S&S = Spectacular and Sweet
Are you ready for the results???
Here you go:
8:21 and 4th place
Yes, you read that right. I finished it in 8 hours and 21 minutes and placed fourth.
Pictures will be posted later this week (after we get home).
2006 Sugar & Spice Ultramarathon Race Report Proper:
We arrived at Cave Run Lake Friday afternoon, and had a blast eating popsicles on the beach while Ash splashed in the water. We headed over to campsite E-79 to join the pre-race festivities: a potluck with bread, pasta, bread, homemade chocolate cake, bread, hummus and pita (my contribution), bread, salad and did I mention bread? I had fun getting to know the other runners - quite a few were from the region, and one had run the race last year. Annette Bednosky was really sweet, and asked me about Zane Grey (which she was supposed to do this year, but didn't b/c of her hamstring). Dinner was quite delicious. The RD, Herb Hedgecock, even made sure to bring fat-free dressing for me for the salad! (Johnny had e-mailed him earlier regarding the gallbladder issues.) I thought that was really awesome.
We got a rundown on the trail conditions, and directions for the first little bit of the race, which was on the road. I joked with a fellow runner, "Okay, you're taking notes - I'm following you!"
We headed back to the campsite, and I spent quite some time prepping everything for the race before heading to bed.
I awoke on time Saturday morning, after a non-restful night of sleeping in a tiny camper with my father-in-law, Ash and Johnny. (Ash wet the bed, Johnny's dad didn't fit in his bunk, I couldn't sleep.) I quickly grabbed my gear and headed up the hill to the bathrooms, where I brushed my teeth, chowed on a power bar and applied sunscreen while the friendly neighborhood cockroach kept me company.
Back at camp, I dressed while Johnny's dad warmed himself by the fire. Johnny and Ash quickly prepped, and we headed over to Herb's campsite. Johnny sprayed me with bug spray, I filled my water bottles, lots of people took lots of pictures, the runners presented Herb with a birthday card made out of hotel paper that we all signed that morning, Herb said, "Are you all ready? Okay, go" and we were off.
The first bit was on hilly road, and most everyone took off. Another runner and I joked, "Isn't this an ultra? You're supposed to walk the hills!" Because I was running my own race, I didn't worry about the fact that everyone was ahead of me already. I walked the ups, and soon we were at the trail.
What a beautiful trail. Undulating through green forest, with glimpses of the lake through the myriad of trees, the trail followed the lake shore for quite a few miles. It was so different from desert running! Green trees, soft dirt, softer leaves, no rocks - and most different of all - the gentle undulation. Where I live, the trails all go straight up, then you turn around and come back down. None of this up-and-down, up-and-down stuff.
While scared of ticks and mud, I failed to realize the final horror: poison ivy. I am scared to death of poison ivy. I am so allergic to poison oak, as a kid my face swelled so huge to an allergic reaction, my eyes were swelled shut! For the first few miles, I thought I was running through solid poison ivy - that it was getting on my water bottles, gel flasks, face and hat. Yuck.
I was quickly passed by the last runner, putting me in last place - as usual. I didn't worry about it. I was just enjoying the fact that I could see two runners about 100 feet in front of me every few minutes as the trail twisted and turned. I was also laughing that you sure could tell it was a woman's race - the chatter up ahead was non-stop! I could hear everyone strung out in front of me as the trail wound into and out of nooks and crannies.
Each aid station was reached via a steep, 400-foot climb. The first climb was a doozy! And then I was there - last one in, but plenty of people still hanging out at the aid station. I topped off my water bottles, and took off, getting awesome encouragement from Nikki, who couldn't run the race due to an achilles injury but was manning an aid station. I launched off down the hill back to the lakeshore, and quickly caught Lynn and Tara - two super-fun, super-nice runners from Lexington, KY, who were friends with Nikki. I stayed with them on the downhill, but decided I couldn't hang with them on the undulating lakeshore portion - I tried, but it was just too fast for me; I knew I'd burn out quickly.
Another pack of runners caught up and passed me, once again, I hung with them for awhile, but couldn't keep the pace. I had to take a bathroom break, and was passed by the two women who had stayed about 100 feet in front of me on the last section. I kept them in sight on this section as well, and that helped me to feel safer.
I was wondering what Herb had been talking about when he mentioned a half-mile section of mud, because I kept encountering muddy sections of trail. I thought, "Wow, if he didn't mention these parts, then that section must be horrible!" And it was. Hog's Pen Trail equaled a half-mile of shoe-sucking mud. I was so grateful for the dirty girl gaitors given out the night before; what awesome swag to use in the race! Of course, I was bummed that the sparkly pink wouldn't be as sparkly once it was covered in mud...
The pace was sooo slow through here. I'm used to rocky desert trails, not ankle-deep mud! I managed to navigate my way through here. It would have been such a great, runnable trail, too, had it not been so muddy. Of course, the flatness of it was probably why it was so muddy!
I was a little tired in here, and felt like it was too early for me to be feeling down, and asking the question, "why do I do this?"
We headed up, up, up to the next aid station, and it started pouring rain! Rain! Water from the sky! I realized I was ahead of schedule - quite ahead, as a matter of fact! I was a little worried that I would burn out, or that I was pushing too hard, but I still felt good, so I kept going. Once again, I caught up to everyone at the AS, and quickly launched off down the hill after topping off my water bottles and grabbing watermelon to go (oh yeah, and getting my picture taken, too). Lynn and Tara were cheering me on at each aid station (fun!), and Nikki had traveled over to this AS and gave me cheers too!
Once again, I was thanking the Tucson trails for training me how to run fast, rocky descents. I flew all the way down, and was enjoying a beautiful "holler" (canyon in my desert language) when along came Annette, looking good. I stepped off the trail to let her by, and admired her efficient gait. I want to learn how to do that! It was in this section that I slid down a rock (hell-o, rocks are slippery when wet!), and gave myself whiplash as I tried to not fall.
As I hammered on up to the turnaround, I began to wonder where the rest of the front of the pack was. I headed up, up, up again, and finally came to the second-place woman - who had fallen and was worried she tore her hamstring, poor thing! She decided to keep going to the next aid station. I felt so bad for her. With less than a mile to go, I passed the third and fourth placed women, and a pack of runners caught up to me.
Realizing I was way ahead of my 10-hour schedule at this point, I hoped my family would be at the turnaround - and they weren't! At least Dad's car was there, so I was able to get my gel flasks for the return and also grab a zbar. I sat down in a chair for 30 seconds (ahhhh) as everyone arrived, and decided to head back down the trail.
As I came out from a side trail on to a gravel road that led to the next trail, I heard honking. I turned around and saw Lynn and Tara waving at...Johnny in Dad's truck! My family!!!! I was so excited, I turned right around and headed back up to them. I got kisses and a few pictures, and headed back down the trail. I felt so much better, even though I knew that added a few minutes to my time.
Back down, down, down. I don't remember much about this four miles as I went down, other than I felt full and slow from digesting the zbar. I felt achy and tired, and I remember congratulating myself that I had made it that far. I think it was in here that I fell and got a little blood on one knee. I felt lost in here, and was so grateful for the awesome trail markings. Herb had mentioned at the dinner the night before, "if you've gone 10 minutes and haven't seen a ribbon, then you're on the wrong trail," and he was right. I'd start to get nervous, wait a few mintues, and there was a ribbon, oh, so reassuring.
I climbed up, up, up to the AS (2 and 4), where I found Lynn and Tara, who once again gave me cheers. We talked a little about the trail we just experienced as I topped off my water bottles, grabbed some watermelon and took off down, down, down (sound familiar?). I think Lynn and Tara passed me on the trail; I don't really recall this section much either. I know the mud felt worse this time around. I was tired, achy, and bonking still. I remember realizing that I thought I was going faster than I actually was - a common misstep I make. I knew I still had many miles to go to the next AS, but I felt like I was closer. Dangerous territory. I started feeling like I was ready to be done. I wanted it to be over.
Then I realized the only way it was going to be over was if I ran it. I had to keep going! I could feel that I had reserves in me. I think it was all the heat training that I did. The heat training helped me realize that I could really keep going, even when I felt like I wanted to stop.
So I coached myself. I used a mixture of compassion, reality and firm discipline to keep myself going. I figured out that I could make 9 hours with how I was going, but that meant I had to keep it up for the next 2.5 miles. I took the two ibuprofen I had saved in case I needed them (only two, I didn't want to hurt myself!). I set a time goal for how long I wanted it to take me, and then started hammering away. One foot in front of the other. Keep going. Keep moving those feet up, up, up. Let's go. You can do it.
I did it. I made it to the final AS - before my time goal. Lynn and Tara were there, along with Nikki an dher adorable puppy who would run the final 6 miles with them. When I said, "I think I might actually make 9 hours!" Nikki replied, "Yeah, I think so!" as though it was a no-brainer (at this point, I still thought it was just a chance). Grabbing water and some more watermelon, I took off down, down, down to the sound of an awesome cheering squad.
I had two hours to go six miles to make nine hours. I wasn't sure I could. What if I hurt myself? What if the pain became too great? I did not want to count on nine hours, have it not happen and be heartbroken. I decided my best course of action was to continue running for as long I could. I ran all the ups and downs of this very up-and-down section. I tried to copy Scott Jurek's form (I had seen a picture recently), and tried to focus on quick turnover. I tried to remember to keep my feet up, so I wouldn't trip. I felt like the energizer bunny; I kept going, and going, and going.
I saw a sign that said 3.5 miles to a trail junction, and set a time goal. Make that junction by 3, and you'll have just under an hour to go 2.5 miles. The 2.5 miles to the finish was a guestimation. I figured it was a little generous, but should be about right. After the junction, I thought I'd have 1.5 miles to the road, then a mile on the road to the finish. So I ran to a mantra: three-point-five/one-point-five/one, two, three, four. I repeated that for about 45 minutes, then kept checking my watch and checking my watch. Then I started repeating: it will come when it will come. Meaning the trail junction will come whenever I reach it. I needed to relax about the time!!!
Three o'clock came and went with no sign of the junction. I was severly disappointed, but kept repeating: it will come when it will come. 3:05 and it appeared, woo hoo!!! It brought even better news: the road was only a half-mile away. You read that right, 0.5 not 1.5! Yay!!!
That half-mile was so long. Finally, the road appeared, with beautiful white daisys lining the trail entrance. I grabbed a daisy for Ash and hammered up the road. There were a couple hills, most of which I ran. I ran so fast on this section! I got honked at by either a volunteer or crew, and knew I was so close. I saw the turn into the E-loop, the turn down into the campground, the first two campsites, and then - there it was - the finish line!!! I searched for Johnny's big hair as I flew down to the finish, and crossed the line as I watched Johnny drive away in Dad's truck. Oh, the most glorious and most heart-wrenching finish!
A fellow runner asked if she could get me anything, and I replied, "my family!" I looked at my watch and realized I finished in 8:21 - oh. my. god.
I wandered to the table loaded with goodies, then wandered back to the start/finish line. Suddenly, Dad's truck appeared - Johnny was back! Yay!!! Ash was sleeping, but Johnny got out and took pictures - I re-created my finish. Then, one of the runners informed me that not only did I smash my scheduled time, but I was in FOURTH PLACE!!!!!!
I sat down in a chair with the camera, took pictures and cheered for Lynn and Tara as they crossed the finish line. Nikki made it down without hurting her achilles, yay!
I took pictures of the rest of the finishers, ate a clif bar, talked with Johnny's dad who walked over just as Johnny left to pick him up, took more pictures, watched Dad leave and hung out with Johnny and Ash after they showed back up from not being able to find Dad. Finally, we left so I could shower off the poison ivy I was sure I was covered in, and they could pack up so we could head over to Beatyville to go see more family.
The post-race shower at the campground was crappy, and the drive to Beatyville was long, but the shower and dinner at Johnny's (younger) uncle's house was fanTAStic.
We are finally back at Dad's house in Bellvue, and we are all exhausted. I've been walking backwards down the stairs. All the long car rides have not helped my muscles; neither has sleeping with Ash. My knees hurt so bad. Last night I could barely sleep, and I worried that I really injured them. But today they seem okay. I've eaten loads of (mostly) fat-free foods.
I loved this race, and not just because I bettered my projected time by an hour and twenty minutes :) The course was well-marked, Herb was a great RD, my fellow runners were so much fun and the trails were awesome.