I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have a rugged, all-trail 50K less than an hour from my house. The start time is a very sane 8 a.m. Being a ridiculously early riser, I was actually able to sleep an extra hour Sunday morning and still make it in plenty of time for the start.
Over at the sign in tent, I had the great pleasure of finally meeting my longtime FB and blog friend, Michele Hammond, and her husband, Russ. I feel like I know Michele, but we had never actually met face to face. So great to see you guys!
One by one, my running buddies trickled in. These local ultra races are like mini-reunions.
(Grace, Pam, Davnet and Paul. Photo by Susan.)
Can't wait to get started!
As you can see from these photos, we had a bit of rain in the morning. It started pouring while most people were driving to the start. This got everyone's nerves up. But once it stopped, it stayed stopped for most of the day.
The pre-race meeting was concise. Best kind of pre-race meeting! And even better, I was able to hear the whole thing perfectly from my spot in the porta-potty line. I guess our RD, Jerry Turk, had read my VT 50 blog, because when he finished he sprinted over to me and asked, "Short enough for you?!"
Lovely, Jerry. Perfect. I think I may have even retained a few sound bytes. And if you're reading this, may I suggest that you open next year's meeting thusly:
"If you are a big guy, say more that 200 pounds, and you find yourself in the position of wanting to pass a fellow runner half (or in Grace's case, less than half) your size, might I propose that you announce your intentions and clearly state which side (left or right) you would like to hoover on through."
I came close to throwing a bony elbow once or twice out there!
But enough about that. This race was sublime. I loved every step. It was beautifully marked both high and low, and it ran through some lovely single track trail.
The first ten miles were blissfully uneventful. Susan, Grace and I ran together. Davnet and Paul were both slightly injured and planned to start very slowly. We tore through the trails at blazing speed, sending waves of shock and awe through the field.
Not really. But it did feel like we were running fast. We completed the first 10 miles in two hours. Considering that it took Susan and me three hours to run the first ten miles two years ago on this course, we were well on our way to hefty PRs.
Somewhere between miles 5 and 10 I fell on a rock. Luckily I was on a slight uphill at the time and was not significantly hurt. But I did get some nice blood to show off for the rest of the day.
(photo courtesy of Michele Hammond)
The second ten miles give this course its reputation. Anyone considering a trail race in Southeastern Connecticut (as opposed to, say, Leadville, CO or Park City, UT), might very reasonably smack her head and say, DOH! How hard could it be?
I'm here to tell you that these ten miles or so are very tricky. There are lots of pissy little hills, lots of rocks, and a few serious climbs. Steep, sustained climbs. The kind of climbs on which you find yourself eye to eye with the very spot where you foot will be in two or three more steps.
(photo courtesy of Davnet Schaffer)
I powered up the big hill to the top of Bluff Head all alone. I thought I might be by myself for the rest of the run, but up near the top I heard a bunch of huffing and puffing. Lo and behold, Grace had run up the damn thing and caught me. Hooray! We stayed together for the rest of the day.
The view up at the top was stunning. The fall colors were all out in mighty fashion. But I didn't stop to take in the scenery. Lucky for us, however, Davnet and Paul did. So here's what it looked like up there.
(photo credit: I'm guessing Paul Schaffer)
Grace and I took turns leading each other through the twisty, windy ups and downs of this section. It was fun, but very taxing on the quads and calves. My shin muscles continually threatened to cramp up. But they held on like good troopers.
Once we came out of the tough 10-mile loop, the trail straightened and widened. Grace has been training for the NYC marathon, and has been running 20 milers on the flat roads at an 8-minute-per-mile pace. Grace is fast.
She ran out in front; I did my best to tuck in behind and hold on. She was running much faster than I was comfortable with. She was blazing. But I wasn't really in any pain. I wasn't particularly out of breath. I was simply well out of my comfort zone.
Duh! Isn't that why we race!!
A little aside: All day Saturday I had sat on my ass on the living room floor and disassembled K'Nex projects. Our living room was overrun by a huge K'Nex amusement park. It had been there, in various interations, since early September. I had bruised my feet, over and over, stepping on those tiny pieces. I had almost killed myself dodging the Swing Ride carrying a fully loaded laundry basket.
This was not how I wanted to spend my Saturday. I really wanted to be running. But I was supposed to be tapering. I had a race the next day. So I disassembled K'Nex projects. Which were evidently very efficiently re-assmembled while I was out there on the trails. This was the scene that greeted me when I got home Sunday evening.
Anyway, all this to say that the memory of sitting on that hard floor in the living room got me through the fast miles with Grace. I kept telling myself that all day Saturday all I had wanted to do was run. So freaking run!!
We made it to the last aid station, which by Grace's GPS watch, should have been one mile from the finish. I quickly downed a cup of Coke and got ready to get out of there when the friendly woman behind the aid table said, "Just 2.8 miles to go!"
She cheerfully informed us that the race included 2 bonus miles at no extra charge.
Reader, I wanted to deck her.
Grace and I were completely deflated. We didn't have 2.8 miles left in us. We had 1 mile left in us. We had emptied out tanks out there on the fast trails. We were done done done.
But what can you do? You simply go on. And we did. In complete silence we hoofed it slowly and deliberately toward the finish line.
And then we were really done. 6 hours, 52 minutes. (This was 2 hours, 10 minutes faster than I ran this 2 years ago.) We sat on the grass and waited for Susan and ate garden burgers. It was a day well spent.
One million thanks to Jerry Turk (Mr. Bimble) and all of the Bimbler volunteers for putting on a fantastic race. This one will hold a permanent place on my racing calendar for as long as they care to keep it going.