Monday, February 7, 2011
Uwharrie Mountain Run
At 6:55 a.m. on Saturday morning, the 40-mile Uwharrie runners were still in the drop bag tent, despite the race starting in 5 minutes. Why? The cold temperatures, buckets of raining pouring down, and... well do I really need another reason? If I was planning on running this race, it would be one thing. I'd have adrenaline, the running would keep me warm, and racing in the rain makes sense. Hiking to a DNF does not! I really, really did not want to start this race.
We entered the trail almost immediately (almost no road!) and the forest was beautiful. The trail throughout this race was a twisty, undulating single-track that had some technicality through the whole race, but it was runnable and scenic. It had been raining for over 12 hours at the race start and the trail was muddy (but not shoe-sucking muddy), streams were high, and the leaves could have been slippery, but I didn't trip at all.
I went in almost last, with a pretty good attitude about the run. First, I was just so, so happy to be doing this again. I missed that race tension in the air, the crowded start to the trail, and that energy pushing us all forward--it was exciting. Second, I knew my limits and that I was planning to drop at the turn-around. I'd be happy just to run 10 miles pain-free. Third, if I finished, I would probably be the last person to cross the finish line.
Hell, I might be the last person to get to the turnaround! But, I was ok with this.
I chatted with a few people, and then the field spread out. I was alone for hours. With the rain, I wasn't listening to music. I had my usual "deep" thoughts while running alone. Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? What should I do for a living? Should I just go ahead and buy that skirt I loved at Bloomies?
Then I was being chased down by fast, wild animals--the leaders of the 20 mile run that started an hour later. They were flying! Soon, my first teammate, Sean Andrish, was flying by. I love seeing friends while I'm racing, it really lifts my spirits. I cheered, I shouted, and I wished him good luck. I did a mix of walking and running, walking the steep up and downhills. The running felt really good. Martha Nelson, another teammate, was the first woman in the 20 mile run and looked awesome. I was about fifth in my field... fifth from the end. Definitely the slacker on the team.
The trail was very wet and I was so glad I had my light WT 101s on. I came to the 14-mile aid station and couldn't believe my luck. 14 miles! Pain-free! I was elated. This run's mood was much worse than the elevation chart. After this aid station I decided to take a walk break due to some tightness that was about 0.5/10 on the pain scale... nothing to worry about. Until I hit the stream crossings. We crossed one stream three times... ice cold and really freaking high. The third time, the water came up to my hips and I went through way slower than I should have.
I came out of that stream so cold and when I started to run I decided instantly it was a bad idea. The cold would tighten up my IT band, and I might not feel the pain. I decided to walk to the turnaround from here.
Getting passed by people for hours SUCKS. They need shirts for runners that say Injured on front, and Usually I'm a better runner than this on the back. Once the middle-of-the-pack 20-milers started passing my walking, cold self, I felt awful. Brian Greeley was already heading back in first place, I told him I would trip the next guy and he told me not to because it was our other teammate, Mike Maason, who followed in minutes. 20 milers passed me, I'd tell them that they were doing a good job, and they would say "you too." Really? Really?! I'm pretty much last. I am not doing a good job.
This really started pissing me off. As the 40-milers were heading back, they all told me I was doing well, looking good, etc. I usually love that ultrarunners are like this, but at this race, they were all liars to me. I was not feeling well, I was cold, and I know that I did not look well. And some people were worse. They would pass me and tell me to start running. One told me that I should take advantage of the downhill and run. Idiots! Running downhill is the last thing I want to do right now! Soon, I would let people pass me, and I would wince and grab my leg as I did so.
Finally, a guy passed, and I told him "Good job! Looking great!" and he replied, "I like your pigtails." Awesome. Whoever you are, thank you for complementing my pretty locks as opposed to lying about my lacking performance. I was really downhearted and decided that I'd drop at the next aid. Now that I wasn't running, I was really cold, and didn't feel like hiking 6 miles. Finally, I had purpose. There would be cookies. There would be warmth. I would be done and back with my friends.
More 40-milers passed me and I looked at them with pity. I got to drop soon and wouldn't have to go swimming in ice-cold creeks again. I was not only way smarter but lucky for the excuse to stay away from those streams. I was walking slowly and worried about how cold I was. Losing a toenail during a race was ok, but losing toes would not be.
The flags and white tents were in the distance and I was there! Done! I got the aid station and told them I was dropping with a giant smile on my face. My interaction with the aid station volunteers went like this:
"I'm going to drop!"
"Why don't you take some cookies."
"I'm really cold and I can't run anymore."
"We can give you a blanket."
"I want to stop now."
"It's only 2.5 miles to the end you can make it."
"But, can't you drive me to the turnaround? I'm a 40-miler, I'm already going to drop there."
"We can send you there with a blanket and cookies."
I smiled, thanked them, took cookies, and marched off to the turnaround. Really, I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves for being so unhelpful when I just wanted to get this over with already. I was disappointed and angry, but there were no cars in sight so I realized that they may have hiked in from a road. Then, I saw their large SUVs and pick-up trucks on the gravel road and I was fine with walking. Having them drive 6 miles just for me would severely impact my carbon footprint average for the month.
Then, I don't know where this came from, but I started crying. I was eating a cookie and realizing that I would go through that stream 10 more times if it meant that I got to chase down the female leader. I would run through a hurricane if it meant that I got to race today and fly downhill and run the flats. I just wanted to recover from all this IT band stuff and be competitive at a race.
I just dared someone to tell me that I was looking good and doing a good job. I would probably finally stop smiling and yell at them. Then, I would throw a cookie at them, which would be unfortunate because then it would get soaked in muddy water and I would still eat it.
I got seriously angry again when a couple passed me and I stood off to the side and they asked if "I was going in the wrong direction." I was stunned and said nothing but I wanted to say: "No, I have not gotten to the turnaround yet. Please open your fat mouth so that I can shove a handful of mud into it you stupid cow."
Then, I heard chanting and cheering. It was only maybe a mile from the aid station, but I was definitely hearing the finish line. Maybe, there was a short-cut and I could make it there by bushwacking. I was really excited... and then I came across a bunch of kids that were hiking, and chanting our race numbers and high-fiving runners. I told them thank you, and that they were sweet. But I was really thinking that these little fuckers should not get our hopes up. So, soooo not fair. Then, one of the adults joked that "the female leader just passed! Go get her!" and laughed. I wanted to punch him in the face.
The last mile or so was really, really pretty and I enjoyed being out in the woods. Near the finish, there was an old man walking down the trail playing the harmonica, and I thought that I was hallucinating. Finally, I saw the finish/turn-around. I came in, and people started cheering. I took two steps of a mock sprint and then stopped and said "just kidding" and everyone laughed. I then said that I was dropping out of the race and within two minutes, I was drinking bourbon in hot chocolate and sitting by a fire.
Getting back to the start was a hassle, but then I finally made it there to find out that our team kicked butt! Brian got first in the 40M, Mike 4th, Martha won her race, and Sean got 7th. Rob was still out there, but was moving along faster than his goal time.
FYI, Apple cinnamon gels are evil. One opened up in my purse and got EVERYWHERE. Hopefully I will have awesome pics to add to this post soon. Like, 4 of us in one double bed and me brushing my teeth while sitting on a cot in the hotel bathroom. Oh yes.
P.S.: Brian inspired a search for bigfoot in the Uwharrie forest: bigfoot-search-begins-nearby