When I first decided that 2012 would be the year for my first 100 miler, I had all these grand delusions about all the training I would do. I imagined all the runs I would do both during the week and on the weekends. But, life happened. Work happened. And here I am. It’s June and only 3 months before I’m supposed to run my first 100 and I’ve only just completed my first official training run. Whoops.
Since most of my summer weekends have been monopolized by travel, I signed up for a race last weekend two days prior because I was actually going to be home and….my schedule was relatively clear. I didn’t know anything about the race or the course — only that it was local (in the Oakland hills) and offered several different distances. I signed up to do the Canyon Meadow 50K and told myself all I had to do was cross the finish line. Sure, I wasn’t necessarily training for it. I wasn’t necessarily prepared. But it wasn’t my first rodeo. I knew I could do it.
On race day, Casey kept asking me if I was excited for my race. Hmm, excited? Not really. Excited might not be the right word for what I was feeling. A little anxiety and maybe even dread — sure. But excited? Nope. As we continued to wind around the Oakland hills and near the start line, I was trying to force feed myself a banana. I didn’t really feel like eating. In fact, I felt a little hungover. We had gone out to a nice dinner the night before and I had about two glasses of wine. Not the best idea to totally dehydrate yourself right before a race but the wine list at this particular restaurant is just too amazing. And we hadn’t been on a real date in awhile. When in Rome?
As we neared the starting area, we realized parking was going to be a nightmare so Casey dropped me off about a quarter mile from the race start. I lightly jogged my way over to grab my bib and use the bathroom and had to come to terms with the fact that the rest of my banana wasn’t gonna happen. I knew it was going to be a long, hot day out there so I had really wanted to start the race with more in my stomach. But I just couldn’t force it.
Needless to say, when the countdown began for the start I was feeling a little nervous. Hungover. Undertrained. Hot. Out of shape. Stomach issues. Tired. All the words going through my head as I made my way up the first huge hill were negative and focused on failure. As I started carving out a place for myself amongst all the other runners (at the start there were 5 milers, half marathoners, 30Kers, marathoners and 50Kers), I saw these two little kids. A boy and a girl who were probably around 7 or 8. They were making their way up the hill pretty quickly. The little girl was slightly out in front and seemed a little more confident in her running ability. As we continued up the hill, it started to get a bit steeper and the little boy was falling behind. His legs weren’t quite as developed as hers and she was taking the climb in stride. Like it was natural for her. Almost immediately, like she sensed he wasn’t there, she turned around and gave him an encouraging smile. He said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I didn’t think it was going to be like this.” She slowed down a little bit and said, “You can do it. I know it hurts. But once we get to the top, it’s downhill to the finish. Come on, you can do this!” They were doing the 5 miler and she was right. Up to the top and downhill would take them home. He perked up a little and started matching her pace. I smiled to myself watching them continue up the hill together. She reminded me a lot of myself. I was usually the one telling people they could do it, encouraging them, looking on the bright side of things. I was falling behind them a bit realizing I still had two more go’s at the exact same hill. But all of a sudden, I felt inspired and motivated to run the race. I dropped all the bad energy, the negativity and decided to just run my race. There wasn’t any reason to be down about it. Even if I were to fail, who cares?
I kept making my way up to the top of the first hill where the 5 milers departed for their descent to the finish and found my stride. My legs were actually cooperating. Like despite the wine, the lack of sleep and my bad attitude, they wanted to be out there running that trail. I was totally in the zone – so much so – that I almost couldn’t believe I had completed my first loop when I saw the finish line. 13.1 miles complete in about 2:07. Awesome. I chatted with Casey at the finish area aid station and then bounced off to go finish my second loop.
I was pleased that there was less of a crowd my second go on the big hill climb. I was able to get lost in my thoughts, focus on my run and enjoy it a bit more. The first climb up the hill, there were A LOT of runners and a lot of noise. One guy was carrying his cell phone and had some sort of GPS thing on speakerphone telling him exactly what mile and what pace he was going. Around mile 8.62, I wanted to snatch the damn thing from his hands and throw it down the hill. Only that would be littering and I don’t like littering. But come on dude, really? I was happy he was only doing the half.
Anyway, the second loop was a little hotter. I force fed myself a Cliff Shot block and started drinking more water. I hadn’t really had enough water on the first loop. I walked a few of the steep uphills and let my legs loose on the downhills. Literally let them loose so I could just fly. The downhills were painful, steep and rocky. I could feel my toes pressing up in my shoes and the rocks under my feet. I was passing people right and left on the downhills so despite my pain, decided I would have to keep on going. At one point I passed a couple of women who looking back on things were probably doing the marathon. I thought they could be 50Kers and was motivated to put as much distance as I possibly could between us. You know, in case I needed to walk or slow down at some point.
I was feeling a little rough as I came through the finish line aid area the second time. The heat was getting to me a little. I was a salty mess. And I had started to feel pretty hungry somewhere along the course only to come into the aid area feeling a little icky. At the aid station that was about 3 miles till the finish, one of the volunteers told me I was the first female 50Ker to come through. Holy crap.
While getting my bottle filled and trying to force feed myself some peanut butter, I saw the second female come through the aid station. She didn’t stop. She picked up her boyfriend who turned out to be pacing her the last 5 miles (was that even allowed??) and off they went up the hill. I said something I won’t repeat, waved to Casey and jogged off after them. As I climbed the hill, I noticed they had a pretty significant lead on me already. I was going to have to really try and run parts of it if I wanted to catch up. And I did want to catch up. Badly. I kept my gaze on them as I made my way up the hill. I started quickening my pace a little on parts of the hill where there was a little give. And once I was at the point where I knew it wasn’t too too much farther to the top, I gave it a little kick and managed to pass them. Even then, they were right behind me. I would have to put way more distance between us if I was going to bring this thing home.
For about 2 miles, they were right on my tail. I could hear their conversation. She seemed to be running easy. And I swear she wasn’t even sweating. I felt like I was a ball of sweat and salt and was giving it my last everything – aka not running easy. As we approached the turn off, I knew it was downhill to the finish. And I told myself, you can beat her right here. Let your legs fly. And once again, despite the now throbbing pain in my toes, I let loose and charged the steep downhills. And just like I thought, I was able to put considerable distance between us. I was sloshing through mud, jumping over roots and basically just getting er done. And then…I hit a tree root. And went down. And down hard. SMACK! I was on the ground and sliding. I picked myself up and noticed I was relatively unscathed. Dirty but not really hurt. A little pain in my hip that I had fallen on but nothing that was going to prevent me from finishing.
In the last two or so miles, I just flew. I could no longer see the other girl but knew she was there…somewhere. I was determined to finish and finish strong.
I ended up finishing in 5:35, setting a new female course record by about 30 minutes. It’s amazing what you can do with a positive attitude (and pink laces).