I had some personal goals going into this race, but ultimately my long term goal was to not be destroyed at the end so that I could resume my training. This was a training run for me, but a training run where I wanted to push a bit if I could and see how the body responded. Going into Saturday, I wasn't nervous. It was just another run for me. I didn't sleep that much the night prior as having a newborn in the house doesn't allow for sleep.
Race day here. I met up with Trailmomma and our friend drove us to the starting line. Once at the starting line, we had no clue what the weather was going to do. All week I had been watching the weather reports, one day it called for rain, another day thunder showers, and another possible showers. I didn't really know what to wear, so I brought a few extra layers just in case the skies opened up, but didn't need them as it felt like it would be warm day.
At the starting line at Magnolia parking lot I could feel the energy. There were about 180 or so racers. Anthony gave us a pre race briefing, basically saying if you get lost it is your own fault as the course is well marked. And just like that we were off and running. I was warned by many people to take it easy during the first half of the course. If not I could pay for it during the second half. I kept that in mind as I tried to find a good position on the fire road. Soon we hit the creek crossing and started our first climb of the day. I ran some and hiked most of it keeping a steady leg turn over. Trailmomma was right in front of me and looking strong. She had been training hard for this race and I could tell during our long runs how much power she had developed and many runners told me "She is like a billy goat going up that hill." I heard this a lot during the race from other races.
Of course what goes up must go down, we hit the first descent and many runners opened it up. I resisted the urge to fly down knowing we had a long ways to go. It was too early in the day to destroy the legs so I let others fly past me. It was here that I paused for a second and looked around at the beauty of this course and area. It was amazing how lush and green everything was. Soon I was at the base of the hill and slowly starting to climb again. This would be a constant theme throughout the race, up and down up and down. Again Trailmomma took off like a billy goat. I couldn't keep up with her. As we neared the top and started the long descent to our first aid station Trailmomma said that she needed to use the restroom. I told her to run ahead and I will meet her at the aid station. She took off. She was gone. All I saw was a small speck in the distance. I made my way to the aid station and once there noticed just how far the restroom was and looked down the trail to see Traillmomma high tailing it back to the aid station. She explained to me that it was just too far and she would wait.
I chuckled and we were off to the longest climb of the day Pedro Hill. I have climbed Pedro Hill, and it is a nice steady climb, I also took in some calories as I had only garbed a handful of chips at the aid station. My legs never felt loaded and I kept a steady turnover, even running some of the hill with Trailmomma. From here I pretty much have run the course and knew what to expect in the coming miles. I hit the top of Pedro Hill and Trailmomma and I started the descent. Here I backed off a bit and Trailmomma gained a nice lead on me. I knew that she wanted to push herself, so when she pushed here I let her go. I wasn't ready to push the pace.
Soon enough Trailmomma and I reconnected, I could tell she was focused. She wasn't talking much and I was OK with that. We would chit chat a bit here and there but overall not much. I was feeling pretty good and as we neared aid station #2, I heard "Their is the new momma." Hearing that brought a huge smile to my face. All day long I heard how cute my son was, which just brightened my day and made me smile ear to ear. I thanked Paul with a hug and enjoyed some more chips as Trailmomma and I made our way to aid station #3, where I knew my son and wife would be waiting. That was my driving force, that was my motivation all day.
During this stretch, Trailmomma really opened it up and started to push hard. I couldn't keep up with her. I power hiked as hard as I could but she kept gaining ground on me. She had really perfected her power hike and all her hard work in training was paying off. I settled back and focused. I focused on keeping a nice and steady pace, power hiking when I thought best and running where needed. Here I started to feel a bit off and decided I should take in a few calories. I continued on power hiking and running through the ups and downs and smooth rolling single track, and soon I had arrived at Red Dragon.
Red Dragon is gnarly descent. It twist and turns just as a dragon does. It has super sharp turns and feels like it goes on forever. On the descent I had the urge to use the bathroom, only there wasn't anywhere to step off of the trail. I would have to wait until I reached Salmon Falls aid station. The descent was hard on me and my stomach. I slowly made my way down and kept thinking "Oh I hope I make it." It was going to be close. Soon I reached the bottom and crossed the bridge and saw Trailmomm's family who cheered me on and I made my way to the aid station.
As I popped out of the single track trail and into the parking lot I quickly made my way to the restroom. I had to go and go I did. I felt so much better after that pit stop. A weight had been lifted per say. Once this duty was completed I made my way to my family who was waiting for me with a big orange sign and of course my banana. My wife and son were there and I had arrived right on time. I took a quick photo with my son, kissed my wife and Trailmomma and I were on our way.
13 miles completed and I was feeling pretty good. We crossed the bridge and made our way up the road chit chatting and enjoying the day together. As we hit the single track of the Sweet Water Trail System Trailmomma took off and I couldn't keep up. I was feeling a bit low on energy and my legs weren't responding. I knew I had to take care of myself so I took in a gel. Not long, I started to feel a bit better. This single track trail is super runnable and I was frustrated at myself for messing up my fueling. But once my fuel kicked in and I started to make up some ground.
Long day crewing for Mom!
While climbing I finished my snack and could feel the Pepsi kicking in and quickly caught up to Trailmomma. I was feeling better then when I arrived at the aid station as I do believe by now I was behind on my calories. A mistake I know. Together we were making our way to New York Creek Crossing. The trail is rolling along and I could tell from Trailmomma's form that she was feeling strong.
This stretch we focused and talked about our family and how exciting it was to see them, when out of nowhere I see her family. Vans and her kids had made their way down to New York Creek Crossing and had surprised us. That was an exciting moment and really boosted my spirits and Trailmomma's as well. In fact I think this gave her what she needed. After seeing them she was a different runner and I couldn't keep up with her. I was able to keep her in my sights. We were working together during this stretch, at one point I would be in the lead pulling us along and then Trailmomma would take the lead and pull us. I couldn't wait to see the next aid station as I wanted some more coke.
We arrived at the aid station and down 2 cokes, look over at Trailmomma and see the best thing ever. Payday's. She is enjoying a payday. I quickly scan the table and find them. I grab 2 look at trailmomma and we both start to hit the trail again, while others stuck around. We started hiking and finished up our snack. We had put some distance on the runners at the aid station, but I could hear them coming. We picked the pace up a bit and started to cruise. It was during this stretch that Trailmomma asked me how many more aid stations. I responded very quickly and assured her we had 2 more aid stations. She didn't believe me, but also didn't question me. Here I am thinking we have 9 more miles to go. 9 miles.
We cruised along, running more and more of the rollers. I was on a mission and pushed myself to remain steady but run more of the rollers. Trailmomma took the lead and out of nowhere she had this sudden burst of energy. She was gone, I couldn't respond. I focused on a nice and steady turnover, run that roller, keep going. Push, push, push. I could see the aid station and as I neared it it was Fleet Feet. I arrived to some loud cheering gave Dan a hug and guzzeled some coke. I quickly pointed to the sign on the table and said to Trailmomma, "See 3.47 to the next aid." 6 more miles is what I am thinking. She quickly says "3.47 to THE FINISH!" I respond "No, 3.47 to next aid." Then Debbie and Annabelle who were both voluntering look at me and say "No, you have 3.47 to the Finish." I and dumbfounded, really. I look at Debbie and quickly say can you take my pretzles, I can get by on coke them. She laughs and does. I guzzle some more coke and Trailmomma and I are both off. Thank you girls for the help.
3.47 sounded so much better then 6 miles to go. I apologized to Trailmomma. I had no clue where I thought we had 2 more aid stations, I guess my math didn't add up. This last stretch we have both been on numerous times. My legs were tired and I was ready to be done. 3.47 we got this is what I kept thinking. Trailmomma took the lead and I just tucked in behind her knowing that with each step forward was another step closer to the finish. I could see the levee. As we descended down to the levee I shout out "hey, that's Tigger T." Trailmomma's friend had come out and surprised us by being on the levee. We quickly gave hugs and said thanks for being there and that we would see her at the finish. A great surprise.
The levee never ended. I could see the finish line and I could hear the finish line. So instead of focusing on the finish line, I focused on the runner ahead of me. Our pace quickened but it felt like we were not making any progress. We were gaining on the runner and slowly passed him. Soon we made that right turn on to the single track trail that would take us to the finish line. Trailmomma got a burst of energy and I knew she had a strong kick. I couldn't let her get to far ahead of me, but I also couldn't kick as early as her. I had to time it just right. She kicked and I kicked a little, I was gaining. I can catch her, I kicked a bit more, I was so close. I could hear Anthony saying "Look, we have Trailmomma and Pigeon, training partners coming into the finish line." So close I was to her. She crossed the first mat and it looked like she slowed down a bit, I kicked only finaly time, I pushed as hard as I could gaining, when I hear Anthony "Oh no, Pigeon is catching you." and trailmomma pushes hard to the finish line. She crosses one second in front me. I almost caught her. What a finish. When we hit the homestretch we put on a strong finish. We were both smiling from ear to ear and laughing a bit about the strong finish. Way to get it done!
Finished!!! Laughing, just as it should be
Thank you to everyone along the course who cheered and said encouraging words to me. Thank you to my wife and son, who put up with my training and for encouraging me to sign up for this race. It was a great day made even better because I was able to spend the day doing something I love with people I love. Until next time, Run Happy as trailmomma would say!
Go Here To Read About Trailmomma's experience and for pictures!!