Lloyd Thomas, race director, runs a top notch event. As an accomplished ultra-runner, he knows exactly what the runners need and want: a well-marked course, excellent aid, and keep the frills to a minimum except for a great finishing award. "LT" does it all. He even dried out the trails for us this year...well, at least he thinks he did. About a month ago, we were out there and our feet disappeared under water/mud it was so bad. Luckily, we've had minimal rain and lots of unseasonable sun and warm temperatures. The result was a super-fast course with very little mud at all. Prior to the race start, I made my rounds through the crowd of runners, giving out lots of handshakes and hugs. For many, this was the first time I've seen them again since pre-Afghanistan. It was great to see so many familiar faces again. Lloyd is also a veteran, a past Army officer, so he planted a beautiful American flag at the start and we all sung the National Anthem just seconds prior to the start. It's planted perfectly atop the "Sound of Music Hills" so during the race, it can be seen from afar, blowing in the wind. "Lloyd, thank you for that. It means so very, very much to me." Here it is just prior to sunrise and the start.
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At 7:30am, the race was off and my bride was at my side. We had taken the entire last week off from running due to some physical issues. After last Sunday's impromptu 20 miler, my right ankle really acted up. I had no idea why but every fiber told me "NO RUNNING" this week. None. I listened and am glad I did. For Marjie, her IT band has been acting up so with today's race looming, she joined me in our weeklong break. As we hit the trail, we both felt great. The early miles were uneventful and hardly muddy at all. We stuck to our plan of coasting the flats, cruising down the downhills, and moving up the hills with a purpose. As we began passing through aid stations, they were plentiful with typical ultra fare (pretzels, M&Ms, PB&J squares, Coke, water, and Hammer Nutrition's "Heed"...my personal favorite.) They even had pitchers of Heed to easily fill my handheld carrier I just bought last week that I reviewed on a previous post. Super convenient and fast.
Temperatures started in the upper 30s and slowly climbed into the 40s along with the sun clearing out the clouds. Marjie's IT band, however, really started being pesky. Downhills really became a problem and only got worse with under 5 miles to go. Flats..no problem. Hills...no problem. Downhills, which are supposed to be "gifts" as I call them, they caused a lot of pain. With absolutely no intention of leaving her side, we made our way through the hilly Salt Run Trail and we finished the 25K together in 3hrs, 48min, 8sec. HER FIRST 25K!!! I was very proud of her. True to the plan, I re-filled my bottle and ran on down to my car that I positioned so I could pop the trunk, apply some lubricant to the chafing areas on my body, change my shirt, and hit the trail. By that time, she had joined me at the car and we shared a hug, congratulations, and goodbye kiss and off I want, SCREAMING down the trail. The way I felt (I felt like I really hadn't run much at all), I wanted to tear the trail up and pass people for the next 15.6 miles, never get passed, and that's precisely what happened.
I couldn't believe how good I felt and I also wondered how long it would last. After all, I hadn't run over 20 miles lately and haven't run more than 4 hours on the trails for well over a year. "Oh well, let's give it a shot," I thought. I just went with it and started picking people off left and right while flying down the trail. Before I knew it, I was nearing the 3/4 done point, around mile 23, and felt GREAT. 8.2 miles to go. I shot off a few texts home to let her know I was cruising well and she had already been to Starbucks, showered and probably cuddled up reading a good book on the couch...or napping. Either was fine! She earned it. As I cruised along, passed the 26.2 mile marathon point, I really wasn't getting weak which amazed me. The fire was still churning out power in my legs so I went with it. All I was consuming was liquid electrolyte, the occasional salt tab, and occasional PB&J square and M&Ms here and there. That's really it. As I crested the last hill prior to entering the final trail, Salt Run Trail, I gave a point to Old Glory...blowing in the breeze. She looked so brilliant and I thought how much it stands for. That same flag is flying where our countrymen and women are at war and I thought for a few moments of them. "Come home soon, brothers and sisters. Your country wants you back." Back to the trail. I will admit, I was getting weary but like I was preaching to Marjie earlier, it's mind over body. Our bodies are capable of incredibly much but our minds get in the way. We simply need to tell our body to get moving and get it done, and so I did. I continued to pass folks throughout Salt Run and eventually, hit the 1/2 mile to go point. Game on and time to put this race into history! As I emerged from the final hill in Salt Run onto the grassy plain at Pine Hollow, I saw the finish line and made it mine. A handshake from Lloyd and the handmade finisher's mug were mine. I did it and I just didn't finish, I destroyed it. I finished in 6hrs, 41min, 22sec which is nothing too amazing to brag about, but I ran that second 25K 54 minutes, 54 seconds faster than the first 25K. AND, I felt great, like I had more to give but why do that? Chef Bill had homemade soup ready for me. I helped myself to veggie soup and potato soup...both amazing, especially the veggie one. Freshly cut veggies make a killer soup. I enjoyed them while laying in the grass, just a few steps from Old Glory.
|Me holding my finisher's mug (Photo Credit: Celeste W.)|
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Have a great week, everyone, and Happy Trails! Run Happy!