I fell back asleep and before I knew it, it was seven o'clock and time to get up. The rain had stopped and the weather report claimed only a 10% chance of rain during the race time. I chose to wear my running skirt, short sleeved shirt, and jacket. I figured if the rain held off, I wouldn't need to dress that warmly and, with all the hill climbing, I didn't want to overheat.
After a breakfast of oatmeal with half a banana, we jumped in the car and headed to Woodside.
PCTR's Woodside race holds a special place in my heart (which I talked about a few weeks ago), and I was looking forward to traversing those trails once again. It was even more special because this would be the first race that Ed and I would get to do "together". Yes, he was doing the 35k and would be going much faster than me, but our races started at the same time and would be traveling a lot of the same trails.
We picked up our numbers and then took shelter in the car until 15 minutes before the race start, as the rain continued to sprinkle down on us. I did a last minute switch into a long sleeved shirt underneath my jacket (great decision) and then we headed out to line up. I got to see my friend Sarah, who I hadn't seen in ages. She was running the 35k, just like Ed. Being faster, both Ed and Sarah moved their way up in the pack, while I edged backwards, content to seek out slower running folk. Wendell gave the traditional directions and then we were off!
From the first steps, mud made itself known as a constant companion on this race. From the muddy hillside to the sticky trails, it would be with us the whole time, sometimes sticky, sometimes slippery and always wet.
We all rushed down the hill, only to be brought to a standstill as we entered the singletrack. This beginning was, I think, the most memorable part of the race the first time around, and I still got a little bit of that feeling that I was embarking on an amusement ride of sorts, about to be launched down a fast and fun track.
As we got going again, I began to chat with the two women behind me, who were talking about running AR50. I forget how I entered into the conversation, but ended up telling them about Dick Collins (giving it a hearty recommendation) and talking a little bit in general about how elevation isn't all that scary if you just practice (the 7,000 + ft in DC had them a bit unsure about contemplating that race). We shifted into the more general small talk (where you from? what do you do? etc?) and just generally enjoyed a nice pace along this relatively flat section of the course. I also got something I didn't expect along this section - a compliment on my skirt! I ended up getting a few along the way, which surprised me. I didn't realize that I was making a fashion statement with my skirt :).
As the fireroad shifted from flat to uphill, we slowed to a brisk hike. It was here that I ended up meeting my running partner for the next several miles, Cally. She and I were going about the same pace (though she was doing the 35k) and it was great having the company on the steady uphill. We shared stories and histories, and she even gave me some advice about ways to try to deal with my leg.
However, as we got nearer to the summit, I felt ready to pick up the pace, surprisingly enough, and so we exchanged contact information and I went ahead. It felt good to be going a bit faster until I reached what felt like a wall - the singletrack had opened up to an incredibly steep fireroad, and it took all I had to hike up. I commiserated with a few other racers as we hoped for the trail to flatten.
Once we reached a more manageable steepness, we all picked up the pace again, and in not too long, we were finally at the aid station - the halfway point for me!
I looked with longing at the spread set before me, but that little voice in the back of my head reminded me that 10 miles wasn't really that long, and I didn't really need junk food calories. So, I chose 4 slices of orange, which was nice and refreshing, and then headed back, retracing my steps the quarter mile back to the fork, where I would get to go straight down an incredibly fun and thrilling downhill singletrack.
The next few miles flew by and I rocketed down the winding trail. The misty fog was hanging in the redwoods and I was drinking in the heady air with glee. I did have brief (well, maybe not so brief) moments of worry as I looked around for the potential mountain lion. However, I reasoned that no self respecting mountain lion would be out in such dreary weather when it could be curled up in a cozy cave somewhere. It helped that I passed a fellow racer at one point, so I didn't feel quite as alone.
I also had an embarrassingly selfish thought about that runner (which only serves to emphasize my psychosis when it comes to mountain lions) - the runner I passed was dressed head to toe in a beige tracksuit and my fearful mind told me that, if anything, his clothes made him look much more like a deer than me so, if the mountain lion had a choice, he would look much more tempting. I know, I'm a somewhat horrible person - please don't judge me too harshly! I promise I didn't really want him to be eaten :(.
As I continued my fast descent, I had a small moment of panic when I realized that I was enjoying myself so much, I had forgotten to keep my eye out for the bright pink ribbons that marked the race route. When was the last time I had seen one? I couldn't remember, and didn't see any in the near future. As I kept up my pace, I told myself that this downhill was so fun, even if it wasn't part of the course, I would just figure it out later. I had a map after all.
Thankfully, after a few more minutes, a bright spot of pink appeared in the distance, and I knew I was still on course. However, while I was happy to be going the right way, I wasn't happy when the downhill suddenly stopped. I didn't remember this from my 1st race here, but the ribbons affirmed that this was correct. Well, darn...I wasn't counting on doing any more uphill! Much to my relief, it didn't last that long and I eventually got back to the downhill once again.
With all this pounding, my legs were beginning to feel it. I hoped that it wasn't much further, but my Garmin claimed I still had over 2 miles ahead. I tried to keep up the pace, and eventually saw another racer on the trail ahead. She was going a good pace herself, but I soon caught up. I stayed with her for a few minutes as we chatted. She told me she thought we had less than a mile left, and I didn't want to break the bad news to her that it was much further, according to my GPS. I said goodbye and, just when I was just about to slow down, I saw something amazing.
Cars. A whole row of them! Wait, was I really seeing the parking above the finish? Indeed I was. I started smiling as I realized that my Garmin had lied and I was about to finish my longest run in years. As I speeded towards the finish, I gave a smile to the camera and said hi to Hao, yelling hello as I passed and then, that was it, I was done.
After I crossed the finish (in 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 2 seconds), I slowed to a stop and milled around the finish, picking up my shirt and taking in the scene. It was still drizzly and I started getting cold. I knew it would probably be a while until Ed finished, so I headed back to the car, where I changed into a dry shirt and sweatshirt, and curled up in the car with a few jackets over me and a good book.
Less than an hour later, Ed arrived, happy with his own race (4th place!!!) though a little put out that I wasn't at the finish to cheer him in. If only it hadn't been so wet and cold!
We drove back home, contented and exhausted, having given our best efforts to the trails.
The conversation on the way home?
Our next race. Looks like we'll be racing together next month at Pirate's Cove :)
Our very muddy legs post race :). You can tell that we had fun!