- "There is no wisdom without love." ~ N. Sri Ram
Well, I finished! And, what's more is I finished strong, smiling and feeling like I could have kept on going. Louisville's Lovin' the Hills 50k was the third time I've completed the distance (2nd race), but the first time I felt really great at the end. It has given me hope for the McNaughton Park 50M in April! My experience down in the Lou is one I will never forget...not just because it was an awesome race, but also because of the chain of events that followed, and the people I met. Wow, what a weekend!
After getting all packed up and everything in the car, I hunkered down, ready for the long roadtrip ahead of me, only to find my battery was completely dead...so, I called my older brother, Tate, and he came right over and jumped my car for me, phew! Bullet dodged. I scooped up my youngest brother/partner in crime for the weekend, Gunny, out in the 'burbs and we finally hit the road. I thought my car troubles were behind me, yea, right. Sitting in some bumper-to-bumper traffic for half an hour just north of Lafayette (there was a nasty accident) I noticed the temperature gauge on my dash was in the red, yikes. So once we got moving again, I exited and went to a gas station to check things out, and fill 'er up. Everything seemed fine, and once we were out of traffic, the car cooled down. Eight hours later (it was supposed to only take us 5.5 hours!) we pulled into the hotel parking lot in Louisville, which was really close to the race start so I was glad to get to sleep in a tad more. Gunny sat down and started working on his writing and I buzzed around the room getting everything together for the morning. Somehow, a Gu exploded in the bag that held all my race food. Gross. That took a nice half hour to clean up and find the culprit Gu. Bed around 12:30.
At 6:00 a.m., we both rolled out of bed (it was easy to wake up Gunny when I told him there was free food in the hotel lobby) and grabbed breakfast. There were a few other runners downstairs and we all looked like zombies :) The directions I printed off the LLTH blog were perfect and got us to the start/finish staging area at the Horine Reservation within the Jefferson Memorial Forest. The sun began to rise around 7:30 a.m. and I ducked inside the warm tent to grab my t-shirt and bib number, then dashed back into my car to keep warm and get ready for the start.
It was already shaping up to be a gorgeous day, which was a surprise to everyone as the weather called for sub-40's and light rain. I had to use the ladies' room before we headed out, so I walked over to the latrines to find that the 'toliet' was a hole raised about 2 inches off the ground surrounded by some wood for privacy. I was laughing so hard coming out of it that I thought I'd fall over. Everyone found them to be pretty funny :)
All set for a nice run through the woods! Starting line is behind me
After a quick speech from the RD's and a big...HUGE...thank you to all the volunteers for rallying in the last couple of weeks to clear the course after a nasty ice storm, followed by a nasty wind storm, we were off! There was also a 15 mile race going on simultaneously and it was obvious who was running it...the ones gunning it from the start! I stayed at the very back and plodded along with a group of women with cute matching bandannas. We were very quickly introduced to the trail's "love", also known as the Hills. The sharp ascents were always followed by identical sharp descents and I quickly decided I preferred going up!
One of the more tame climbs...
In all the course was a very nice surprise. It was clearly very challenging and really tested my training, of which I was incredibly thankful for my one-day-a-week treadmill hill workouts. Some of the climbs, according to my GPS, were at a 30% grade, yikes! And, at LLTH, that means you're getting an equal fall afterwards.
Elevation profile from my GPS
I got into a pretty good groove after the final quick loop before the out-and-back portion. I met a woman who smoked for 33 years, quit, and began running 3 years ago. She was kicking some butt. She said she could really only tell that she used to smoke whenever she had to climb, but I couldn't tell...I was working pretty hard to keep up with her! There was a young-ish guy in front of me for quite a while that I was able to keep pace with after passing the halfway point. He was great on downhills, but I always passed him on the ups. He was hurting and I mentioned he should take in some electrolytes at the next aid station (he was drinking plain water the whole time) and see how he felt. I'm not sure if he did or not, but I passed him heading back to the finish (his mile 20, my mile 27). Hopefully he made out okay! I also met a really nice gal at the turnaround aid station. She headed out before me, but once I realized I was picking off the women I wanted to catch up to her. I finally did and we ran together for awhile. She was from the area and knew the trails well so she was really covering some ground fast. I had a great time matching her stride for stride and she was just so nice and chatty. It was great to have someone to talk to for a bit. At the second to last aid station, she seemed to want to hang around for a bit, but I wanted to get going as the woman keeping track of all the runners said I had really sped up and passed a lot of runners so I had a bit of an energy boost from that news. I said good luck and got back on the trail!
Once I was on my own again, I started getting a little bored with the same song stanza playing over and over in my head so I took some pictures...
Of course when I allow myself to dilly dally, I fall. Luckily, I managed to keep it pretty simple and was up just as fast as I went down. I laughed pretty hard because it hurt but also because I managed to fall into one of the very few wet spots on the whole trail. Go figure. But hey, what's a trail run without a little mud on the face and knees?
I caught up to another woman and her partner and after tailing them for a bit they got caught at a fallen tree that I just hopped over and then I didn't see them again until the finish line. I have to say that I was in one of the best moods I've been in in awhile. It's been a busy and hectic year so far, but I was able to forget about it and just do my thing. I had one negative thought the entire race, and it didn't come until the very end when I caught up to a guy that was having trouble on the ridiculous climb that led to the finish line. He kept looking back at me as I was gaining on him pretty fast and he mumbled something, to which I replied, "go f$#@ing figure they save this climb for the end." He started laughing so hard I was able to pass him and hold it for a couple minutes, but once we reached the top he gunned it for the finish ahead of me.
Woohoo, I made it!! Pain free and completely elated! My official finishing time was 7:15.05, and the distance was a tad more than 50k, 32.4 miles. Gunny was there to see it and he later told me he thought it was pretty cool to see me cross the finish line :) What a sweet brother!
Modeling my newest piece of Atayne-wear...long sleeve 4R's...the verdict: freakin' awesome! After the wind settled up top, I kept my wind shell around my waist the majority of the race and my shirt was perfect for the weather and kept me warm in the wind, and cool when the sun was beating down
I was so happy to be done and ready for a nap, and some serious eating. I grabbed a bowl of spaghetti and some fruit in the tent and talked to some people in there. I met Alan J.
who is a big fan of Atayne. He was awesome and had one of the coolest mustaches I've ever seen in person. A couple women sitting at another table commented on how they thought I looked too 'pretty' to have just run 31 miles. I said I felt pretty...disgusting! Then I showed them the pearls I had worn the entire race (of course I had on my lucky race pearls!) and that they must have done the trick :) They loved that; pearls and trails, a match made in heaven! When I got back to the car, I changed into some warm clothes and got all set to go. However, my car had a different plan...it didn't want to go
; it was declaring war with me. This was a bullet I wasn't going to be able to dodge. The engine was turning, but it wasn't firing. So, long story short, my car was dead as a doorknob. The guy who had just barely beat me tried jumping it, but clearly it wasn't the battery. Then Ed K.
walked over asking if I needed help. Ed, Larry H. (who works for JMF and helped clear the trails for the race) and his coworker, Matt, spent about 2 hours trying to figure out what the problem was. In the end Ed called AAA for me and got me towed into town to a mechanic. Larry gave Gunny and I a ride so we could get my car checked in, and then got us to a hotel. Obviously, these guys went WAY above and beyond any call of duty and I am forever indebted to them. It just really reinforced for me that people are basically good, and that 'ultra' people are angels :)
Ed, Larry and Matt, thank you a million times over; I would have been completely stranded had it not been for you guys. You're the best!
How often do you have your car towed after a race? In Kentucky?
So, another night in KY! We gorged on pizza and cinnamon sticks and watched movies. In the morning we had to walk up the highway to get to the mechanic's where my car was waiting to cost me an arm and a leg :)
"I keep spilling my coffee on my hand!" "Hahaha, we look like hobos walking down the highway with our bags, and now that there isn't a sidewalk!" My legs were tired from our little stroll down Preston Highway. I stopped for a break under this sign. Now I realize that it wasn't just a pizza joint...hehehe An arm and a leg later, I got my car back and I dared it to ever pull that B-S again!
Cool wooden finisher award, a Colorado Blue Spruce, race tee and my bib
So, the morals of the story are: never travel without AAA, moms are usually right ("Paige, you shouldn't drive your car that far right now, take mine."), don't pile heavy stuff on top of a bag full of Gu packets, I have a really awesome baby brother who is an excellent sidekick, Atayne kicks butt on the trail, Clif Shot Bloks are lifesavers, and the trail makes everything better.
I had an excellent race. It was my first solo endurance event and I managed very well without much interaction or my music (which I always thought I had
to have). I managed my fluid/electrolytes/carbs and calories very well. I drank often (water with a Nuun tab), ate 3 Cran Razz Clif Shot Bloks or one Gu per hour and ate very little at the aid stations (save for a couple homemade peanut butter cookies, peanut butter pretzels and a large portion of jumbo marshmallows, yum!). My legs, shins and lungs felt great and I managed to keep my hands and feet from swelling, woohoo, success! My right knee was giving me grief on the downhills starting around the halfway point, but it wasn't horrendous. I only fell once, didn't roll either of my ankles (not even once!), I tripped up a few times which somehow coincided with my need to eat (now that should tell you something about the importance of paying attention to race nutrition!). I almost didn't need my timer to tell me when to eat, I could tell when I tripped that it was time. I was in such a good mood the entire time. I high-fived runners, cheered others on as we went along, cracked jokes at aid stations and made sure I smiled as often as possible. I felt fantastic! It was a lovely day for a jaunt in the woods!
One more moral of the story: I will be back. LLTH is officially on my new list of favorite races :)
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." ~ Theodore Roosevelt