Ahh… racing. It seems that I have found myself toeing the line a lot more frequently than in years past. This can mean either of two things: I have gained enough confidence and enjoyment out of running that I am eager to race, or I have a lot of extra money lying around that I can’t wait to spend on races ( yes, I pay for these things). I’m pretty sure it’s not the latter of the two.
When you sign up for so many races though, the races themselves do not become special. Running becomes monotonous. Races become routine. Training is not race specific, and you don’t focus on race ‘A’ because right after it is race ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’, and ‘E’. Even though my theory is logical, for some strange reason this race didn’t fall into the same routine. In the past 6 weeks I have run 3 races. That is one less than all of my races last year.
Just like the last two races, The Cougar Trail Half and The Holcomb Trail Run, my training for the Sidewinder 10k was not really there. I mean I did have time to spend running trails and visiting family in the Reno/ Tahoe area and go camping in Big Bear, CA. I planned and executed three birthday parties, a slumber party, and a Fourth of July shindig. I know, lots of excuses. In the last week though I did manage a 2.5 miler and a trail 10k with my best running buddy Trisha.
So coming into this race I had very low expectations and I had already seen first hand how lack of training can damage you mentally and completely sabotage a race. I honestly can say at the time I could have cared less about even showing up for the race. Why put myself through such torture? Again? And it showed when I decided that the night before the race I was going out for sushi dinner. This could have ended up as a horrible disaster race day morning. Bad fish = Bad Race. None the less, after dinner I went home and for the very first time actually prepared all my race goods the night before, like a big girl. The next morning I woke up and it was so easy to get everything and go (imagine that), but I was halted by excruciating stomach pain. It wasn’t the sushi, don’t worry. I have been luckily diagnosed with a wonderful little thing called endometriosis, but more on that later. I decided though that it wouldn’t be fair to myself to miss this race, so as I winced in pain, I made my way to the car right on time.
I drove out to Tecolote Canyon where the race was scheduled to start. I had never been in the area and was pleased to discover that it was easy to find as well as a beautiful niche off of the freeway. I arrived 30+ minutes early to check in and wait.
Funny thing, I never got pre race jitters, or had to use the port-a-potty. Hmm. So as the time came for wave 1 to take off and scare all the snakes out of the trail for us slower runners, I stood towards the back of wave 2. I learned my lesson in the Cougar Trail Half when I started too early in my wave. I quickly became stuck on single track as I waited for my legs to warm up. I didn’t want to hold anyone back that was faster, and I also didn’t want to feel too pressured in the beginning.
And GO!!! The first hundred feet or so of the trail was covered in rocks, and not the natural kind of rocks that you may see scattered along a trail. No, these were like landscaping rocks, not the kind that are comfortable to run on, especially if you’re wearing Merrell Pacegloves. So I headed to the edge of the trail where the rocks seemed to be minimal. The trail was mostly flat from the get-go and I held my pace at a steady 9:00 minute mile. Then I saw the hill. It was funny to me that at a point in the beginning I actually considered that this course might just be flat. Ha! It was at that point when I started playing the game. I learned from my last race, the Holcomb Valley Trail Run, that my uphill hiking really sucks, and if I wanted to endure to the end of the race, I was not conditioned to actually run up these hills. So I hiked, FAST. In fact my uphill hiking speed was faster than some of those who were running. That strategic move worked for me, and when I came within 10 feet of the summit, I cranked up the gears and got back onto pace so the momentum coming over the hill would propel me down and FAST! I know that my downhill running is so much stronger than my uphill, and I flew by people like it was nobody’ s business. I knew that once the trail leveled out and went back to single track I would very unlikely be able to pass, so I made sure it happened while running down the hills. There were 3 up hills and 3 down hills as well as 2.5 water crossings (the last one didn’t really have much water). When the runners near me approached the water crossings, it seemed that most of them stepped with caution on the large river rocks, making sure to not completely engulf their feet in the water. I tried to just plow right through, seeing this again as an opportunity to pass people, and it worked.
We were nearing the aid station and turnaround point, and when running an out and back, I tend to run cautiously until this point. I am terrible judge of distance so it’s hard for me to gauge how far I have left to go.
I finally made it to the turn around and was greeted by two smiling and familiar volunteer faces I remember from the Cougar Trail Half. I drank a cup of electrolyte drink, graciously thanked the volunteers and headed back out on the course. This is when it got kind of tricky. Most of the runners in the race were running on single track now, and passing with caution when coming around the many corners of the trial can be a bit scary.
At this point in the race, I was plowing through the trail, and passing people on my left every chance I had. I used my quick downhill legs to run by those who were a bit more cautious on the steep down hills, and once I cleared all the hills on the course I kept a pace of 8:20 until I saw the finish line, and tried my best to remember to extend my legs as I ran, taking advantage of the long legs that I have.
I crossed the finish line with an official time of 1:02:34, 6th in my Age Group. Not too shabby!
It’s crazy how I was so mentally nonchalant about this race, and mid race an animal instinct overcame me and led me to actually RACE. Somewhere after the turnaround point I started on my mantra, ‘IF YOU WANT IT, GO GET IT!‘ I haven’t felt that urge in a while, and I must admit, it makes racing pretty damn fun.
I headed over to the Bayhill Tavern where the after party as well as where the awards would be handed out, and had a blast! I walked into the place not knowing anyone, and walked out with new friends and happy new memories, all over some after race beers of course 🙂
You know what was awesome about the after party? Every single one of us at our table won in the raffle! What a bunch of lucky kids!
The race, the raffle, the organizers, the volunteers, and the new friends that I made were all worth it, and to think I wasn’t even going to go.
I can’t wait for the next time I get to run with Dirt Devil Racing. It truly became a memorable and special race, one that will stand out in my mind for a very long time.