Hills, hills, and holy HILLS

Before I ran Shamrock I was scheduled to run several EX2 Adventures 10 mile races.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to not cooperate and they were rescheduled.  Honestly, if I had run today’s 10 mile race before Shamrock I think I would have had a completely different race and more definitely not in a good way.  If I had run this prior to Shamrock I might have even completely rethought Shamrock.

Fountainhead kayakThis morning I headed to Fountain Head Regional Park a park which I had been to before last spring when Perry and I went kayaking.  I knew that the park was EXTREMELY hilly considering that the road down to the kayak area is, well, almost straight down.  I also knew that this run was going to be tough in another way.  It was a loop run.  This means that the 5 mile runners do the loop once and the 10 mile runners do the loop twice.  Ah, temptation right in front of me on Holy Saturday; how freaking appropriate. It had also rained a couple of times during the last week so the trails also had the added benefit of being a little sloppy.

IMG_5850If I have learned anything over time it is pacing.  Unfortunately, with a trail race like this pacing gets thrown completely out of the window somewhere after the hills start.  It became all about just finishing. Up one hill and down another.  Rinse and repeat.  I’d like to say that the downs were more pleasant than the ups, but honestly, after a while all you really want is a little bit of flat ground so that you glutes stop burning.

The nice part about the first time through was that there was a really nice lady in front of me who I was shadowing.  I knew what was coming up on course because she went through it about a minute before I did.  Plus, it was nice having company.  Then there came the point on course that I knew was going to come.  A very lovely gentleman was standing with a bright orange signal flag.

“5 miler or 10?” He inquired.

For a split second my body screamed WOMAN SAY FIVE!!!!  My mind immediately told my body to shut up.  See, I had already told Saint Mary the nutritionist that I was running this race and we had already budget the calories for this race, all 10 miles of it.

“10!” I shouted back.

He waved me to the left for me to start my second loop bypassing the finish chute.  My body waved meekly at it as I went by.

As I ran the first lap of the entire course I was much more tentative than when I ran the second lap because I knew what was coming this time.  The downside was, I knew what was coming this time.  The first section of the course while being a little hilly had absolutely positively nothing on the second half of the course.  Which was actually great the second lap around because I was able to pick up a little bit of a speed (and a Shadow).

The nice thing about EX2 is that there is always a sweeper on course.  This is someone who stays behind the last runner (ahem, me) to make sure that they get in safely.  As I started in on the second half of the course I picked him up near the entrance to the lollipop.

I chugged along through the second lap of the course running where I could run, walking down the hills where necessary (steep/muddy), and slogging my way uphill.  I swear those hills got bigger the second time around, much bigger.  Somewhere around mile 7 or so I started to wheeze.  I don’t know if it was the dampness, the pollen, or my lungs wondering what the fuck I was doing out there.  I stopped mid-hill (up) and bent over.  All I wanted to do was quit. I slowed my breathing, took my inhaler, and pushed on.

I knew that when I came out of the lollipop I could quit.  All I had to do was turn left instead of going straight and I would get to the finish in less thatrail runningn a half a mile.  My body was like, “Yeah, yeah! That is an excellent idea.”  My mind told my body to shut up.  We pushed ahead along one of the only spots of flat ground, rounded a corner, and proceeded to land nearly ass first in 8 inches of mud.  Perry stood there looking at me with half a “are you ok” face and half a “ha ha you fell in mud” face.  I almost rubbed my hand on my ass to get my hand clean, right up until I remembered Shadow behind me.  I figured running through the woods with a big hand print on my butt, while amusing, wasn’t exactly how I wanted this race to go down.  I was already last I didn’t want to be laughable too.  Hey a girl has to have some kind of pride.

I started to get really tired around mile 8.  I realized this when I managed to roll my ankle two times in the span of a quarter mile.  I knew that the last 2 miles were going to be absolute glute busting torture. The only thing I knew that was even remotely saving me was all of that seat work the Biker Barre had been putting me through.  I kept apologizing to Shadow.

“I’m really sorry I’m slow.  I’m really sorry you’re missing pizza. I’m really sorry.”  Over and over again.  Shadow was really nice about it, though. He kept telling me that he never minded as long as someone was putting in their full effort like I was.

Making the last stream crossing (there were 3 on course) and climbing the hill I finally saw it, the 1 mile sign.  I placed my hand on it as I went down the last big drop.  Crap…..what goes down has to go back up and that last hill up was not only steep, but it was rocky too.  Fuuuuuucccccckkkkkkkk.

Up the hill I went.  Digging deep.  Really deep.  Lungs burning, ass burning, wanting to stop and cry kind of deep.  When I got to the top of the hill I knew that the rest of the course was relatively flat.  I heard Shadow say to me, “I can see the parking lot.” I couldn’t.  All I could see was 6 feet ahead of me on the trail desperately trying to not roll my ankle (again). I got to the spot where the lovely gentleman had been before and Shadow said, “Turn to your right then you will be in the chute, finish strong runner!”  I could hear the awards ceremony going on.  I popped out of the woods to the sounds of cheers and claps.  I threw my arms in the air and headed for the finish line.  For the love of all things holy I finished.  I looked at my time; 2:33.  Not too shabby.  Can I collapse now?

Coming out of the chute one of the faster runners came up to us with a glass of water for Perry.  I thought that was super sweet and completely indicative of the EX2 races.  After I managed to get a drink myself I walked up to Jim and his staff and said, “Thank you.”

They both looked at me like I had a second head, “What for??”

“Thank you for having aid stations even for the last runners.  Thank you for still having food on the table for the last runners.  You have no idea how many races I have done where there wasn’t any aid station there by the time I come through.” (Just as an aside, I check every single race I run for time requirements and I do not enter any race I am not qualified for, but so many companies are there only to support the front of the pack.)

“We have a policy of no runner left behind.”

“Well thank you.” I said choking back the tears.  Thank goodness for sunglasses.

While this particular race literally kicked my ass I know this;  I will run this race again in the fall, and I will do better.  I will also continue to race and volunteer with EX2 because, hey, any company that does right by ALL of their runners is a company that I want to support.

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