One great blessing was the weather. While leading up to the event it was very windy and warm, this particular day the winds weren’t too bad (15-20mph) and the temps were ideal, starting out in the 60s and topping out in the mid-70s. I am so thankful it wasn’t 90+ that day!
As most trail runs go, it was a 5-4-3-2-1 countdown and we were off. We had about a half mile until we got onto Centennial trail. I had no idea what pace to aim for or how to go out so I just did what I thought was comfortable and could keep up with. I wasn’t in a rush and knew I’d definitely have to walk. My goal I gave my crew was 3:30-4 hours finish time. I did not want to finish last, but as my husband told me, SOMEONE has to finish last.
It is probably worth mentioning that prior to the event, the race director sent us a few updates on the trail. I appreciate a sense of humor and he certainly has one! The only bad news was that as the trails were being kept us, some reconstruction added on a bit of mileage to the run. I was mentally prepared for about 18+ miles and that seemed so far to me, 19+ was like insane!
I had looked at the elevation map in advance to kind of mentally prepare for what we were in for. I was walking before we hit mile one. I tried to follow the cues of those around me and advice from my friends who ran this already. I did not want to burn out too quickly. The first four or so miles were up hill for the most part. But then we hit some serious downhill. I love to run downhill but this was steeper down than I had expected and much rockier. I wanted to make up for lost time but the terrain kept me from going all out. There were large rocks and you just really had to watch where you stepped so you didn’t roll an ankle. I tripped many, many times over rocks and tree stumps.
At this point I was feeling great. I had no idea where I was at in the pack but that wasn’t a concern. I got to the first aid station and saw Dave was already there (my new friend). I ate a few pieces of watermelon and a half a cookie from the varied display of food the volunteers had on hand – you guys rock! I think I drank one cup of water. I didn’t want to linger too long so took off with Dave right behind me. I told him I thought we were in for another hill if I remembered the map correctly. Sure enough, we did some walking and climbing. Once it finally evened out, I took off running with Dave behind me.
The views are absolutely stunning but it was hard to take it all in since my eyes were on the path. I felt really strong at this point and like I could just run forever (we were on a nice, long down stretch). While the trees and switchbacks made it hard to see anyone in front of or behind me, I had Dave’s bright orange shirt (meeting Dave before the run above) in view at all times.
The trail was really varied. Rocks, sand, deep path, tall grass, narrow, we encountered it all. Things kind of opened up towards the next and last aid station. We were more of in a field type setting instead of a forest. We had to go through a tunnel under a road and for me it really threw me off and made me dizzy/queasy. Throughout the run, we were passing others who were doing other mileages. At one point, we passed a couple and she cheered us on and said hey, first female to me. I thought she was perhaps suffering from exhaustion. Soon, we came up to the 2nd aid station and they confirmed I was the first female for the 30k. I was stunned and also pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to hold on. I was beginning to get tired and this was at about mile 14 maybe? Again, I took some watermelon and a cup of water. As we ate, another female I remember seeing on the course came up to the aid station.
Again, just a quick stop and we continued along up another hill. There was a lot of walking and it seemed steep and sunny. I could feel the beginning of a struggle inside my head. I did my best to power walk up the hills and just keep moving. I would say that I made it pretty strong until mile 16. At or around this point, Dave moved past me. I told myself to keep his orange shirt it my eye view. He kept getting further out though.
Above with my fit friend, Karen from Zap, ND.
Probably around mile 17, that 2nd place female passed me. I was okay with that. I wasn’t in this to win or even place. A very short time later, another female passed me out of nowhere. I don’t remember seeing her. I was mentally and physically beat and pretty upset with myself at that point. I vowed not to let anyone else pass me.
At this point my whole body hurt. My hips felt like they were going to split apart. I told myself to run for a quarter mile and then I could walk. I think I made it like .05 and I’d walk. I couldn’t decide of walking or running hurt worse. At mile 18, I was close to town and it was pretty flat so I could see far ahead of me. I knew where I needed to head and I had seen Dave way up there and he was probably finished at this point. There was another tunnel and I also hated that – not sure why these really messed with me.
To be honest, I wanted to cry. I had been the lead woman for 16 miles (although I didn’t know it) and it slipped from me in the last 3 miles. I was really disappointed with myself. BUT, I tried to change my mind around that I was still on track to finish under 4 hours and my family was waiting for me I knew. It was really hard to change my mind that way though.
The finish is in the park and you run along the sidewalk until you finish. Pretty soon, I saw Dave coming towards me as I was walking and he ran and told me to finish strong and he ran with me. I totally started crying. It meant so much to me to have this stranger push me to run to the finish. I heard my family before I saw them. Dave stepped off the course to let me finish. I ran through and immediately sat down and took off my shoes I think? I can’t even remember. Haha. It was pretty warm and I wanted some water so my sister got that for me. I just wanted to sit for a bit.
Just a minute or two later, my new Nebraska friend, Mackenzie (above) crossed the finish line so it was fun to cheer for her. She looked strong on her finish. We both sat and recovered and finally made our way to get some Sturgis brewed beer to celebrate. We hung out for about an hour or so to regroup and watch our friends finish. I thanked Dave again on my way out. What a guy!
There were no showers and we had checked out of our hotel so we went to the community rec center and paid $5 to shower. Best $5 ever. This really gave me life again. I chugged a few liters of water and we made our way to go eat. I said goodbye to my new friends and now follow them on social media.
Here are my Garmin stats:
3:44:32 finish | 19.26 miles | 2,335 ft gain, 3,610 ft loss | 11:30 pace
In retrospect, I didn’t let anyone else pass me. Awards were the next day and I was/still am shocked that I got third female overall. BUT, I am proud that I finished within my goal time and I am so happy my family was there supporting me. I’m not sure if I am still on a runners high or what but this was one of my greatest adult accomplishments. Sure, college graduations were nice but school was kind of always easy for me. Marriage has been fun but also, it was easy to fall in love and get married. Moving and jobs are great, but expected. This is something I worked for on my own, making my own weird training schedule by looking online and finishing. Sure, I wish some things were different but it is what it is! That post-race high is real!
My take aways:
- I have to figure out how to fuel during long runs. I SUCK at this and never take in nearly enough calories or water. I don’t feel like eating or drinking but know I’d be stronger if I had more than some watermelon and two cups of water. Fail. I am fairly certain I got dehydrated that day.
- A 30k was a long ways. Of course, someone says – marathon next? I think I’m OK with half marathons or shorter distances. I’m not sure I have the commitment to a full marathon training. I enjoy other workouts/variety a lot…but never say never.
- Those down hills were real. I tripped so many times – other runners even questioned if I was OK. My quads were sore for two days afterwards.
- Trail runners are just the best. So supportive. Awesome people. Bad ass.
- My family is #1. No contest. I can’t believe the support they give me.
- I can do hard things. Always room for improvement though.