What a day, what a FUN day, what a fun, HARD day!
Bright and early I was woken up by my alarm. I am usually a morning person, I spring out of bed like a daisy and don’t feel that lingering sleepiness for longer than a few minutes. Today though? I was not ready to leave the embrace of my snuggly husband and our warm, fluffy duvet. I ended up only giving myself about 30 minutes to get ready, but it ended up being plenty of time to eat a little breakfast, get dressed, go #2, and pack up my hydration vest. Since Scott and I share one car and he had to go to WORK or something weird like that, I hitched a ride with my friend Eric. Luckily Eric is also a perpetually early person like me, so we happily arrived to the first stage’s venue about an hour before the start.
(This photo and all photos after, unless otherwise noted, credited to Gregg Gelmis of We Run Huntsville)
Last year me, Kim, Colleen, and Amanda (some of my favorite training buddies) all started a tradition of wearing matching shirts each day. The trend caught on and we had many of our friends asking us what shirts we would be wearing for each day this year. It was a sea of blue XTERRA shirts at the race start, and we told everyone that we are wearing a PINK race shirt tomorrow 🙂 We stood in line to get our day one bibs and these funny little timing chips that attached to our shoe laces; I’ve never seen timing chips like them before and was worried they would get torn up in all the muck!
Just after 7:30, it was time to start. The small number of racers gathered round and listened to some pre-race announcements and directions about course markings. ZOOM! It was time to go!
Off into the lovely greenery we went, thankful that it seemed to be MUCH cooler weather than this time last year. I had a little bit of abdominal discomfort from the start, and knew that more significant pain later would probably be an issue. I tried to put it out of my mind and just enjoy the morning. We have had TONS of rainfall lately, and the ground was a sloppy, muddy mess in some areas. I happily splashed through all the puddles, knowing there was no sense in trying to avoid getting wet since there would be lots of creek crossings.
The first few miles were relatively easy down Bluffline and Annandale trail, a few gentle uphills every now and then. We started maybe just a tad faster than we should have been, but it was hard not to run fast while having so much fun. Barely 3 miles in my abdomen seized with pain and I suddenly slowed to a walk and thought, “GREAT. GOOD TIMING, BODY.” I was determined not to let my health issues keep me from one of my favorite races, but I started to realize that this might not be something that I could just push through. I was running with Kim and Colleen, and tried to get them to leave me behind and keep going. They were awesome, however, and refused to ditch me and happily walked slowly for a little bit while I tried to will away the stabbing pain in my upper right side.
Down Waterline we went, and I looked back and tried to mentally ready myself for when we would be coming back this direction, but UP the hill instead of down. We hopped on to Alms House trail and I suddenly felt the urgent need for a bathroom break. SIGH. Not only did I have the upper abdominal pain, but I was going to have to poop in the woods too. Kim and Colleen hiked ahead while I took a pit stop. I bush whacked through the woods and found a place where no one would see me. Once I was finished, I had one of those moments of, “I’m preeeetty sure it’s… this way?” I cut through underbrush and found a trail and started running on it. Soon I crossed paths with some runners that I knew were ahead of me. Darn it. Was I lost? Apparently I got back on to the wrong trail! The runners said I only missed about a quarter of a mile and said I could just join their group, but I didn’t want to worry Kim and Colleen, and plus, I didn’t want to cut the course! I decided to just run back on the trail they came from until I met up with them again. Thankfully it wasn’t too long before I found them again, right at the first aid station.
(So much GREEN!)
My little backtracking ended giving me an EXTRA mile rather than cutting short, ha. Oh well! We took off from aid station one and were now heading back toward Waterline for the run UP! See that vertical line on the elevation profile? That’s Waterline. It’s a loooong climb that criss-crosses over what are usually dry falls, though today they had just enough water trickling over to make it too slippery for comfort.
(We climb allll the way up to the top!)
We huffed and puffed our way up, with only a minimal amount of goofing around with the guide ropes, heehee. I started to feel a little foggy and knew I probably needed to eat something other than the handful of jellybeans I grabbed at the aid station. I sucked down a Gu and drank plenty of water and planned to grab pretzels at the next aid stop. As far as Waterline climbs go, today’s wasn’t actually too bad! The trail never changes, but I guess my ability to get up it without feeling like I’m going to pass out does 🙂 We were winded at the top and walked a little to catch our breath. High trail winded through the woods some more, and Kim, Colleen and I happily trotted along discussing things ranging from IUDs to television shows. Good conversation, as always! I was getting SO hungry and was worried I was going to crash and burn before we made it to the aid stop. Kim very nicely shared some of her nutrition with me; she follows a plant based/vegan/herbivore diet and had these awesome little apple sauce packs. I got a strawberry-apple one and it was ONE OF THE MOST DELICIOUS THINGS I HAVE EVER EATEN!! It perked me right up and I felt better almost immediately. Note to self: buy applesauce packs.
(Photo credited to my friend, Jay)
After a while we popped off the trail and were on the side of a road that winds up the mountain. We followed the gravel downhill to the second aid station. I stuffed my face with pretzels and drank Coke straight out of the bottle. Trail runners, we are real sophisticated…
(Another of Jay’s photos, us with Ryan, the aid station volunteer and a very welcome friendly face!)
Now we were on the home stretch, just a few more miles to go! We were running along, discussing the intricacies of Doctor Who, when suddenly I found myself flying through the air… WHOOSH! My food had caught on a large root and I was now airborne and flying towards two VERY large boulders. NOOOOOOOO! My mind screamed, and I did my best to curl up in a ball to avoid certain death. PLOP, I landed heavily, neatly tucked between the two rocks. Kim and Colleen stopped suddenly and turned to look at me, “This looks a lot worse than it actually is,” I said as I lifted my head up from the dirt. When I got up, I had to walk a little while my heart rate lowered– falling sure does get your adrenaline pumping! Less than 10 minutes later, the same thing happened to Kim! Although her fall seemed a lot more graceful than mine, I think it’s because she’s shorter and closer to the ground. Now it was Colleen’s turn! But she never fell 😉
As we ran the conversation turned to boobs– who doesn’t love a good boob convo? I think we spend a good mile or so discussing our boobs, breast implants, breast feeing… No topic is off limits when in the woods! We were nearing the starting area now and I was happy to be nearly finished. My stomach was starting to feel dicey again and I was hoping it would hold out until the finish line. We crossed through the parking lot where the finish area is, and then hopped back on the trail for the final two miles. I felt that all too familiar EMERGENCY EVACUATION feeling again, and quickly ducked into the brush while Colleen and Kim continued on. I was so mad. POOPING IN THE WOODS, NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE?? I am taking TWO Imodium pills tomorrow…
With no more pride left, I caught back up to my friends and we pushed on for the final loop. We were on Railroad Bed trail, which is extremely rocky and hard to run on when you’re slow like me. We tip-toed our way through, taking a few walk breaks here and there, and soon enough we came upon the finishing area. “Wait, are we done??” Kim asked, and I laughed, because we had the same exact reaction last year.
We crossed the finish line just ahead of the 4 hour mark, the course was 13 miles but I had 14 on my watch thanks to my back tracking earlier. I was so happy to be done! Slower than last year’s time, but hey, what can you do when you’ve got the poops?? The day was a lot of fun overall, but the digestive struggles were such a downer and I was STARVING at this point. Thankfully there was a huge pan of vegetarian lasagna that the RD’s wife had prepared– delicious! I had a few bites of that and drank was was left in my water pack while we sat with our friends and traded war stories.
The weather is looking like a typical Alabama spring for tomorrow– the forecast is calling for torrential rain and possible tornadoes. Yikes! Hopefully it will either all come overnight and be done by the morning, OR it will hold off until tomorrow afternoon.
Here’s to day 2 🙂