It was an intimidating start. I wasn't feeling 100%, the field was small, and the course was tough. I dreaded finishing in last place, or worse yet, not finishing at all. Both were distinct possibilities in my mind as I stood with the small crowd at the start line at 6:29 am, waiting for the race director to countdown to "1... and then, GO!" Fifty miles can seem like an eternity when you're in a bad frame of mind. But my coach, Lisa Smith-Batchen, was at the finish line, and I could not envision quitting in her presence. The woman would kill me.
"3...2...1..." And we were off. The course is comprised of two identical 25-mile loops. The first part of the course goes up what is called Fred's Mountain. It's a doozy of a climb up steep, rocky single-track trail. But, it was a beautiful morning and the views were gorgeous. Once I got into the race, all my anxiety melted away. The runners around me were chatting away about this and that. I cheerfully listened on as I ran.
After Fred's, it's pretty much all downhill. You work your way to the bottom of the canyon and then you make your way back up to the top for the next 25 miles. I made the big mistake of hammering the first part. The course is very runable, but, you need to pace yourself if you're going to hold out for the second loop. But, I wasn't thinking about things like that. I was having fun. Eventually, I put my iPod on and was grooving to some tunes. I was passing people. Life was good.
By the time I got to mile 25, I was in the lead pack. Not good. Lisa screamed at me to "slow down!" By that time, my quads were kind of shot. And all I could think about was going up that damn mountain again. Slowing down would not be an issue. I was deflated.
The second climb up Fred's was grueling. The trail going up seemed never-ending. My brain kept going, "This is brutal." I kept saying that over and over in my mind: "this is brutal... this is brutal." Then, I realized how negative up my thinking was. If you think something is going to be awful, it probably will be awful. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, I changed my thinking. Trite as it may sound, I instead repeated the words, "This is beautiful." And, dammit, it worked. I got over the mountain.
The rest of the run is sort of a blur. I fell down a couple of times and skinned my finger. That hurt. I got nipple chaffing. (NOTE TO SELF: duct tape is not the answer to this particular issue). But, overall I was satisfied with my performance. I finished in 13 hours and change. Not a PR, but I'll take it. When I reached that finish line, it was - as is the case with most of my big race finishes - all I could do from gobbling down every and any food item in sight!