Well, let’s just say I’m just on cloud nine over how well the race went on Saturday. I think back that at the end of May 2007, I weighed over 270 pounds and could barely walk, much less run. Now, less than a year and a half later, I’m 137 pounds lighter and just finished my first half-marathon trail race. But, not only finished, I won my age division, was the 6th female to cross the finish line and the 19th overall finisher (It was a small race – 85 signed up, 62 started the race, 56 finished). This journey has been one of growth, of transformation, and of empowering. What I knew in my head, I now believe in my heart that the human spirit has the potential to overcome any obstacle, and to achieve any goal, strengthened by God and the power of prayer, and the will and dedication to succeed.
Race Details: Friday, after picking up the popup camper (the electrical system needed repairing), my DD and I headed down to Sherando Lake. It was a rainy two hour drive. Once we got to the park, we found out that there were only 3 or 4 campsites left. Good thing we didn’t have any delays! We got the last site in the loop we wanted to camp in, set up and headed back into town for dinner. (Setting up the camper without DH is another story, but we got her done). Although I got to bed early, I couldn’t sleep. The rain was pounding on the camper roof, and I was having self doubts. Finally, 5 am arrived. It was cold and rainy and I couldn’t decided what to wear. I put on my rain pants, a sleeveless shirt and my rain jacket thinking I could peel layers before the race if I wanted. I also wore my knee pads and had on weight training gloves. I arrived at the race site at 5:55 am and watched the 100k and 50k racers take off in the dark. By race time it was still cold and rainy, so I left my layers on. That was probably a mistake but I hate being cold!
We took off down the park road and started to climb the hill. I felt pretty good, and was trying to hold myself back so I wouldn’t go out too fast. One fellow asked me how I felt and I said “I’m scared, it’s my first race!” He was very encouraging – more about him later. When we crested the hill, I saw that there were a good many runners ahead of me. I didn’t want to be caught behind someone going up the mountain, so I picked up the pace and passed several runners. Now we started the mountain climb. For as rainy as it was, the footing was actually pretty good. Unfortunately, my plan didn’t work and I was still behind someone going slower than I wanted. There was a group of 5 of us stuck behind the one person. The trail was really narrow and rocky and her pace was okay so I decided to hang back for a while. I figured it would keep me from expending too much energy too early. Now, I was hot. Since we were mostly “power hiking” I was able to take my jacket off and tie it around my waist. Finally, after 700-800 ft of climbing we crested the ridge and I was able to get around her and pick up the pace again. I was running pretty good, but I could tell I didn’t quite have my “chi” going. Then I fell, and shortly after, fell again. Good thing I had my knee pads and gloves. I decided to slow down and catch my equilibrium. At this point, several runners passed me and I was getting a little discouraged. “Run your own race,” I kept saying to myself. I got behind one runner and followed her along the ridge. There were several rocky climbs so it was a combination of running and hiking. There were moments where it was just me and the trail and I felt my rhythm returning.
The first aid station was at 5.7 miles. Some of the runners stopped, but I felt good and kept going. I had my sport beans, my electrolyte water and my pemmican so I was good to keep going. This allowed me to pass some of the runners who had passed me. The next phase of the race was down a trail that followed a water fall. It had some pretty steep descents and lots of twists and turns. Two women passed me and I followed them the best I could, but some of the descents were tricky. “Run your own race,” I kept telling myself again. After splashing through the creek where the waterfall crosses, we started to climb again. At this point I passed some runners, but those two women were still ahead of me. My “friend” caught up and passed me. “You’re doing great!” he said. Next aid station was at 7.7 miles. For me, it was the turning point.
I knew I could finish from there. One more climb and then it was downhill to the finish line. I grabbed a quick drink and kept going, leaving my friend at the rest area. After about half a mile down the trail once again went up the mountain. The first park was a rocky ditch and hard to run. Up ahead I could see the two women that had passed me. I pushed hard up the hill, running as much as I could (it was about a 600-700 ft climb). I passed one of the women and a few others. The leaders of the race were coming back down the trail and as they passed one of them step on a branch which broke and flew at me, nicking me in the face just below the eyeball. Whew that was close! My friend had joined me, but didn’t pass – he was content for me to lead the charge up the hill.
At the next rest stop (9.3 miles) again I just grabbed a drink and kept going. That meant I passed the other woman! For a while the trail went up and down, but I really picked up my pace and ran all of it. One of the 50k runners got behind me and I told him he could pass, but he said I was doing a good pace and he wanted to follow. Then everything clicked – we hit the last 3 miles and it was all downhill. I let myself free fall down the mountain. It was almost as if I was outside myself. The pace was fast and I knew one wrong move and I would tumble dangerously down the mountain, but I was in the zone and I knew it wouldn’t happen. It was me and the 50k runner and my friend behind him. After splashing through a few creeks and with about a mile to go the 50k runner took off to push toward the finish. We entered the campground and my friend encouraged me, told me how good I had done. Throughout the day, I had told him about my weight loss and what it had taken for me to get there and that I just wanted to finish. Finally he moved on ahead. I was tired but I knew I only had about ½ mile to go. As I entered the finish area I looked up and saw that I was just under 3:08! (My goal had been to finish in 3:30 - The first place female finished in 2:43) Then, while I was walking around, trying to loosen up my tired legs, my friend had gone to the race director and told her my weight loss story. She asked for my e-mail and they might put something about it on their website. A little while later she came back and told me I had won my age division. At that point, I was in shock. She smiled and said, “It just keeps getting better, doesn’t it.” Indeed it does.
After the race, I have a good idea of how I want to train, especially going into the fall and winter.