The full official results and photos for this race finally appeared online yesterday after a long wait. No fun on the trail pictures but look, here I am back on the podium!
I almost didn’t sign up to do this one and was eventually propelled to sign up late for three reasons:
1) I’d talked my friend Andrea into going off road and trying out trail running. This was going to be her first race out in the woods and I wanted to be there.
2) Bill’s parents were visiting from Milledgeville and Bill encouraged me to sign up so we could all enjoy a nice morning at the USNWC and show his folks what a lovely facility they have there. We thought it would be an interesting place to show them as it’s always fun to watch the white water action. The kids also love to climb the mini rock climbing boulders, though I’d have been quite impressed if Granma and Granpa would join in with that.
3) It was a week after my exploits at the Twisted Ankle half marathon. Originally this was more of a why I wasn’t going to sign up, but getting lost on trail rather left me with a cursed feeling I needed to kill and I decided the best way to do that was get right back on the trail and run it to death.
Of course, having signed up I then proceeded to have a terrible week where each of the kids was poorly and sick, culminating in my joining in and cultivating a terrible cold of my own. Come race day I wasn’t feeling so great. Staying in bed would have been lovely but now I felt obligated to run, so it was another early morning off to the USNWC for me.
As soon as I arrived I was a bit thrown and pleasantly surprised. Every race at the centre has started and finished in the top gravel car park at the North/South/Green split trail head. Today I drove up and there was no one there. This was a bit unsettling until I spotted the large race set up over on the other side of the white water rapids. Ooooh. This was a bit of a new twist. A different start, and boded well for avoiding the challenging gravel hill grind to the finish I have come to hate. Interesting.
With no sign of Andrea yet I went on and collected my packet and did a warm up run detouring via my car to drop off yet another hideous t-shirt and the sneaky far bathroom to avoid the line of waiting women. My bib number was 3. I like it.
Race kick off approached and with still no sign of Andrea I was starting to get worried. I had a feeling that kids were involved in her delay. Runners were beginning to gather around the man made channel several hundred feet away from the start and so I ambled over to join them. A rolling start seemed to be the game plan with runners released and running down the path to the start line, pulling a u-turn and then diving into the woody trails.
Still no Andrea but I was spotted by another Open Door Preschool mum and while I was chatting to her a guy in a three lions t-shirt called me out for my accent. It might also have been the Union Jack bandana around my neck that gave this Brit away. I’d made it into a pocket with chamois inside and intended to fill it with ice for the run, but the start away from the coolers thwarted me on that. It was so humid that even just stood with the other competitors I felt like I was breaking into a sweat. Oh, mutterings from the race director meant that I gave up on watching for my friend and ducked forward through the throng for a better start position. And we were off.
I got myself some good foot space fairly early, did my u-turn and just as I was about to break off the paved track and hit the dirt trail I spotted another running skirt joining the race. “Whooo hoo! Andrea!!” And then I was in the woods, charging along in the pack but alone in my thoughts and the rhythm of my footsteps took over.
Several girls hauled past me early and I decided to just let them go. There was also a 5K running at the same time and I assumed that those speedsters were pacing themselves for the shorter run. Especially as I wasn’t feeling 100% I chose to keep on my own pace, stick to my guns and make sure I could do the distance myself rather than get too crazy now. I was just out enjoying myself.
Come the 5K split off though I cursed. Drat. I could see some of the ladies ahead and they weren’t peeling off! Okay, time to step it up a gear. From that point on it was tough running, I had to work extra hard to pull back up through the ranks! Ow.
I started alternating between picking off and drafting behind runners until with less than a mile to go I decided to really make the break. I’d been playing leapfrog with one girl, and tracking two female runners ahead of me and it was time to make my move. I upped it another notch, passed the bloke I was keeping pace with and left all four behind. Run run run! It was good to know that soon I’d be coming onto the flat path by the lake to the finish, and not having to grit my teeth up the usual gravel climb. It did mean I was a little unclear as to exactly where and when I’d be hitting that final stretch though. Perhaps it was a little bit further than I thought!
Then it started to drizzle. Oh my goodness how fantastic was that?! So refreshing. Perfect timing for a cooling spray to hit.
We popped out by the lake and that was a little further from the finish than I had hoped too. I was sure that the ladies I’d passed with such determination must have been riled up and be chasing me down. I refused to turn around and see though, that would be disaster. Just keep on running!
I hit the small crowd waiting for the returning runners and just as I was beginning to flag someone shouted out and warned me that there was a lady coming up behind me fast. Whether that was true or not, he was right, it was time to sprint to the finish.
I spotted Andrea’s husband, Mark, and their children and heard them shout out too. Hooray! A shout from Ashley who had brought her son out to see the race. Hoorah! No sign of my crew though. The finish line loomed and the race was over. I made it! Though, I couldn’t bend over to untie my timing chip so someone else snagged that off for me. As I continued on and through the chute there was Daddy, Sam and Bea trudging towards me. Doh, they’d got confused by the different start/finish line too and missed my home coming by a whisker. Oh well. Great to see them always so happy to see me at the end anyway.
The kids then got to play with their friends, Heath and Stella, while we waited for Andrea to come in. When we saw her heading in the crew all gathered and gave her a good home coming. Well done Andrea! She had a big smile on her determined face as she ran for the finish.
Granma and Granpa also arrived and we enjoyed spending some time with them too before they had to head back to GA. Getting everyone herded into a photo at the same time was an impossibility though.
Eventually I learned that I’d been the fourth girl over the line, second in my age group. So we, of course, had to hang around for the award ceremony so I could pick up my medal and go stand on a box for a bit too.
It was a good race, and fun morning. I was glad I did muster up the will power to run despite feeling so sick (though maybe not very wise as the cold then lingered and lingered for weeks afterwards, hmmm).