Loop One: 1:56 (These times are my estimates, based on the race clock, because official splits haven't been posted yet.)
Loop one is longer than the rest, because we do an additional out and back at the start. My calves really hurt for the first few miles, but I'm used to that. (I don't know what my problem is!) I know from experience that they loosen up and feel better after a while, so I wasn't too concerned. During this loop, I entertained myself by saying a Rosary and then listening to music. I almost made it to the end of the loop before I was finally forced to turn on my headlamp. I think it was during this loop that I fell the first time. From the very beginning of this race, I used the "squirting my face with ice water from my bottle" technique I mastered during last month's race, to great effect.
Loop Two: 2:00
During this loop, I rolled my right ankle really hard. I was a bit worried afterward, because it really hurt, but I just kept moving, and it loosened up. The fact that this loop took me longer than the first, despite being shorter, shows how much I slowed down in the darkness by myself. It was about 10 degrees cooler than last year's race (I think it was about 92 or so this year), but it was humid. I didn't worry too much about losing time on this loop, because I knew that when I picked up Edward, my amazing pacer, for the last two loops, he would crack the whip and help me push myself. He knew my goal was to do under 8 hours, for a better time than last year.
Loop Three: 2:00
Edward was suited up and ready to go when I got into the start/finish aid station. I got ice in my bottles, grabbed my ziploc baggie with my gels for this loop, and we took off. It was great having someone to chat with in the dark. We told each other jokes, played categories, and talked about Cactus Rose 100 strategy. At one point, I got a little too caught up being "Chatty Cathy," and he reminded me to go faster by making really loud, quick stomping noises behind me. It worked. I thought we were doing better than a two hour pace for this loop, but as Edward reminded me, perceived effort this late into a race can be deceiving. I fell again on this loop, but fortunately landed on soft pine needles, so no harm done.
Loop Four: 1:56
After another quick stop at the start/finish aid station, where I got ice in my bottles and grabbed my last ziploc full of gels, we took off for the final time into the night. I sung a couple verses of "Waffle Tree," composed by the great Rachel Ballard. I fell once more -- this time, taking most of the fall on my shoulder and jarring it pretty badly. I think poor Ed got a bit frustrated with the serpentine, rocky nature of the singletrack when he tweaked his knee a bit. But he selflessly led me on -- this loop, he ran in front -- really pushing the pace whenever the trail was runnable.
At the first aid station (there are only two in each loop), I suggested that we skip the last aid station, to save some time. I really wanted to break 8 hours! So we cruised right on past it. The final two miles or so (I don't use GPS during races, so I'm estimating), Ed really pushed it, and I gave my everything to stay right behind him. I was so tired that the only thing that kept me pushing was saying the verse from Isaiah 40:31 over and over in my head: "But those who hope in the Lord will have their strength renewed. They will rise up on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary."
There's one final turn, to the left, to get back to the start/finish, and Edward sailed right past it. I shouted, "Left! Left!" Thank goodness one of us noticed, or we would've spent goodness knows how much longer lost in the woods! The final stretch to the finish is a downhill, and then a flat, and I sprinted as fast as I could (probably not very fast in reality, but it sure felt hard). The RD had to take a minute to double check that I was first female for the 60k. I was so happy to see my results up on the screen. After getting my medal, my next steps included giving myself a sponge bath in the visitor's center sink and then waiting until nearly dawn to cheer on our friends who were still out there.
I used my SJ vest, started with one bottle full of ice water and the other full of ice water + Nuun, and just continually refilled them with ice at aid stations. I started off taking a VFuel gel every 20 minutes, but at the start of the 3rd loop, Edward convinced me to start taking gels only every 30 minutes. My stomach was hurting a bit, and I was belching a lot. He was worried the burping indicated I was about to puke, although I assured him I've never puked while running. After the race, the guys gave me a hard time about taking 19 gels during a race. That doesn't seem too over the top, does it?? 1900 calories . . . 37 miles?
How I feel post-race:
My legs actually feel really good. My stomach hasn't settled down yet; it veers between ravenous and upset pretty quickly, to the point where I'll go make myself something to eat and then not feel like I can eat it after all. My lungs are feeling a bit uncomfortable when I take deep breaths. My right foot hurts from the hard roll taken by my ankle, and my right shoulder hurts from slamming down on it. But other than that, and a general tiredness, I feel great. Once again, double-socking it led to a total absence of blisters! And I didn't even get my usual back-chafing from my sports bra. Life is good.
|Me, losing "best pre-race hair" contest.|
|Me, winning "best pre-race weird face" contest.|