - my calves were cramping. Oh no, how could this be happening??? I NEVER cramp. Poor Steve cramps. I don't cramp. My body retains water, for crying out loud, and at times, lots of it! :-) When Steve talks about his calves or hamstrings cramping, I listen to him with sympathetic ears but have a blank look in my eyes because I don't relate to or fully "appreciate" his condition. I do now.
They were wadding up. I began pleading with my calves to please be kind and not give up yet. I stopped briefly several times to massage the knots. I hobbled up to the high point of Cougar and then continued hobbling down what should have been a nice, quick, enjoyable 2 mile descent to the finish. C caught back on and had to listen to my lunacy - pleading with the old calves to please behave one moment and then sweet talking them another. I normally love this curvy, somewhat rocky section of trail but all the undulations, twists and turns had me wishing it were over as it required too much calf flexing! It was worse when having to step and flex upward.
But, thankfully, the calves mercifully held themselves together. Here we are (Escort and I) coming into the finish, smiling, and happy to have survived.
Grateful to have finished in one piece and happy to be with my wonderful hubby and dear friend - a big THANK YOU for your enthusiasm, support, and encouragement - it was awesome!
I finished in 2:12 (I know, a time to make all the speedsters cry), 5th woman overall out of 66, 31st overall out of 156 finishers(men and women). I figure to have lost about 5 minutes in the last few miles due to the cramping incident but am totally pleased to have finished as well as I did as the original expectation for the day was to just survive. And most importantly, aside from a decent finish - it was just plain FUN. I am thankful for so many blessings in my life! The ability to be able to just run is something never to take for granted.
Xterra did a fantastic job with this inaugural event. Like mentioned earlier, the vibe was very friendly and relaxed but well organized. The course was taped and marked perfectly - there really wasn't a way for anyone to take a wrong turn or get lost. The volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful. Well done, Xterra!
As an FYI end note to this terribly long and rambling post - it turns out that I have some sort of, ahem, intestinal/stomach bug. It had been coming on a few days prior to the race and hit full on soon afterward. Yikes! Thankfully it "mostly" waited until afterward. It explains the jello leg feeling and then the uncharacteristic cramping.
Happy Trails to all this week!
Shoes: Asics Gel Trabuco
Route stats: 13.45 miles, 2400 feet climbing