It's a little dramatic to say, but also a little serious too. That race was hard! Like, kind of so much harder than anything I have ever run before, times a million.
The Logan Peak Trail Race starts in this perfectly manicured park with new houses and immature landscaping all around. The juxtaposition of this setting with the wild and rough terrain in which I would spend my next 5 hours was oddly pacifying. It made the race seem less intense, less scary. But as the gun went off and the crowd moved toward the Shoreline trail, things got real. The hills, even in the Stepford neighborhood, were steep and intense. The smooth blacktop couldn't hide the grade that would define our next 5 miles, and I remember feeling this same way as we ran back into the finish line. But first there was a mountain to conquer.
I ran conservatively, not pushing the rolling hills in the first mile, taking my place behind a group of guys that seemed serious but not too intense. I ran the first 3.5 miles with my granny gear firmly in place, passing those who were hiking some of the steeper sections, but joining them when the terrain became more technical. This fact held true for most of the race- it was the terrain rather than the grade of the hill that determined my desire to run vs. hike. I have nothing against hiking and knew it would be an important component to the ultra, but I also knew that little steps were less taxing and felt better for my body when the trail allowed.
After passing the first aid station, we ran along a pretty trail with soft duff underfoot. I felt good and confident, until we turned a corner and I saw a wall of snow with a marker at the top. I literally crawled up the bank of snow and congratulated myself on getting to the top. I felt tough! Now we traversed a mountainside with amazing wildflowers and views of Logan below. I loved it but the vertigo kept me from taking in too many vistas. Coming off this trail we descended 2 miles on a well maintained jeep road that really let me open up the legs and feel fast. Nearing 10 miles now and I felt great!
After the big down came a few more obstacles. Snow began appearing regularly for 10-100ft at a time. The snow made route finding more difficult but a little attention overcame that challenge. The hills were getting steeper again so I followed a guy just 100m ahead with the intention of keeping my pace honest and to make sure I didn't get lost (this is where a dark ominous cloud should roll in and you'll hear someone saying "da, da, daaaaaaa" in their deep scary voice. But this is a blog and not a sitcom, so we'll just stick to the story).
I just kept plugging along, happy to see the turn to the top, feeling strong as I made the climb. The road was steep, but again it was fairly smooth so I felt great running 95% of that stretch. At the top I chatted with a guy who was running but not racing. I remembered that the race director told us to high-5 the transmitter at the top- but he most have been kidding- because I didn't even touch it fully and felt a pretty good shock that left my arm tingling. (see, I survived! I seriously wasn't kidding that this race could have killed me ).
I ran fast downhill, feeling so great that the hardest parts of the race were over. I was in the top 10 overall and the lead woman by 10 or so minutes. There were still 14 miles to go but I felt great, I am a good descender, and there was only one more climb. I thought I can maybe win this thing! I kept on for several miles, making all of the turns and proud of my trail finding capabilities. I knew there a few tricky turns but so far, so good.
Then the trail ended at some cliffs. Big, steep, drop off cliffs. I backtracked and looked for a lower trail. I called out- first to any runner, then attempting a game of Marco Polo, but no "polo"s came. I started running back and found a guy on a 4wheeler. He said the trail was 2-3 blocks back so I took off, running so hard up hill. When I found the trail, I was so deflated. I'm guessing that I lost 36 minutes in the 3 mile detour andI was bummed. I wanted to cry but the tears wouldn't come. I wanted to swear and yell, but I didn't actually want anyone to hear me so crass. I ran, but with less sense of purpose. I walked the hills even if the trail was smooth. I got anxious when I didn't see the pink marking tape for a few hundred meters. I evaluated everyone I passed, trying to remember where they were in relation to the field during the peak descent earlier. Mostly though, I pouted.
That's hard to admit. Winning wasn't everything; it was only an abstract idea when I toed the line. I didn't want to quit, exactly, but I was also really sad that I got so off course and away from my goal. While I had been proud of my run, I just wasn't feeling so peppy anymore. I wanted to finish, as this was the baseline goal, but many of the other goals and desires blew away leaving me defeated.
At the aid station I was finally able to vocalize this to someone, and they looked at me like I was crazy. "Well, your second place and if you don't hurry you might be third". Ok, yeah, time to go. I ran down that big hill so hard. I crunched my ankles and nearly fell, but actually ran really well for the steepness and technicality of the trail. When I got to the bottom and saw Shoreline trail with those steep rollers, I flew! It felt good to know that I was going make it and feel strong to the end.
As soon as I crossed the finish line, I felt that community that ultras are known for. A bunch of guys were asking where I went and what happened- they cared! We were running together and when I didn't come in there was worry that I'd gotten hurt. This concern immediately blew away all of my ridiculous self pity; I laughed and poked fun at myself, saying "I took one for the team" and highlighting my rookie status. I enjoyed hearing about others' race and how they found the course tougher than usual with the downed trees and snow. I thought I was just a wimp when I encountered the obstacles on the run, but now found myself in good company.
So, that's how the race went. It wasn't perfect but it was a good reconnaissance mission if I choose to run again next year. I learned a ton about ultra racing and hey, I placed 2nd! I know what I am capable of with the would've, could've should'ves, which only means I will have to come back and do it again. Thanks to Jim and the LPTR crew/volunteers for putting on the super race!
To address my questions from the last blog post:
- Lululemon What the Sport shorts
- Lululemon Swiftly tank
- Camelback Marathoner 1.5L pack
- Scott Supertrac RC (which I 90% loved. I bought 1/2 size too big for extra toe space and found myself tripping over the longer shoe throughout the race. But the shoe itself is AWESOME!)
- Features Elite Ultra Light ankle socks
- classy #Bettieup trucker hat
I ate & drank:
- 1.5L water
- Nuun Plus with Strawberry Lemonade Active tab
- 2 Hammer Gels
- 3 GUs
- Clif Blocks
- 2 GU waffles (which I am so sorry to report GU, but these were super gross to me. Try them before you pack them! With the 3m detour I had no choice but to eat everything I had.)
I should add that while I had enough calories, my stomach was rumbling. I wanted to eat more. I don't go 5 hours without food and survival was not enough. I need good old carb/bread expansion in the tum.