July 25, 2009 - I first signed up for the Rock Creek Race series, which consists of 4 trail races over the course of about 8 months, in March. The third race just happened to be the same day as the SSG Adventure Race, which I promised my neice, Kellsey, I would do with her. And yes, I do love adventure races. I don't think it is any crazier than what some of my friends were doing that day - running a 50 mile race. I figure I covered about the same distance with just a little different approach.
Arrangements had been made to have my girls out Friday night to Sunday morning with their dad. I started by consuming a very yummy steak, potato and asparagus the night before the big day. Up at 5:00am for coffee, oatmeal and some juice and then out the door with Kellsey on our way to Perry State Park. Once there, the atmosphere was a little ominous with an approaching thunderstorm but it soon cleared up.
So we had three legs to complete and we could do them in any order but we had to come back and check in after each leg of the race. We decided to run/trek first which involved following a map to get a series of checkpoints. When you find a check point, you have to punch it on your passport with the punch located at the site and in the right square on the passport. Fresh out of the gate we made our first mistake, which I still think the map was misleading but none the less others found their way. However, we were not the only ones who went the wrong way at this point. Long story short, we ran a little over 3 miles out of the way and so we had to run back to get on track. We did take a shortcut through a hay field and skirted along a tree line in order to get back to the first checkpoint.
We then cut through the woods and all the time I was looking up to keep oriented and when I looked down, I realized we were right smack dab in the middle of a poison ivy patch with no end in sight. Not much one can really do about that now and I was pretty sure I was not allergic to it as I have never had a reaction to it. So I guess this is yet another test. Onward we foraged through weeds and brush and a small creek. We eventually made it onto a trail and managed to get out on the road only to find we had passed the checkpoint. Back we went and into the woods through a very deep, thick mud pit that sank us mid calf but we found the checkpoint. Back through the mud and out on the road again and off to the next check point. The next two check points were somewhat easy to find but were still a lot of trekking through mud and muck to get to. We each sucked down a Gu and more water and off we went.
With our last check point of the running leg, we headed back to the transition area where we checked in and headed to the lake for the canoeing or paddling leg of the race. We grabbed our stuff and the canoe and trodded off to the lake. Once in the canoe, I was relieved to give the legs a little break but the continuous rowing started to wear down the back, shoulder and arm muscles. It felt like we would never get there. Once at the check point, I got out, punched the passport and back into the canoe to paddle back to the point where we started. We lugged the canoe out of the lake and up the hill to the check in gal and then back up, up, up to the transition area. Once we checked in there, I changed shoes and we geared up for the mountain biking leg.
Off we went out on the road and across to the Rock Creek bike trails. The first check point was at the trail head and now we just needed 2 more check points. We each sucked down another Gu and more water from our hydration packs. I examined the map and compared it to the one on the board and figured the check points were on Great White and Skyline. We started on Skyline and rode for awhile, stopped to check the map and then kept going. Walla...we found it. I was feeling pretty good at this point and figured we might actually have a shot a winning even with our error. So we rode for quit awhile on what we thought was Great White when we came to a convergence of 3 trails. We stopped and pulled out the map and was trying to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go when I looked up to see Willie Lambert marking the trail for the night run that I would be doing in a little over 8 hours.
So we were getting ready to go to where we thought we needed to go, even though we felt like we should have already passed the other check point when 3 other all female teams came up on us. Two had just gotten the check point we were looking for and sent us back and told us it was tricky. The other team also needed the same check point. We rode back to where they said it was, got off our bikes and hiked down to another trail. We trekked up and down the trail and we never found it. We went back to get our bikes to bring them down and the other team just kept looking on foot. We met up with an all male team and they headed off to Wild West to find it. We went back down to see that the other team had found the check point and told us its down there and pointed. We rode down and back and all around and never did find the little sucker. Realizing we were getting close to the cut off time and that we were in no way going to win now, I told Kellsey that we just needed to head out and maybe we'll see it on the way out. We rode and rode and rode and .... you get the picture.
Frustration began to settle in but I realized that I just love to ride the trails and how much fun it is just to be competing. It is fun to push the body and get sweaty and muddy and bloody and all scarred up. Yes this is fun and even though we won't be taking home a trophy, we still had our pride. We finally came out of the trail system and off we went to the finish. One big, very big hill was yet in our way. I didn't want to trash the legs any more as I wanted to fair well in the night race later in the day. We came up on the hill and I geared down to 1 1 and it went slow but the legs never fatigued. I do believe we finished right at the cut off time of 5 hours.
On an endorphin high, we headed home for grub and rest. Once home, I ate a little, took a dip in the pool, slept for an hour and then grubbed some more. When I woke up I was not feeling it. I considered not running but thought maybe the food would soon kick in and that I at least needed to go. A combination of the grub and some energizing beverages and up beat music had me going by the time I arrived. I was a little stiff and sore but none the less I felt pretty good. I was signed up to run the 30K but decided to drop down to the 10K for obvious reasons and I am so glad I did. I started off fast for me but I really wanted to push myself now that my health seemed to be getting better. At about 9 minutes in my legs began to feel it but I decided to push through it and not slow down. I maintained my speed and soon the legs felt fine again and I suddenly had a little giddy up in my go so I went with it. I caught up with a small group and ran with them for a bit but as I walked the up hills and they didn't, they slowly pulled away from me.
I suddenly began to want the aid station as I felt I needed a little pick me up. It was getting dark now and I needed the head lamp. I finally came up on the aid station and the group that I was trying to hang with didn't stop and just kept going. I stopped for some Heed and a short break. Off I went again and felt a little sluggish but I knew I had to be about 4 miles in and wanted to finish strong so I reached down inside me and kicked it up a notch even though the body didn't want to. I told myself to feel the pain and deal with it. I have come to realize the only way we can get through pain is to really feel it and deal with it. That is something that transfers over into life as well. So I just ran and I began to hit some down hills and I oh so love down hills. However, they are a little different in the dark of the night. I stumbled a half a dozen times but managed to remain verticle.
Soon I came up on the group (a little strung out now) that I was running with earlier. I passed them one by one and made my through the night on my own running faster than normal and feeling absolutely awesome. I kept telling myself, "They are coming to pass you. Run faster!" Self talk got me through and up the big hill to the finish line where people were cheering and ringing the cow bell. I finished strong and felt great. I know it was only a 10K but for me I felt a huge accomplishment and very proud to push myself to a faster pace. I managed to take first place in the women's master division and for that I was happy. Getting older does have its privileges. Not too shabby for this older but wiser woman.
I hung out and grubbed and drank margaritas and a couple of beers. I chatted with Jim, Lisa, MK, Renee, Deb Johnson and others and eventually found myself helping out at the finish line while the 20K and 30K runners finished up. I hit a wall and decided it was time for me to get home and to bed as I had a birthday party to organize, a house to clean and a yard to mow the next day. I crawled into bed at 2:00am and thought about my friends who ran their 50 mile race that day and wondered how it all went for them. Will I do that someday? Only time will tell:)