Where were we? Oh yeah, I was running away from checkpoint #5…
From checkpoint #5 to checkpoint #6
This section of the trail was very easy to run on, despite the inclines. The trail was wider and we were in the forest with plenty of coverage/out of the sun. Exactly two miles after the previous checkpoint, my watch beeped and I had to take a hard left. Totally could have missed this turn but didn’t thanks to the conference call with the directors the previous week. It was shortly after this hard turn that I wandered off the trail to pee (it had been at least 5+ hours since my last pit stop) and within a few seconds of standing up, felt the urge to pee again. I tried, nothing. Oh shit. A UTI on the trail. It was uncomfortable to run but I told myself heck, if I feel the urge to pee, I’ll just let it happen because I was already a sweaty, muddy, disgusting mess. It never came to that BTW – the more I ran, the less I felt it.
Five miles came and went and quickly turned into six miles. I knew I had to be getting close to the checkpoint when the trail spit me out on to a road (pretty sure I saw a young woman doing unspeakable things to a young guy in an SUV at this trail head ha ha I almost interrupted to tell them they should move because a number of people would be shortly behind me, but I didn’t want to stop ha ha). I had to run the road into a little wooded section with an old cemetery and then cross another road (thank goodness for the map app!). I ended up passing two 70 milers who told me I looked strong and encouraged me to keep up my pace. I had to walk up a big ‘ole incline and remember ending up in a field. I had just started to walk so that I could pull out my map when I heard a woman cheering me on in the distance. “Well hot damn I must be close!” I thought and started running toward the sound. I let out another whoop! whoop! as I approached the beau, I think with the BIGGEST smile on my face. 6+ miles well under the two hours I had set for myself. He was shocked to see me so soon.
I didn’t stay for long at all, just enough time for me to give him a kiss and tell him I felt AMAZING. I think I also told him that I was going to do this, I was going to finish 30 miles! I had 7 miles until the finish line and told him to expect me in 2, 2.5 hours? It was all up in the air because I had no clue what was ahead of me, if I’d hit a wall or how fast I’d move in the dark. I remember asking what direction I needed to run (this section of the course was no longer marked, only with random pink tape and let me tell you, the tape was useless) and took off uphill into a grassy field.
From checkpoint #6 to the finish line!
Like I said, the tape was scarce so I frequently had to check my map. It was during a big incline that I saw a woman walking toward me and I thought, “there’s no way I’m heading in the wrong direction.” I confidently told her she was going in the wrong direction and she told me she was quitting the race. Without skipping a beat, I said NO WAY! I looked down at my watch and we had less than 6 miles to go. I told her I was moving fairly slowly up this hill and that I’d love for her to walk with me. She hesitated every so slightly then started up with me.
Her name was Claudia and it was her fifth time running this race! I get it, we all don’t have great race days but I wasn’t about to see her throw in the towel this close to the finish line (especially because she wasn’t limping or visibly in pain). I asked her if she needed anything – world peace was her request – and we pressed on, chatting our way to the cliffs, where I stopped to take a photograph of the sunset. Having someone on the trail really made the miles go by! I had been out there solo for miles and just about everyone knows I’m a social runner and never run by myself (it’s just not fun ha ha)…
This was when a 50 miler ran by us. Claudia had told me to pick it up if I wanted to and this was the perfect opportunity. We had just passed two other 30 milers and I think they waited for her, so I took off. He was moving much faster than me so my goal was to keep him in sight. I caught up to him when we had to cross the marshy swamp area that had a water crossing up to my shins. He stopped to rinse his face (I had done that two times earlier in the day, took everything in me not to stop for a swim, ha!) and we also came across a couple that were in my initial starting wave (in the first photograph I shared in the previous post). They started following me!
They hadn’t seen anyone in quite a while and like Claudia, were happy to have the company. We all ran after the 50 mile guy (who I think was Alex after looking at the race results), walking when he did up the incline, and taking off when he’d take off. When we’d get to tricky intersections, I’d whip out my map and lead the group in the right direction. Everyone else’s watches had died earlier in the day so when another mile would pass, I’d hold up my fingers signaling how many more we had to go. The anticipation was building and there was no stopping me!
No matter how fast I tried, there was no beating the dark at this point. Alex already had his headlamp on so I paused to get mine on. I eventually caught up to him at an intersection and made the comment that his lamp was MUCH brighter than mine. It was at this point that he said he owed it to me to light the way since I had the electronic map. Yes! He’d light the way and I’d lead the way! Those last two solo miles with him were a blur. They were my fastest, strongest miles of the day and I had him to thank. When the blister on my left heel burst, I let out a little moan of ouch, this effing sucks and told him I might slow down a tad… he said that would be fine, he was only hauling ass because I was! That was just what I needed to push on! We crossed the rail trail bridge under the stars and I thought the race couldn’t get any better than this *easy* finish. We passed a family walking in the dark and I made the comment that we HAD to be close (no one takes two young kids out walking in the dark, do they?) and before I knew it, we could see the glow of a few head lamps waiting for us at the finish.
We pushed it hard down the gravel path to the finish, to the sound of his crowd of cheerleaders (3-4 people who I am assuming were family or friends). If you’re looking for a big finish, this race is not for you. There are volunteers physically writing down bib numbers and times and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Alex (gosh, I hope his name is Alex ha ha) turned around and gave me a big fist bump and thanked me for the help and I stood there looking for the beau. He had missed it! He was on the other side of the road in disbelief that I had just finished when I did.
He asked me if I wanted to run up the hill again so he could get a photo finish – ah, no.
I crossed the street to the finisher’s tent where I got my medal and chugged a ginger ale and ate a handful of delicious green grapes. I chatted with some other runners that I had seen at the start and then saw the couple who were following along behind us finish. I tried to go to the bathroom again – no go – and grabbed my t-shirt before heading to the car. This is where I took my shoes off and saw the HUGE blisters that my feet were covered in. Woof! I texted my family and running friend Caroline and then we hit the road for home. I wasn’t hungry but ordered some Chinese food and ate takeout in bed after soaking in an epsom salt bath (this was all around 11PM).
My thoughts on this race: I fucking loved it! When I crossed the finish line my first thought was, “I could have gone another 20 miles!” but didn’t dare say that out loud after finishing with Alex who had just ran 50 miles. I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business on this course and am already looking forward to the SRT 2019 to give it a second go, this time without walking the first entire half of the race. My official finish time was 10:45:00. It took Jen and me almost 6 hours to hike the first 13 miles and it took me only 4:45 to finish the last 17. I’d love to race again and aim for sub 9 hours.
Race details: as mentioned in the previous post, you cannot receive any help throughout the course of the race. While there are checkpoints, there are ZERO aid stations – no water, no fuel, no medical tents etc.. Your bib doesn’t have a tracker on it, the course isn’t specifically marked for the race and it’s your responsibility to know how to read a map and navigate the trails. If not, you must alert the race director before search and rescue teams are dispatched looking for you. Was it more difficult that I thought it would be? Yes, tenfold. But I think that’s why I loved it so much! It truly felt like I was hiking, very rarely seeing other people on the trail.