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When a race is described as “epic,” that MEANS something. Do not ignore it and assume the race director is being cute.

11/13/2011

Because it means the race is going to kick your ass. It is going to chew you up and spit you out  at the base of a very steep hill. It means you are going to be humbled. You are going to feel like you have never run a step in your life. You are going to want to quit. Your legs are going to feel like Jello. You are going to hate running. You are going to hate life. You are going to tear up when you see your kids at the finish line. Then you are going to eat your face off at Sticky Lips BBQ.

Oh, and it means that you are going to go back and do it again next year.

Obviously, today’s race was the toughest course I’ve ever run at any distance. And right now I’d much rather take a nap and get drunk (yes, at the same time!) than write a post-race report. But I am a little afraid that if I don’t put it all down now, I am going to forget. Kind of like when you have a baby and you forget how much it hurt to have a human climb out of a hole the size of dime.

The past couple of shifts at work I had heard that this race was insanely hilly, and I mostly believed it. I thought maybe there was some exaggerating going on, like the fender bender that turns into “Dude!!! The car flipped over 16 times!!!” Although I haven’t been training on the trails, I did run a marathon just over a month ago and figured I had enough training miles on my legs to have a good showing at this 11-miler. My biggest concern was what to wear because the weather was really borderline (I went with shorts, UA tech tee under my race jersey, and arm warmers–perfect!). My goal was to finish about 1:50-1:51 which would be 10:00 per mile. The trails slow you down, and I thought this was a fair estimate given my pace on the roads. I thought very wrong. Very, very wrong.

The race went off just after 9:00. I did go out a touch too fast but I was afraid of getting blocked in if we headed into some single track early on. The mud and hills started right away–there was no easing into this course! And then it pretty much went like this (disclaimer: time line is approximate and may include some salty language):

16:00 Holy shit. I signed up for this? Was I out of my mind?

20:00 I am not a real runner. I am a joke. Who the hell do I think I am running a course like this?

30:00 I should quit.

32:00 I’m not quitting.

35:00 I should quit.

40:00 I’m walking up this hill and every other hill after this. Fuck that noise.

42:00 I should quit.

45:00 I can’t really quit because then I am just the asshole standing out in the woods who wasn’t tough enough to finish a trail race.

46:00 If I don’t quit than I can reward myself but curling up in my bed and sobbing when I get home… Hm, that is oddly comforting.

47:00 I’m not quitting.

60:00 Well, running through this bog is a nice reprieve from the hills!

1:15:00 Oh my god, the lady that just passed me has her hair down and is signing out loud to her iPod. And I am pretty sure she is not wearing a real sports bra. I cannot allow myself to be humiliated like this! I! Must! Pass! Her!

1:18:00 That sign just said “Bog Area. Stay on Trails.” You mean what I was running through before was not a bog?!

1:22:00 Wow–the trail is really technical here. I better be careful… Ouch!!!

1:23:00 Wow! This is the biggest hill yet!

1:35:00 Probably about 3 miles to go! I can do this! …Maybe.

1:36:00 Hey look! My fingers are swollen! That’s never happen before!

1:38:00 I just slid down that entire downhill. I think I need better trail shoes.

1:45:00 I can’t believe I thought I was going to finish this thing in 1:50. I am stupid and delusional.

1:50:00 Probably about 10 minutes left. Hopefully?

1:52:00 I am so hot. Why the hell do I still have my arm warmers on?

1:56:00 What is that bulge under my right ass cheek? Oh, it’s an arm warmer that slid down the back of my shorts! Tee hee! Hope no one can see me reach up and pull it out!

2:01:00 That guy just lost his shoe in the mud! Ha ha, fancy Salomon trail shoe wearer! My New Balance from Kohl’s haven’t come off in the muck once!

2:02:00 I am averaging well over 11:00 per mile. Huh.

2:04:00 Oh my god! Is that noise the finish line? Do I hear people cheering?

2:05:00 There it is! I see it! I just need to run through all this mud and climb over this fallen tree… and this one… and this one.. and through this mud here… and here!

2:06:00 There’s Mady! And Brian! And Sean and Amelia! I hear them! I see them! I just need to make it up this hill!

2:06:39 Holy. Shit.

 

My amazing cheering section (who were dressed like they were at a St. Patrick's Day Parade)

The first 1/3 of the race was extraordinarily hilly. They were very steep and completely covered in leaves which made them slippery. Once your shoes had mud on them, getting up was really tough, and there were some hills that I was sliding down as I was climbing up. I originally started out running them but really struggled. My legs fatigued very fast and I realized it was better to just power walk them instead to conserve energy. This was the worst part of the race, physically and mentally.

The middle of the race offered a little break from the hills and featured mostly small rolling inclines and very muddy crossings. The mud was so thick, you would hear a loud sucking POP! every time you lifted your foot. It was like the Warrior Dash mud times 10.

The last 1/3 started out pretty technical–a lot of twisting single track. The leaf cover didn’t help at all because you couldn’t see the dangerous rocks and roots jutting out everywhere. This is where I fell, but luckily it wasn’t too bad. I was able to grab a tree on the way down so I could pull myself right back up. And instead of old logs that you had to jump over, there were new-fallen trees that you literally had to climb over and one or two you had to duck under. It was an obstacle course produced by Mother Nature herself! After a few steep downhills (“steep” as in “straight drops”), we entered a part of the park known as Devil’s Bathtub. You descend a huge set of stairs and run across boardwalks that line the murky pond (I would call it a swamp, but whatever). This area is used by mountain bikers so the boardwalks were banked right and left. After some more weaving and climbing and mud, I could see and hear the finish line–and I did all but scream out in joy!

I would say that this race was tougher [for me] than the marathon. With the marathon I never once wanted to quit. I found my groove early and just went on auto-pilot. I really felt like a rookie out there today, but when it comes to trail running I guess am. 11 miles on the road is CAKE compared to 11 on the trail, especially a course as difficult as this one. Ordinarily I would have been mortified by my time and finishing in the bottom half of the field, but I am proud of my 11:30 pace and my 108th place finish–I EARNED it. It was a learning experience, for sure, and despite the pain and discomfort, I feel like I will be a better runner for it. I survived and walked away with only 3 small blisters. Other finishers faced much worse with bruises, open cuts, and twisted ankles. It was totally crazy–and I am going back next year.

Rochester is either going to make me quit running altogether or make me a totally badass runner.

Race Information
Overall Results
Age Group Results

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/13/2011 8:44 PM

    So how was Sticky Lips BBQ? That’s all I really wanted to read about! Just kidding–this race sounds insane! Good for you for toughing it out. Badass!

    • Suzanne permalink*
      11/14/2011 8:15 AM

      According to MY HUSBAND, I am not allowed to rate Sticky Lips because I *only* had a bowl of their WORLD FAMOUS chili and one of his ribs. I’ll have everyone know that that chili sat in my stomach like a brick!

  2. 11/14/2011 11:58 AM

    I’m wondering if YOUR HUSBAND would dare to compare Sticky Lips’ ribs to George Dlugolonski’s ribs.

    • Suzanne permalink*
      11/14/2011 1:11 PM

      I loves me some dad ribs!

      • Suzanne permalink*
        11/14/2011 1:12 PM

        Um, that sounds weird. It must be read in context.

  3. 11/14/2011 12:01 PM

    That was some finish. I loved hearing your family cheer for you. No one was louder than Brian. They are so supportive.

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