Wow. What a great day for a race! The sky was blue, the single track dry, and the competition fierce.
Distance: 20k (12.2 miles)
Time: 1:32:10 – average 7:32 minutes/mile
Place: Second place woman, eighth overall
Details: This past week my legs have felt fatigued and I was worried whether I’d bonk during the race. It was a disconcerting thought. As an added pressure, I was slated to race with my teammates from Trail Factor (the group of notoriously fast and badass trail runners). It’s one thing to bonk anonymously, and it quite another thing to bonk in front of your friends. My first goal was to not embarrass myself and run respectably. My second goal, assuming I didn’t crash and burn, was to use the race as a training tool. I have some big off-road races coming up this summer and I figured that this will be a good warm up for speedy trail races and uphill climbing.
Race: The course was an out and back on a beautiful winding single track. With about 950 of elevation gain in the first half, it was a challenging race, but not impossible. The 20k’ers and 50k’ers started at the same time. There were quite a few Trail Factor members in both and our team was looking to do well. Ruben aimed to defend his title in the 50k (he won it last year) while Mallory and I were looking to secure top spots in the 20k. Looking around at the field of runners it seemed like there could be some stiff competition.
Out Portion of the Race: The start gun sounded and a few hundred trail runners took off. Mallory is an awesome hill runner (actually, she is just an awesome runner, period) and she hopped up the inclines like it was nothing. I brought up the rear of the lead pack and within only a few miles the runners had winnowed significantly. Ruben was already out of sight. Mallory was ahead of me by a few hundred meters, and there was no one behind me. The single track rolled and I felt better than I had all week. I prayed that the feeling would stay with me. The miles rolled by and we went up and up and up. Did the course desciption say it was only 950 feet of climbing, because it felt like so much more.
Back Portion of the Race: Just before the turn around, there is a steep, short section of trail to hammer up. It wasn’t long, but it sure was steep! I ran up, grabbed a cup of water from the aid station at the top. Another Trail Factor team member was volunteering at the aid station. “Alright, Heather, now you gotta go chase her!” I gave a thumbs up and powered back down. The trail on the way back was significantly more difficult. There were many runners to dodge on the single track as they made their way up and I made my way back. Many of them shouted “Whoa, looking good Trail Factor!” “Way to go, looking strong.”In races where there aren’t many spectators, I love hearing this kind of support from other runners. I soon passed Julie, another TF girl who yelled “Woo woo Trail Factor!!” While our group may not be big, we are certainly an enthusiastic crowd. I kept running and kept hearing great comments from other runners. It felt great to be racing on the trails and the conditions were fast and perfect.
Summary: I would have liked to caught up with Mallory, but it wasn’t in the cards. I raced hard and finished in a great time. Mallory took first and set a new course record. I came in three minutes behind her and my time also beat the previous course record by over two minutes. Huzzah! I’ll take it! I can’t believe it was only a year ago that I ran my first trail race. It seemed impossibly difficult at the time and not something that I’d ever be good at. Now I am running with some great trail runners and doing a pretty good job in the races!
A few hours later, after many of the other participants had packed up and gone home, I rang a cowbell as TF Ruben came floating in to clench first place in the 50k. What, you might ask, do you get for running 31 miles faster than anyone else in that race? You get a coffee mug… and a matching coaster.
Geez, I should have done the 50k. All I got was a t-shirt!