After six glorious weeks enjoying England’s well mannered Summer weather my return to the USA saw me taking a deep breath and desperately trying to acclimatise to the current hot and steamy North Carolina temperatures. After landing I had a mere four days to readjust to EST, and the elevated heat and humidity before I was due to run the last long distance race in the Carolina Trail Race Series. After missing the Uwharrie Rumble in favour of running the Twisted Ankle half marathon I was down from first to third place and this final race was make or break. I would have to run to at least stay in the series, let alone hopefully maintain a podium position.
At Applegate those few days you would have found me turning the ac down and creating a mini sauna in the house while my husband was at work and not around to complain. In England I had been merrily filing away the miles but back Stateside while I tried hard to keep up with the running the heat just took my breath and resolve away. At the Wednesday night Meetup run I went out intending to get eight miles underfoot, but staggered back to the gang in bad shape after four. On the Thursday Common Market run I made it around the four mile course, but it wasn’t pretty. I wasn’t holding out high hopes for Saturday’s big race.
Before race day I dithered between my trusty hand held water bottle and a newly acquired Nathan hydration race pack. I wasn’t used to running and drinking with the pack at all, but the prospect of 20k on trails in the heat convinced me that it could be a wise decision to give it a shot. By the time I got to the USNWC and stepped out of the car into the moist hot air I’d already pretty much decided that my goal was to just finish the course even if I had to just treat it as a training run, so trying something new wasn’t really going to be costing me anything.
The morning’s race gear also bears a mention as usually I head out in one of my trusty runningskirts.com skirts. Today though with no need for the handy extra pockets thanks to my hydration pack I decided to put a pair of Mountain Hardwear pacer shorts to the test. Apart from being shorts, at first glance they didn’t seem to be terribly different from my skirts as they also have interior briefs, but they are made from a thinner fabric so I was hoping that they wouldn’t end up quite so drenched, and thus heavy and flappy, as my skirts do at the end of a hard sweaty race. Unfortunately I was sadly disappointed. They looked cute at the start, and I was certainly swayed by the pretty blue matching my top and Mizuno Ascends, but by the finish I was having a hard job keeping them up and I have some lovely photographic evidence of fashion faux pas that would be worthy of Hello! magazine were I a celebrity. I hastened to change out of it as soon as I was able. Next time I’m keeping my dignity throughout and sticking to a skirt. I also apparently have a reputation to keep up as even the race director yelled at me as we headed into the trailhead and wanted to know where my skirt was.
Anyhow, so…still disoriented from jetlag, miserable too hot weather, bad wardrobe decision, what else could add to the morning’s challenge? Oh yes, a dead Garmin. I know I charged it up the night before but when I went to turn on my beloved GPS watch and get the satellites booted up I simply could not get a spark of life from the thing. I ended up chucking that dead weight back into my car in disgust and panic. I would have to run the race “naked!” Unthinkable!
Trail running comrade Ashley was also present that morning as she was running the 8K. I think she actually probably saved the day and stopped me dwelling on the lost Garmin too much by bestowing me with copious amounts of ice and letting me fill up my hydration bladder and bandana before the race. Oh ice, how I love you. I think I pretty much got through the miles by dumping ice water on my head then charging off down the trail until I needed to take another moment to cool down.
Speaking of charging off, the race started with my main competitor for the series hurtling up the trail as she finished her warm up run, making it to the gathered runners just in time for the gun to sound, pulling a u-ey, and blasting off down the track again. It was so hot and horrid I hadn’t even had the heart to attempt a warmup lap, my game plan was to just take it easy and try to pick up some pace further down the trail if I could. Seeing this lady disappearing off into the woods ahead of me I had pretty much handed her the race between us and resigned myself to a nice training run. I just went out and had a great time and kept a smile on my face. I was running much of the way behind some fellas and we had a bit of banter going on. They would take off for a bit and then I’d pull them back in again until somewhere around Goat Hill they faded and I continued onwards. It was stifling out there but as the miles passed it got easier. At least, I think it did. Without my Garmin I had no real clue as to how far I’d gone or what my pace and time was! I’d say that after around five or six miles though I got into a groove and felt good. I especially felt good when I spotted another runner up ahead and realised it was a lady. I hadn’t thought I’d see any of the lead females again and so suddenly the switch flipped on and I was back in the race and not just out having a nice run anymore. Gradually I pulled her in and was stunned when I ran alongside and could see who it was. Just my trail series nemesis that’s all! Uh oh, now it really was game on!
We had a brief exchange discussing how long we’d been running and how much further was left. She didn’t have a GPS on either but we’d just hit the green loop so we agreed that we were roughly about four miles or so from the finish and jointly moaned that it was brutal out there. Then, I picked up the pace and left her behind me.
From that point on I was all push and I daren’t turn around to see if my rival was on my tail or not. I just dug deep, gritted my teeth, and hauled my arse around the remainder of the course without wanting to give her an inch. I even managed to pick off a couple of men in the process too. I was so glad to round that final corner, see the finish line and be able to charge on through into the chute.
Fourth place female.
Place NAME Last Ag Sex CITY/STATE GunTime Pace
13. KAY ALLEN 34 F CHARLOTTE NC 1:56:27 9:23
But was it enough for the trail race series? I’d gained a staggering seven minutes on my opponent, but she was still the next lady in. Rats! I couldn’t completely remember the standings as they had stood before this race, but it would be close.
After the 20k podium presentations where I got first in my age group, a $10 Try Sports gift certificate and a pair of Injinji socks, (but no epic photo moment atop the winners platform because 2nd and 3rd place just took their medals and walked off) we were told the trail race series would be tallied and presented shortly. Eventually after much activity between race director and laptop interested parties were summoned and the results declared.
I got third and the big shiny plate was awarded to the other girl.
One of the male runners then dramatically collapsed and the scene became a little chaotic as he was assisted. This gave me a moment to compute and realise that the second place girl hadn’t even run today and I knew she hadn’t placed in any of her races, so I should surely have got second for my efforts? Undercover of the distraction caused by the medical emergency I’m afraid I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at the race director’s laptop. My suspicions were confirmed though when I saw that I did indeed have more points but the spreadsheet hadn’t listed us in the correct order. Okay, second place in my first trail run series, fantastic!
Then I noticed something else. First place had far too many points. She had run in all four races and all her points had been counted, yet the rules stated that it was best three of four runs, and the worst point score was to be dropped. My brain started trying to do the maths and it took a couple of attempts before I was sure I had the totals right and wasn’t delusional.
After a quiet word with the race director it was confirmed. I moved up from third place to first! My run today had nabbed me the lead by a mere 1 point. I couldn’t help giggling nervously and apologetically as the plate was requested to be returned and represented to me! Awkward!
Still, Overall Female Long Distance Carolina Trail Run Series Champion, that’s me!
It was a shame that the competition for the series wasn’t more numerous, but I had a great time racing the different distances around the USNWC and I can attest that it was certainly fierce between myself and my running nemesis. She was determined and strong, and I’m looking forward to going head to head with her again.