I headed off to Way Too Cool this weekend super excited about the impending weather and the visit with friends.
I had the wonderful fortune of meeting amazing people during my training in California last year, and was so looking forward to catching up. And more than that, I was looking forward to taking my husband with me for some great time together, having him see the trails I think are so great, and enjoying the area with me. Of course the total topper of the weekend was getting to run the Way Too Cool 50K.
We headed out Thursday night, and woke up early on Friday to sight-see. I took Paul to what I consider the most magical place on earth...No Hands Bridge. I don't know if it is because it is mile 97 of the Western States 100, or if it is because from absolutely every angle all you see is beauty. I have a picture of it on our refrigerator, and last year I bought a watercolor painting of it. It is just such a dream to see. We hiked down, took pictures, and really enjoyed all the view had to offer.
After that, we went to see my friend, Julie, at packet pick-up and get our things. As I mentioned before I left, life has been so busy we have barely been able to breathe, so we enjoyed taking the rest of the afternoon to rest and relax.
Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early and headed to Cool for the race. The weather was incredible. It was about 40ish at the start, and was going to warm up to the mid 70's...my kind of weather!!
Prior to the race, I had spoken to one of the Montrail team members who I had met before, Jamie, and she was so sweet to offer me her extra Montrail shirt....our uniforms should be coming this week, yeah! Anyway, before the race she met up with me to give it to me, but I thought I would be too warm in it. Thank goodness I didn't take her WHITE shirt because I took a great fall late in the race and her shirt would have never been the same :) But, it was great to see her again and be able to meet her husband and wish her good luck!
Paul and I headed to the start line, and there we saw our friends, Sara and Lee, who we would be having dinner with that evening. I met them last year at the race, and they were kind enough to have me to their home for dinner. Then last year after I was filled with IV's at WS, they let Paul, his sister, and I go to their home in the middle of the night. They have just been so amazing to Paul and I...words can't express it enough. I know that Lee is faster than me, but I also know that he must start conservatively because last year he came flying by me. I figured I would keep him not too far away from me in the beginning so I didn't go out too fast. Paul, of course, headed to the front of the starting line...where he belongs.
As the race began, I realized what great condition the trails were in and how good I felt. I visited with Lee for a little while and then hooked behind this group of three guys. Before I knew it we were at the first aid station. Out of the first aid station, we were held up for a moment because of traffic so by time we took off there was a group of about 15 of us. It wasn't too bad until I realized that the people in front of me didn't like the downhills, and weren't very excited to let me pass. They did and I continued on. I felt great: drinking water, taking salt, and eating my magic beans. 8 miles later I reached the next aid station. I was feeling really good, but wanted to top off my camelback. While I was doing so, which just took about a minute, tons of people passed me. I couldn't believe it. I thought I was moving really comfortably and was shocked that these people were sooo much stronger than I was. After all the people passed me I got into a good groove, again. I chatted with a few people, really enjoyed the long steep downhill, and came upon the deepest water crossing. As I crossed, I noticed a rather tall gentleman right in front of me. He was moving slower than I was, but I stayed behind him for a moment. It was Gordy Ansleigh. He was the man who started the 100-milers, and on the Western States Trail....how could I just pass him without taking a moment to visit with him. Part of what I love about all of this is the journey, and how is it a journey if you don't stop and visit with the one who made it all happen??
Last year, I actually had run many miles of WS with him, but didn't follow his very wise example. As the temperatures exploded, he would sit down and cool off at the aid stations, as I would press on. My body couldn't handle the constant push in the heat, and ended up rebelling. As we ran along on this fantastic spring day, I shared with him all that I learned from him on that ever so hot day back in June. He told me about what it was like to run the first few years with the horses on the trail at the same time, and how much harder it was...so he had learned patience long ago. I learned it last year :)
We approached the longest climb, and he invited me to move ahead. Although I should have moved ahead much before...I wouldn't change the moment for a few extra minutes anyday. I pressed up the climb to the aid station at the top of Main Bar Trail. I passed three people up the climb, and was enjoying the beat of my "happy" music. I filled my camelback one more time, just in case, and headed on my way.
I was really enjoying the race and the day, and before I knew it I was at the Ball Bearing climb approaching mile 26. The race just seemed to be flying by. I took some coke, and headed on my way. As I was running the almost 3 miles to the last aid station I realized that I had WAY too much energy. I picked up my pace and a moment later I was right in the dirt...fall #12 since November, and right on the same spot on my knee. I got up shook it off, and headed on my way. I had some blood dripping down my leg but no pain. My legs felt great. Before I knew it I was at the last aid station and got to see Julie and Dana, although very briefly. I don't know what kind of running math I was doing, but for some reason I thought I had 3ish miles to go. Julie yelled that it was 1.7 to the finish. As I pushed on to the finish, I realized I had been way too conservative today. I was able to run very hard into the finish, and felt totally fine afterward. I had beat my time from last year by 10 minutes, but had much more I could have given the race. This is such a learning process, and I guess I should be happy that I was on the conservative side instead of imploding on the trail and having to walk it in but I really need to work on pushing harder. I am hopeful it will come.
After I finished, and congratulated my husband on a great race. We headed over to cheer some friends on at the last aid station. Just to make sure to give my husband the credit he deserves...he ran a conservative race as well, and managed not to get beat by the first woman...although she did have to encourage him to keep pushing up the last climb. He said that his major goal was to not get injured, although I don't think he will do another one anytime soon.
As we were heading back to the hotel, the American River was calling us. We climbed down to the water, and my ever so brave and crazy husband got in; his very large ice bath! Then we went back and cleaned up and headed to Lee and Sara's for dinner. Just like last year, it was awesome. Again, they are just so wonderful and they have the coolest dogs....what they will do for the hope of some beer and steak!
Sunday morning I woke up and went for a run along the American River. I covered a little over 8 miles, and felt great. After the first mile it was smooth sailing. I can honestly say that my legs felt great! Let's see what I have to say after I run another 50K this Saturday...I may be singing a whole different tune.
Paul and I cleaned up, got lunch, and headed to the airport. After a very long and delayed flight we finally made it home.
I can't say enough about the wonderful weekend. I mean everything about it: time with my husband; time with friends; time on the trail; time with history; and more than anything...now a time to reflect back and be truly thankful!
God Bless and have a great week!