Let me give away the ending by telling you that this was not my fastest 10 miles – not by a longshot! – but it was easily one of my favorite races of all time. Why? Well, lemme tell you all about it:
Our story actually begins many, many months ago when UltraIronHubs was trolling the internet for his first 100-mile race a mere five days after completing his first 50 (and, sadly, about a week before plantar fasciitis stole his ability to run anything). He found the Cool Moon 100, a local-ish race with 100-mile, 12-hour, 6-hour and 10-mile options. The 100-mile race is 10 laps of the 10-mile course, the six- and 12-hour runners complete as many laps as they can in the allotted time and the 10-mile runners just do one loop. He signed up for the 10-miler with the idea of scouting out the course before running the full 100 next year. An excellent plan…until he couldn’t run anymore.
Over the past two weeks or so, it had become increasingly obvious that UIH wasn’t going to be able to run this race. He considered doing a walk/run (mostly walk), but even walking ten miles sounded like too much stress for his poor PF. He emailed the incredibly nice RD about transferring his bib to me and she agreed, so – voila! – a ten-mile race suddenly appeared on my training schedule!
Stubborn little monkey that I am, I didn’t adjust my Rock’n River 50 training plan to accommodate the extra ten miles this week, even though it was already a build week with a planned 20 mile long run the day before the race. Nor did I think to adjust my client training schedule, which included a week-long Fit Camp every evening (and the necessary “extra” workouts that a boot camp requires to run well). So there I arrived at the starting line, wrapping up my highest volume training week – EVER – on less than five hours of sleep and sore, tired legs. This totally could have been a recipe for disaster, but – again with the spoilers! – I managed to “cook up” a great race. *groan*
We arrived about 5:30, I picked up my bib and race goodies, hit the porto and stood around trying to pretend like I wasn’t nervous. Have you ever been at the starting line of a 100 mile race? I – the veteran of a half dozen marathons and winner of a few AG awards – felt completely, utterly and stunningly outclassed by these runners. I felt fat. I felt like a poser, a newbie, a fancy city girl about to get her shoes dirty for the first time. My “Oh, I ran 20 miles yesterday so my legs are tired” excuse wasn’t going to fly here – these runners eat 20-milers for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Yikes.
As we were waiting for 6 o’clock, I was trying to figure out where exactly the race was going to start. They were putting together what looked like a start/finish arch with a sign from the race management company, but I had no clue which way we might go from there. Thankfully, the RD gathered us up for some surprisingly thorough last-minute instructions. I felt pretty good about not getting lost, and then off we went!
I’m learning to love the laid-back vibe of trail races and man, an ultra is a whole ‘nuther level of mellow! I’ve never seen such a relaxed start. The guy who eventually won the whole thing and one woman who had already announced to anyone who would listen that today was her first trail race both took off like rabbits, but the rest of us just sort of started trotting and then eventually worked up to the speed we were looking for. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people passed me and many of them probably completed the entire 100 miles at a pace I could really only sustain for my 10 (or faster), but nobody was crowding and jostling for a good position the way you see in shorter races.
I didn’t dare take my eyes off the trail to take pictures on the downhill portions, which were definitely the most technical I’ve run. Thankfully, the worst of the hills – both up and down – were over in just a few miles. I imagine that when you run the full hundred the best strategy would be to walk that entire 2 – 3 mile stretch of hills to conserve energy and minimize the possibility of a fall. The other seven miles were very, very manageable hill-wise.
Around Mile 2, I started chatting with a nice guy who was telling me about the Tahoe Rim Trail 100-miler that he DNF’d due to altitude sickness at Mile 56 just two weeks earlier. He mentioned that he was really beating himself up about it and knew he needed to run another 100 as soon as possible (which was how he ended up at the Cool Moon). I had to chuckle. Ultra runners are the only people crazy enough to think of running “only” 56 miles as a failure. I got his point, though, and I sure hope his race went well for him.
I talked with quite a few of the other runners during the race and in fact, ran the entire second half with an incredibly nice woman who had been running more or less my pace since the start. I struck up a conversation with her because of a poster she had attached to the back of her backpack:
Linnea Lomax is a local young woman who has been missing for six weeks and my new running friend is very close to the family. Her despair was palpable during our conversation. The investigation has led the family to believe Linnea is still alive. You can learn more and help the family through their website: HelpFindLinnea.org
We chatted about Linnea, of course, and running, and our goals for the day and a surprising variety of other topics. Having somebody to talk to really made the miles fly by and before I knew it, we were rounding the last corner for the… well, there wasn’t an actual Finish Line, but I came to a halt, turned off my Garmin and checked in my bib number at the reg table. Hooray! I was done!
According to my Garmin, I finished the 10 mile loop in 1:58:45, with an average pace of 11:56/mile. Since I’ve never run a 10 mile race before, I am thrilled and happy to report that this was a PR effort! YAY!
So many different factors went into making this one of the best races I’ve ever run:
- The course was absolutely fantastic. It was challenging without being brutal, and the scenery was ever-changing. We ran across grassy hills, over rocky creekbeds, around the rim of a deep ravine, past babbling brooks, over cute wooden footbridges, on one short section of paved road, and near a quiet pond. There was something new to see at every mile, rather than dirt and more dirt as sometimes happens on trail runs.
- It was the best-marked trail I’ve ever run. Despite many twists and turns and overcrossing of other paths, I never once wondered if I was going the right way. Marker ribbons were very frequent and easily spotted. In fact, the RD used a different type of ribbon to alert runners to an upcoming change of direction, which I thought was freaking brilliant. I made a point of thanking the RD after the race because I was so impressed with the marking.
- The weather was perfect. We had just endured a week in the high 90s and low 100s, but race day dawned with high clouds, a slight breeze and temps in the 60s. I couldn’t have asked for anything nicer than that!
- I felt really, really good the whole time. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do on race day about an upset stomach or tired legs, but yesterday was one of those runs that just felt GOOD. I kept my effort level pretty even and certainly didn’t have any time goals, so apparently my body decided to reward me. My legs feel less sore today than they did at the start yesterday.
- The schwag. Yes, I know it makes me sound shallow, but OMG, I’ve never seen a race bag so packed full of amazing stuff!
More Hammer products than you could shake a stick at, a women’s-specific technical shirt, a Headsweats hat, and the most beautiful (and HUGE!) painted ceramic medal. Seriously, a finisher’s medal for a 10-mile race? Yes, please!
Though I’m not putting a 100-miler on my race docket any time in the foreseeable future, I will definitely be back to run one of the distances again next year. Probably the 6-hour, but maybe I’ll be ready to tackle the 12-hour, who knows?