What a difference a month can make!
As I mentioned previously, I was a NEUROTIC mess going into Terrapin. I carried all of that stress and anxiety on my shoulders up those climbs and when my foot started to hurt (as I knew it would), I kind of fell apart. Even though I was happy with my time, I knew I *should* have enjoyed the day more.
Promise Land was different, and I’m not sure why. I haven’t been training harder (if anything, there has been too much racing and not enough running this Spring). We certainly still have a TON of stress at home as we get ready to put our house on the market next weekend. But as I rolled out of town on Friday, I just decided I was going to enjoy the day and the run and not worry about anything. I wasn’t going to try and crush the mountains. I wasn’t going to try for an arbitrary time goal. Just like Boston, I had the whole day to run, and I was going to love every minute of it.
It doesn’t hurt that Spring has finally come to the Virginia mountains. It was a beautiful drive down to the camp, and when I rolled in around 6pm, the Richmond crew had set up a big tent and were hanging out . THIS is why I run ultras! Familiar faces, pizza, Horton’s always-entertaining race briefing, and a big bonfire made for a fun evening. We turned in early, and I climbed into my van to catch a few hours of sleep before the EARRRRLY morning wake-up call.
At 4:15 I was up, taking care of the usual pre-race stuff. Oatmeal. Coffee. Mole-skin. My big question was which shoes to wear. I had worn my new Hokas for the last few long training runs. While I like how they handle the downhills and expedite recovery, I’ve never yet LOVED running in them. I had my Brooks just in case, but in the end I decided to give the Hokas a chance.
The race began promptly at 5:30, and we jogged out of camp. I knew the first 4 miles were uphill, and I settled into an easy pace. My plan was to conserve energy through the first half so I’d have some mojo left to climb Apple Orchard Falls (miles 26-29…the hardest part of the race). I’m not sure how much I ran or walked up this stretch, but we made it to the top, and started the first downhill. It was on a grassy horse trail, and truly a delightful run. My Hokas felt like they had little motors in them, and all I had to do was relax and let gravity do the work.
Before the start, I had studied the elevation profile and knew there were four climbs. As we started up the second, I still felt great, and decided this was going to be a good day. I could see a girl about 30 seconds in front of me, and while I could never catch her, I kept her in sight for almost the entire race. This helped me to feel, even when I was tired, like I wasn’t coming apart at the seams. I stayed on top of my nutrition and hydration, so avoided the bonk that got me at Terrapin.
My energy did ebb at times. The stretch between Colon Hollow and Cornelius Creek (mile 20-25) was a bit rough, as there was more climbing than I expected. But I had some nice conversations along the way and I knew we were just grinding through the miles before the Last Big Climb. And then we were there. Martha had told me it usually took her an hour to climb Apple Orchard Falls. Drew warned me that I’d hear the Sunset Fields aid station long before I’d get there. Ed let me know the exact number of steps I’d be climbing. I was ready to do this!!
Ugh. Just because one is prepared does NOT make it any easier. But I moved forward, step by step, in the final death march of the day. I passed a couple of guys, but was humbled when another girl came up from behind and passed me like I was standing still. I watched her billy-goat climb enviously!!
I trudged along, loving the beauty of the falls and the majesty of the mountain. Then, I heard the cow bells and cheers from Sunset Fields. Finally, I was at the top. I rolled through – with one finally small section of uphill, I started the 4 mile descent to the finish line.
A few miles on trail, and then the last 2.5 on gravel road….a quad-busting thrill ride that carried me across the finish line in 6:10. I was pleased with my time and placing (7th female), but over-the-moon to have finished a TOUGH, BEAUTIFUL course and kept the smile on my face throughout.
I sat at the finish awhile and chatted with Stacin and his friend Mark. And then the final-4 downhill miles took their revenge. My gel-filled stomach rebelled, and I excused my self so I could be sick in solitude. With a now-empty stomach I hobbled back to the car, cleaned up a bit, and hauled out my air mattress so I could lie in the sun while the world spun around me. Kyle & Nebs were there and we chatted for awhile as the rest of the Richmond group finished…first Brian, then Martha (with the grand-masters win!!)…then Mark (bloodied and muddied…but with the Best Blood prize as a consolation). Some protein and Pedialyte helped my tummy, so we all went to the finish line to cheer for the next batch of finishers…Nigel….Emily & Phillip…then Loretta (with a HUGE PR). I had to leave for home, but got word that Hurley, Brooke, and Alli all finished as well!!
Attitude is everything, and this sport is such a mental one. I’m really, really happy with the day. Truth be told, I’m happy with my performance in the first three LUS races. I’ve been consistent – with my 6th place at Holiday Lake, 8th at Terrapin, and 7th at Promise Land. For the most part, I have a good balance between running and my “real” life. And there is SUCH a
crazy great group of people that I am fortunate to call friends!
I am REALLY looking forward to some down time in May, as we finish up the house and move. Summer has its own adventures in store…Alaska in June, Catherine’s and Catoctin in July (I hope)…and I’m sure August will be find me in the Tye River or Rip Rap swimming hole after long training runs.
Happy Trails, y’all…