No amount of typing will do this race report justice.
It needs photos.
There is just no other way I can describe the mud, hills and insanity. Worse yet, it was a small event and I haven’t been able to locate photos online. And if that weren’t enough, I actually won the darn thing, and I have no pictorial evidence to prove it.
So, instead, you will just have to trust and bear with me as I try to find the words.
The Shotgun Creek Trail Blast 25k could have also been called:
1. A Slow Muddy Climb to Hell and Back
2. A &@#$%! Hard 25k
3. The Race You Wish You Never Signed Up For
4. The Good Thing There’s Cookies 25k
Distance: 25k (15 miles)
Finishing Time: 2:20 (slooowww! I know)
Stats: Over 2000 feet of climbing. This race was very steep!
Pre-Race: Getting up at 5 AM to race a 25k alone and in the rain was not what not what I originally had in mind. I had registered for the race without much thought and in the days leading up to it my enthusiasm waned. For one, I didn’t know anyone else who would be there. Secondly, it was going to take 2 hours to drive to it, and probably most importantly, I was going to have to sacrifice my weekly long run to race. But I had paid to run. So on Friday night, in the name of pre-race prep I did laundry so at least I’d have clean shorts to run in and called it good.
Race Day: It’s 5 AM. I’m smack in the middle of making my pre-race breakfast squash when a neighbor calls me from the front of the apartment building: “Can you let me in. I forgot my keys. And why are you up so early, do you have a race today?” I want to lie, say that I’m not racing and make a joke about how there IS variety in my life, thank you very much. However, lying to prove that there is something else in my life that necessitates getting up a 4:15 on a Saturday seems ridiculous. And more importantly I can’t think of a plausible lie. I confirm with my neighbor that I do have a race. He wishes me good luck. Afterwards, I think about how I almost lied about my running habits. Isn’t that one of the first sign of a problem and possibly an addiction?
— Drive — Stop of Gas — Arrive at Race Venue —
9:15 AM: It has been raining and pouring most of the morning. I arrive at the parking lot/staging area/start line, get my number and hurry back to my car in an attempt to stay dry. It’s cold and wet and there aren’t very many people. I drink the last of my coffee, pin on my number and chat with the people huddled in the car next to me. By the looks of it, it’s going to be a small race. Why am I doing this again?
9:30 AM: There is a quick pre-race meeting. The director goes over the different courses (there are also 10k and 15k options) and explained that the course was going to be both muddy and hilly . . . of course it’s going to be muddy and hilly, I think, we’re running trails in Oregon. There isn’t any other kind of trail running.
10:ooAM: The great thing about small races are the mercifully short porta-potty lines. Minutes before the start I’m able to make a last pit stop. I toe up to the line with the other runners. We exchange some last words and jokes and then the Race Director sends us off. Only 15 miles to go. Ha!
Miles 1 and 2: The race starts downhill on a paved road. I take off too quickly and find myself tucked behind the front group of guy runners. The mile clicks by at 6:48. We hit a cone and someone who directs us to go back the way we came. I love this part. The runners on the way out wave and I wave back, and say “have a good race.” and “go get ’em.” The second mile clicks by at 6:38. I’m going too fast but I know that the mud and the trails will slow me down significantly.
Muddy Middle Miles: Arrows direct us off the road and onto a muddy single track. The mud is slick, the trail uneven. The 10kers are following a different, but similar course, I pass them as I move slowly up and into the woods.
Mile 4-ish: First one shoe lace comes untied. And then the other. A 25k runner in pink gaiters passes by me on an uphill climb. The trail has been meandering up and down over several miles. This isn’t so bad, I think.
Muddy Hellish Miles: Oh, good god, this IS bad. This is a hilly hellish slog-fest. I have no pace. I have no one in front of me. And no one behind me. The course takes me up punishing muddy uphill climbs. I slip backward as I try to tip-toe up the hills and I slide and splash and bomb the downhills. I still feel good, but there’s just no way to open up and run. I feel like I slop and slog up a hill, crest it and immediately have to dive down. There’s no consistency and no way to establish pace. To add to the challenge, the single track has deep ruts created by off-road motorcycles and there isn’t a flat place to run. I almost lose a shoe in one of the muddy ruts. I trip and fall in another. I am mud encrusted and not even half way done.
At some point I remember fondly the Hagg Lake 50k and wish that I were running that again. You know it’s a problem when a trail race makes Hagg Lake look like a picnic.
The Two Mile Meat Grinder: The uphills are ridiculously steep and just when I think I’m done with the worst of it, the trail opens up onto a gravel road. Hooray, I think, I’m saved!… the worst is over. But oh, no. After a single dip, the gravel road begins to ascend and wind its way up a large hill. It’s a 2 mile climb that kills my quads and whips my soul. I keep trucking and just when I think it’s done, the road turns and I see I’ve got more climbing to do… I crest the top of the hill where two volunteers are sitting and checking off runners as we go by. “Go Heather” a girl says. I smile feebly and keep trucking. I feel like this must be over soon, right?
The trail leaves the gravel road only to throw us back onto a single track and continues to ascend, but this time it’s steep. Steep. Super super steep. I wish I could tell you just how steep. I wish you could experience the lung-burning, calf-tightening, stomach-knotting nastiness of it all. But since you were not there, let me just say it. This hill. It wasn’t nice.
Downhill: Finally, we crest the hill, I drive down the hill and fly past a runner in a blue shirt. I am through trying to figure out how to be speedier. I just want to be done.
I glance at my watch and see that I’ve been running for almost two hours. This is absurd. I should be done by now. I continue to push myself down the hills and follow the chalk arrows and signs. I pass a volunteer aid station and ask how many miles I have left. The guy responds, “I’m not sure, maybe 2 or 3 or 4…”
Well, that’s not very helpful, is it?
Finally the trail opens up to a wider trail and then I’m back on the road and headed back to the start area. I push through and finish as strong as possible. There are a few people milling around and the announcer says over the PA system “And here comes Heather Daniel, number 11, finishing strong. The first woman finisher for the 25k.”
I reach the finish line. Smile. And immediately feel so much better. Thank goodness that’s over. No more muddy hills!
And oh yeah! I won!! I won!! I’ve never done that before.
Post Race: I am ravenous. I grab some fig newtons and bowl of chili. Within minutes I regret the choice. My stomach clenches violently. I am mud spattered and chatting with other racers, but my stomach seems to be producing a lot of sour bile. I grab my cell phone so I can call my friends with the good news, but sadly there is no reception. I grab my medal and race stuff and head back to my car. I’m in the mood to celebrate but my stomach just wants to leave.
Finishing Time: 2:20
Place: First Place Woman, 5th overall.
Thoughts: This was a great way to gain hill experience. I’ve been working hard in my training, and while I was exhuasted, I kept on trucking.