Dunno what happened but despite REALLY good training the past few months focused towards this year's marathon, the race REALLY kicked my butt.
It's ok though, because it was great fun, not just the race but everything around it, including of course the best peeps anywhere.
Short result: no idea of overall placing but it had to be towards the back of the finishers, 2nd AG; I don't have my time handy because the GPS is in the car and I'm not getting out of this fine Super 8 bed in Harrisonburg, VA, but it was something like 6.5 hours, an hour slower than when I ran the original full course a couple years ago.
Ah yes for those of you who don't know, the course was way different this year. Because of a stupid late-March federal court injunction in California but effective nationwide, essentially all group activities using national forest land were deep-sixed. Including the TA because much of the trail was in national forest.
But our heroine thg not only salvaged the race, she redesigned an incredible fun and challenging course both for the half and full marathons completely in the state park and on its trails, including Becky's Bluff.
The new course, to fit it within the state park, was looped. As 7-mile blue loop and a 6 mile red loop with just a bit of intersection between the two. The half marathoners did one of each while the full marathoners repeated the two loops. Each loop was tough, with the blue loop containing a mile of firebreak and the red loop containing Becky's Bluff at around mile 10.5 (and 23.5 for the full).
I was sort of scared of doing the Bluff twice at those points in the race, but more so doing a firebreak twice.
I knew what a firebreak was, a bulldozed path not following contours like trails generally do but instead along the side of a mountain, up and down gorges, sometimes with serious camber etc.
The firebreak "trail" in this race was exactly that. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
With all the absentees and cancellations this year, it was a small but exceptional group of forumites getting together Friday (well, ft came down earlier to help thg). It was wonderful seeing ft, txredd and hubby, pancakes and hubby, Cookie Monster (also running the full), woodstockdave and family, and thg and family again.
It also was incredibly wonderful meeting brneydrnnr for the first time.
Not to mention meeting my new buddy in the person of pancakes' and gu boy's youngest who came with them and stayed in our cabin, who today called out "jasz" out the window as I was loading up the car.
The race, despite everything, was INCREDIBLY organized. And despite the looping and intersections, t was the best-marked trail race I've ever run and with well-schooled and helpful volunteers at each crucial point and aid station.
thg gave an especially helpful prerace about the new course and other stuff in her usual fun and funny way and we were off.
I hung close to Cookie Monster early, but could see that he was going even faster than I wanted to so let him creep away. I still kept a nice pace, and everything felt good. When we hit the firebreak about mile 5+, it was everything I imagined but I also remembered what thg said in the prerace instructions about it being fun and it WAS!
Brutal, sure...but wow it was fun with the steep ups and downs and turns on the raw "trail." The first blue loop was done before I knew it. The red loop was cool too, and even Becky's Bluff that late wasn't *too* big a deal.
On both loops, we were on trails I've never been on before, really nice ones.
Through the entire first half, brneydrnnr and I were playing leapfrog and sometimes ran together. She had a hell of a half-marathon, but I'll let her report on that.
I also had the chance on the little out and back in the first loop to high-five forumites.
On one section I saw BAMA going the other way but too late and only could yell out her name...that was the only time I saw her since she finished her half and left before I came in.
Second year in a row I've missed her.
I came through the half in about 2:35, pretty much exactly where I was hoping. More importantly, I felt great except that starting about mile 12 my hammies then quads started spasming. wtf?!
Never happened before that early in any race and I had 14 miles to go, including the firebreak and Bluff again.
The spasms never stopped after that until an hour after I was done with the race and it was a constant workaround with walking, stretching, relaxing at aid stations etc. Briefly though about going out at 13 and was a millimeter away from going out at 16 and actually stopped there and debated with the volunteer whether I should or shouldn't. I was still enjoying the beautiful trail but my legs weren't. And many times all by myself with nobody in front or behind I felt like crying, but didn't. Something, I'm not sure what, made me turn to the trail instead of back towards the lake at mile 16...honest to God I was on the edge of a razor for about a minute standing in front of that nice volunteer. (she recognized me later when I went by near the end and we both grinned and she said, "you're here!" and I said, "I'm here!")
Oh I forgot...thg bless her sweet heart surprised me Friday night at the spaghetti dinner/registration with bib #1.
Bit of history behind the bib number thing but it's the only time I've worn #1 and it touched me more than she or anyone could know.
It was pretty fun in the race as racers and volunteers commented/cheered because of it even if I wasn't with the leaders.
I keep all my bibs but this one is special.
Back to the race. After that mile 16 near-quit, I kept going and actually had fun again in the firebreak despite the cramping and holding back on the throttle. But finishing the second blue loop with a second Becky's Bluff ahead in the second red loop, and the start/finish just a bridge away, I almost quit again. I'm barely moving at this point. I had been arguing with my mind and body for 8 miles but almost lost the argument right there. But I told myself "you can finish this fucking thing even if you have to WALK the last 6 miles." Then thought of thg's prerace talk about having fun and also about how I had to finish for me and everyone and corrected myself in my head to say, "you can finish this REALLY FUN thing if you have to walk the last FUCKING 6 miles."
I actually grinned and chuckled out loud tho feeling like death.
It wasn't any easier physically, but it was mentally on the last loop. I was joking with the volunteers and other racers, and ran and talked with a poor dude for a while after catching him in the campground...he wound up finishing about an hour after I did despite being way up there early. But he finished.
I lost the dude going up to the marble mine, during which time I was SO happy to see Cookie Monster coming the other way for a big hug and grins!
The second Becky's Bluff was not as fun as the first but sometimes we surprise ourselves how one-foot-in-front-of-the-other moves you forward and gets things done.
Knowing I looked and felt like death, I was SO glad to see one-armed woodstockjesus at the top of the Bluff for a sweaty hug resurrection and after that it was mostly downhill.
Shortly before the final bridge, ft and tx came from the other direction thinking I might be dead in the woods or something.
They "ran" me to the bridge. Maybe I almost was almost dead at several points in the last 13 miles, but was alive enough to run the best finish of any race anywhere.