[Race was on Sunday February 7th, finally edited my text.]
I signed up for the Red Top Rumble 11.5 miler last November and the race filled in early December. This was a very popular and fairly long anticipated race. One which I hoped would be a good progression towards my ultimate goal of a half marathon come May. Spending the week before the big day dealing with sick children and then getting the nasty stomach bug myself was not part of my optimum training plan. On Friday I was wondering if I should even attempt to make the drive to Atlanta and run.
Slightly wobbly but undeterred, I started out on my drive a good five hours later than originally planned and on the way went via Camp Leslie to collect Quincy from his luxury holiday resort. I got to Martha’s house in the early evening and was instantly rewarded with a cold beer. It was great to see her again and catch up, and to finally meet her fella. Jerry came over with his dog Logan and after the three dogs had done some good sniffing and greeting we left them to get to know each other better while we three competitive humans went to fuel up for the race.
The pasta I ate at Lil Azio was actually my first proper meal since mid week and I was still feeling a little delicate. Managed to eat as much of it as I could though and felt better about my prospects the next day having done so.
Back at the house the dogs hadn’t killed each other, we bade Jerry and Logan goodnight and they left us to have a girl’s night in. Not long later Martha and I were both looking at our watches and yawning. We were in bed, asleep, by 9.30. Big race tomorrow!
Oh I had a glorious night’s sleep. I was only woken up once by the smelly hairy child snuffling around at the foot of my bed around two in the morning. No having to get out of bed and pad around an icy floor to see which kid was crying, and why, that night. Delightful.
Martha woke me bright and early. This was good because I thought I’d set my alarm but apparently not as it did not go off. I felt wide awake and perky. She fixed us up some bowls of porridge and again I made sure to fill my fragile tummy as much as I could. Race day! There was running to be done.
Picking up a confident Jerry along the way we headed North out of Atlanta and towards Red Top Mountain. It was an icy icy morning. Just as Jerry was joking about Martha’s driving and getting us there in one piece on the icy roads we passed a truck parked at a surprising jaunty angle between some trees at the side of the road. I later heard that another Red Top runner on his way to the race had spun on black ice. He’d got stuck in mud and had to abandon his ride at the side of the road and got a lift to the start. Minutes after he had left the scene another car spun in the same place, smashing into the front of the parked vehicle. I’m very glad the runner and his friends weren’t still there trying to move the truck at the time. I’m also very glad that it wasn’t us because when we drove past and over the treacherous ice the truck looked fine and its grill was intact and smiling at us.
Without such adventures we safely arrived at Red Top Mountain State Park and headed straight for check in. I got my bib (number 11) and made final decisions as to what to wear. I hate carrying anything on the run so I resolved to tough it out with just one layer as I knew I would get warm soon enough. In the meantime I hopped around a lot and did quite a bit of flapping. Though I did relent and borrow Martha’s Red Top Rumble 2009 finishing gloves when I couldn’t feel my fingers.
Looking at the other competitors I could see that it was a very different crowd to my last trail race back at the USNWC. The third year of this sell out race organised by GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning and Trailrunning Society) definitely attracted what appeared to be more seasoned trail runners. I don’t think I saw a clean virgin pair of trail shoes at the start this morning. There were also what appeared to be little pockets of sponsored runners or running teams dressed very skimpily in skin tight little numbers stretching away and prepping themselves for what I presume would be speedy efforts.
Glancing into the woods I was tempted, but instead opted to join the rest of the demure ladies in the slow wait for the portaloos. My race thus had an auspicious start as the competitors gathered for the off and I was still in the queue. I finally made it to the front and with lightning speed was in and out. Relieved, and with mere seconds to spare I just made it to toe the line with the rest of the runners as the race started and we were off.
The first part of the trail was an easy meandering gravel track that wound us down to the Iron Hill Trail, named after the mining done there in the 1800s. It was fast going and plenty wide enough to cope with the stampeding horde of trail runners eager to play in the woods. It was fairly flat and very non technical. After a couple of miles I did hear some conversational mutterings from runners hoping that the trail wouldn’t be like this all the way. For me it was refreshing as it was so different to the narrow rooty Charlotte trails, but I shared their sentiment.
For the moment though I was enjoying running along next to Lake Allatoona. It was scenic, I felt free and alive, and I was having a good time. My only concern was my speed as I was doing early splits of 8:30ish and wondering if I could make it to the finish at that continued pace, but it was feeling so easy and I had a smile on my face.
Then disaster. I felt a disturbing pang in my right hip. Oh no! Please no! At first it was just a little nagging doubt but then right around mile four or five it set in for sure, and every time my right foot hit the ground I felt a jolt of sharp pain. Oh I could have cursed, and I did.
This was probably entirely my own fault, and I spent the rest of the run mentally berating myself copiously. As I ran I wondered whether I could have avoided this aggravation had I done some stretches and focused on my hip more pre race. But as I wasn’t in my own home and we had had to drive an hour or so to get to the race I kinda skipped that bit. Bad Kay. When we arrived at the start it was frigid and after the past days of torrential rain the ground was thick with sloppy mud with frozen icing, so there was nowhere to get down and work out the kinks. With little time to spare getting to the loo had been my prime concern too. Dammit.
I pressed on and left the Iron Hill Trail behind. The trail looped back past behind the starting area and on up towards the Homestead Trail. By this point I had completely warmed up. I had already hauled the sleeves of my top up around my elbows and the gloves had been pulled off in the early miles. I was running and juggling, trying to figure out how best to carry them. Just as I was hatching a plan to drop them somewhere, make a mental note and try to find them again afterwards Atlanta hasher BWANA was spotted at the sidelines and there to save the day. He yelled at me that he would take them. Hoorah! I bog hopped a bit to get to him, but when I made it I was relieved to hand over my little burden.
Ok, mind back on the race and getting through the rest of the miles. Seeing the glimpse of the volunteers and start/finish line through the trees it was tempting to give in to my hip and just roll over and call it a morning, but I’m too stubborn for that. Onwards I went, trying to adjust my pace and stride to lessen the growing aggravation at my side.
Across a road and on to the Campground Trail linking to the Homestead Trail, and where the hilly bits were. Though, really they were not terribly hilly, and nothing like you’d expect for a place called Red Top “Mountain”. Even so I really struggled on hills that would normally not even register as hills to me. My hip would seize up when I tried to run up any remotely steep part. I had to walk and haul myself up and then try to make up time on the descents and flats where I could. It was depressing.
I think I spent the entire race being passed by everyone else. When it was a guy passing me I didn’t mind so much. Hey, they are generally faster than women anyway. If a lady came running past though I would get more grumpy. I was constantly surprised that there were still people behind me to pass me for I was convinced that at the rate I was going I must surely be last already.
It was pretty excruciating to put my right foot down as it felt like my leg was strapped on and grating against the hip bone. Ouchie! Still, I hauled myself around the course. Oddly, at times I felt like I could run again and maybe for a mile or so I would get back into a decent clip before the pain started to edge back in.
I never stopped to take a breather and always kept on going, my mind trying to argue with itself that I could do this. My legs never really felt tired on the route. I was battling the hip pain, but felt that if I could have made that agony go away then I could have easily run the distance properly, no worries. So in a weird way that was encouraging.
Another Atlanta hasher, Supersuck, was a welcome sight as she came effortlessly slugging down the trail with a wave and passed me in the final handful of miles just before I hit another aid station. I filled up my handheld water bottle, and grabbed a fistful of colourful smiling gummi bears before chasing her down the trail. Not far to go now.
There was a little bit of a jaunt through a car park in between trails. I kept to the edge, uncertain where the trail was actually supposed to go, then got yelled at by someone to keep to the trail. It only then twigged that the little utility company flags dancing in the breeze along the verge at the edge of the car park were not indicating some underground pipe system or danger unknown to me, but were delineating the actual path I was supposed to be following. Oops! Well I wasn’t that far off as I was running along side, but I’d been thinking it was self preservation not to be running within the flags, who knows what the gas company was doing up in the woods?!
The sound of a lone cowbell in the trees pulled me towards it and along what must surely be the final stretch now? I’d kept Supersuck in my sights for a while but she had long forged on ahead now.
Onto the final leg I was following another girl elusively up ahead of me. Here was a volunteer keeping people on the right trail. As we passed he yelled out that we were chasing the clock now and it was currently ticking to the two hour mark. “Run run run to beat it!”
It hadn’t actually really occurred to me to have a time goal and by this point I was just fighting to finish. That little snippet of news perked me up and spurred me on though. I wasn’t about to let this course and my silly hip let me go over two whole hours! I kicked back hard and got a charge going. The trail cut through some brush and I hit a path of sloppy mud holes in between roots. Slurp! Squelch! “Don’t lose your shoes now Kay!” I thought as my trainer needed a good old heave to release from the sticky muck and threatened to leave my ankle. No worries, I skipped through the rest of the roots and chased down the target ahead of me. I passed her, then somebody else, and felt like I flew through the finish chute like a tornado, clock time 1:59:42.
That was my longest run yet, and despite the hip I felt accomplished and had fun.
Next – onwards to May and my trail half marathon (with a couple of smaller trail runs along the way to keep me on my toes!). I think I have definitely come out of the Red Top Rumble knowing that a good 13.1 miles is absolutely within reach. I just need to work on keeping that hip comfy and somehow avoid that pain again.
Hmm, I guess that race report got a little lengthy. I suppose you really could have shortcutted all of that and just asked my three year old son for his synopsis:
“Mummy likes to run in mud.”