The Siskiyou Outback is a long race, and a much bigger deal than the credit I gave it leading up to race day. I had no idea what I was getting into. Thank God, I have some self-restraint. The evening before the race, everyone went to bed early... I was staying with a friend (who convinced me to do this crazy thing), and around 10 o'clock, I was really feeling the need to talk with someone from home - family. Somewhat for reassurance about the run (my Mom is a runner, too), but also just to talk with someone back home. You see, the week before the race, my Grandma passed away, and although I knew the service would happen when I returned home, I was still missing that time spent with loved ones, bonding and remembering. I was playing tough when I really just wanted to wander down memory lane and let the tears and laughter flow.
But by golly, I had paid for this race, run three weekend-absorbing, 26 mile "training-runs" and spent over 45 hours during the previous two months running on trails, in the sun, and hitting the pavement at all hours of the day to meet the demands of this schedule. I had a plane to catch and I would be on it. My family was very encouraging and urged me to go, so Thursday evening, thirteen hours after clinging to my cousins in a group hug while we watched Grandma transition, I was at the airport, taking my shoes off, and placing my baggie of travel toiletries in the grey, plastic bucket on the conveyor belt.
My friends and I stayed in a beautiful house outside of Jacksonville on a hill. ... Maybe you could call it a small mountain. The view was spectacular:
By race morning, I had pulled myself together. My wits were somewhat about me, and at 4am I was eating breakfast, drinking coffee, and putting together my pack with the water bladder for the first time. Yes. For the first time, EVER, on a run I carried a water backpack. I'll tell you now, honestly, it was the best decision I have EVER made. I carried the Mountain Hardware Fluid™ Race VestPack, with no discomfort, chaffing, and I was able to carry water, two small bottles with Nuun Strawberry-Leomnade electrolyte (another thing I had never tried on a long run), 7 Cliff Shot Mocha (my favorite) & 3 Honey Stinger Gold Classic Gels, three food bars, a hat, and my gloves (also emergency TP). So, counting those things up... at least two NEW to try on the longest race of my life.
What can I say? I'm a rule-breaker.
Oh, and before dawn, the sky looked like this:
We all piled in the car just before 5am so we would have a little time at the start for Bib pick-up, potty-stops, and disrobing to bag-check. We were on top of a mountain. I couldn't believe the view:
Who wouldn't want to stare at this at 6 o'clock in the morning? Needless to say, I was happy I got up, and thrilled I signed up for this race (thanks, friend!).
When the race began, for the first time in all of the races I have attended, I was not nervous. Moments before the start, I ran into my friends from the Newport race! I was so happy to see them, I nearly missed the starting countdown! My friends were up ahead of me, and I let them take off without me. For this race, speed was not a goal; finishing was where my sights were set.
So I started out easy. Taking in the beautiful scenery:
The trail went on forever...! I knew I was running nearly 32 miles, yet there did come a time when I began to wonder how far I was from finishing...
By the time I reached this grass-filled field, it was hot. The temperature was hot, the air was dry, people were suffering heat-stroke and dehydration, and I kept plodding along, slow and steady.
When I finally reached the road where we started the race at mile 1, I knew we were close. Since this last bit was a measure of a climb, I took it easy and let myself walk slowly up the hill to the top. Up ahead, there was a man, also taking his time coming up the hill. I realized my pace was a little faster than his, and caught up to him about 50 feet from the crest. We chatted, and when we came up to the top, I let him know I was going to start to "trot" on in nearer to the finish. He said: "me too" and took off at a quicker stride than I wanted to muster at that point in time. I hollered after him, "You go, guy! I know you're going to cross that finish before me!" And suddenly, there it was: I saw the finish line just around the bend. Music was blaring. And I wanted that finish line.
I took off; how I had a sprint left in me after plodding across the distance on trails over rocks, up and down hills with a grade I'd rather not dwell on, I do not know. As I quickly came up alongside my friend from the last hill, he glanced at me with a little shock, and abruptly increased his speed. We ran, neck in neck, to the finish, both grinning ear-to-ear. I was delighted to be able to inspire a little speed out of a fellow 50k runner. So happy to have met you at the end! I don't know if I would have kicked as hard without the friendly competition.
After the race, the shoes came off... it was time to rest, eat good food, and relax.
... And shower. :) Never have my legs been a color other than what nature gave me, after a race; that day they were dirt brown. All that dust on the trail certainly has a way of finding its way between the toes...!
Overall, I feel good about my results. I finished. And I felt good crossing that line. I never felt nauseous (despite new hydration methods), had no chaffing problems (despite the new bag), and kept moving the whole race. I was smiling, happy, and energized! (Previously, at the finish of a marathon I have been grumpy and irritable. This is a vast improvement). So, after finishing with a time of 7:40:40, as 194/208 runners in the 50k (27/30 in my age group), I can say I am not fast, but I finished strong. After my pre-race comments of "after this race, I need a break," I am certainly look forward to training for the next one. (And I am excited about a new challenge: Yoga teacher training!)
Here is to happy running - regardless of speed, rank, or time. :) Get outside, and enjoy! ~Alaina