Nov 062010

by Danielle Triffitt

Although I had grand hopes for Saturday’s marathon, I had no idea if I would be able to make it all happen. I mean, let’s face it. It hasn’t been the best few months on the training front for me. 18 miles was my longest training run, and there have been a lot of zeros in my training log. Not to mention, I was getting over one of the worst colds I’ve had in a while. None of this was exactly confidence boosting! Still, I was determined to finish, if nothing else, and to give it my all while I was out there, and hope for the best. And I am happy to say, I actually managed to put together a good race – woohoo! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The day started out with the alarm going off at 4:00am. Ouch. A 6:15 am start is way too early! Even with a cup of coffee, I didn’t quite feel awake. After passing the baby monitor off to Ryan’s mom, my dad and I took off into the darkness. As we neared the road I knew we needed to turn down to get to the start, we noticed a police vehicle waving people away. What?! This was not what we needed! Turns out, someone hit a telephone pole near the race start, so at the last minute, they had to set up a detour for all of us crazy runners. Added a bit of excitement (and no doubt, a few headaches for the race director!) to the morning, that’s for sure, and caused the race start to be delayed by 15 minutes.

In the gym, we met up with Valerie and Rick, Jamie, Ann and George, and knew that Chuck and Katy, and Neighbor Kate, must be around somewhere. Everyone was a bundle of nerves and excitement, waiting for the race to start, and I changed my outfits at least two times before I decided on my short sleeve Atayne shirt under my TMR singlet, shorts and gloves. It wasn’t as cold as they had predicted, but it was damp and raw feeling. I hoped I would warm up quickly once we got running!

Valerie and I ready to run!

As 6:30 neared, we all headed out into the darkness, headlamps and reflective gear glimmering. The marathoners had to do a 1.2 mile loop before heading out to join the 50 milers on the 12.5 mile loop through the woods, so when the race director shouted “Go!,” Valerie and I joined the throng as we wound through the fields and around the school. The pace was a bit too much for me, so I backed off a bit. Valerie yelled to see where I was, and I told her I was trying to rein things in a bit. I knew I didn’t need to go out at 8:30 pace! She agreed, and so we slowed ever so slightly before heading into the woods. The combination of running with Valerie, running by headlamp, and doing a bit of bobbing and weaving around other runners made the first few miles go by quickly. In fact, we were surprised there wasn’t more of a bottleneck on the single track. Of course, soon after thinking that, we ran into the conga line of runners winding through the forest on the switchback singletrack. It was a bit frustrating to be at the mercy of the pack’s pace, and due to the darkness, it was difficult to pass safely (without hitting a tree, or tripping over a rock or root) in many spots. However, most of the runners were nice about stepping aside ever so slightly so that we could scoot by, and I think we may have only annoyed a handful 🙂 Still, it was a relief to step out onto the wide carriage roads and be able to run our own pace!

At one point, the road divided two ponds/swampy areas, and with the recent rain, the road was more like a river. Runners were tiptoeing along the edges of all the puddles, which just seemed silly! So I just plowed right through, with Valerie on my heels, splashing and yelping as we passed at least a dozen other runners. We figured we did Ian proud with that one! But boy, was that water cold! That’ll wake you up 🙂

Valerie and I ran together for the first 6 or 7 miles, passing right through both aid stations on the first loop. At some point she waved me on and while I had really hoped we could run together for longer, as it was great fun to have a good partner!, I respected that we each had our own race to run. I took off, knowing she probably wouldn’t be too far behind. And I was right. At around 9 miles, I had to take an unexpected pitstop, and as I came out of the woods, there was Valerie! We ran together again for a few more yards before I pulled ahead. Somewhere around that point, I passed George, looking strong and running the 50, and we chatted for a few steps before he sent me on my way.

For the rest of the first loop, I ran along enjoying the course. It’s a nice mix of single track and wide carriage roads, without too many rocks or roots or big climbs. With all the downed leaves and the rain on Friday, things were a bit slick in spots, but not all that bad. I did take a digger at the 12 mile mark, but was quickly back up and running with no real harm done. I came through the start/finish area in 2:10, and stopped briefly to grab a few more Gus and another bar from my dad, and drop off my headlamp (thanks for the reminder, Rick!).

Rounding the bend at the end of the first lap

I decided not to fill up the bladder in my Nathan pack, as my stomach was still feeling a bit unsettled despite the pit stop, and I wasn’t sure how much more HEED I’d be able to get down. I knew this was a risk, but I figured I could always stop at the aid stations if need be. Other than my stomach, I was feeling good. I didn’t yet feel tired, and my leg was holding up fine, which was more than I had hoped for.

Loop #2 felt different, in part because it was light and because the crowd was more spread out. Also because  I was now 2 hours into the race and knew that this lap was the one that really counted. I made the conscious decision to pick up the pace when I could, which meant stepping it up on the carriage roads and trying to maintain on the single track. The little bumps that seemed like nothing on the first loop began to feel a bit more mountainous this time around. My stomach wasn’t feeling great, but I was still able to stick with my ‘every half hour’ plan for fuel, and to drink a bit of HEED. I decided not to stop at either aid station, figuring if I did, that I would never get my legs going again. I knew I just needed to keep moving. However, after passing the second aid station (thanks for the cheers Erik!), I did indeed need to stop. Another pit stop! Aie. But it was necessary. The stomach was just not happy. I got back on track as quickly as I could, only to discover that I was now running completely alone. Where was everyone?

Right around mile 18, I finally began to feel a few real twinges in my knee, and so I stopped yet again, to stretch for a bit. This was a good chance to regroup mentally, but I didn’t stop for long. Things felt better when I started back up, and I just reminded myself to ‘push, push, push,’ and keep it up. I did walk in a few spots, but mostly I just ran, even if slowly on the uphills, and I even managed to pick a few people off along the way too. I finally ran out of HEED around mile 22, but by then, my stomach had had enough anyway, so it really was fine 🙂

I dug deep for the last few miles and came across the line in 4:13:35. My goal was 4:15 and I had done it. The body had held up for just long enough! Hurray! I was spent, but so psyched. Of course, I think my first words to my dad were “This was such a bad idea.” 🙂

Headed in to the finish!

A HUGE thanks to my dad for coming up to be my cheerleader and support crew, and for getting up at 0’dark thirty too! And another HUGE thanks to Irene and Dana for watching Sam while I went off to do my crazy running thing 🙂 Sam had a blast with Grammie and Grampie, and I really appreciate it!

And a big congrats to everyone for some awesome racing! Nice job Valerie, Kate, Ann, George, Jamie and Chuck! Lots of fun to go to a race and have so many friends there racing too. Go Trail Monsters!!
And last, but certainly not least, a big thanks to the GAC for putting on a fun race, and for all the volunteers for helping to make it happen. The course was well marked, intersections well-manned, the aid stations cheery and inviting (I didn’t stop, but I did hear lots of awesome comments about all the food available, including bacon!!), and there were great shirts and jackets as finisher prizes. Somehow I think I’ll be back 🙂 (Guess I didn’t mean that “This was such a bad idea” comment, did I?!)

So, a very happy end to the 2010 racing season for me. Before I gear up again for 2011, I am planning to take a little break for running, at least for this week and maybe next, to rest up and loosen up my silly left IT band. I’m pretty stiff right now, and my exercise today consisted of a lot of hobbling around 🙂

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