(I had to crouch to not tower over my tiny friends!)
Today’s uniform was TEAM PINK! 🙂
I woke up feeling pretty good, I didn’t feel stiff or sore at all. I was, however, quite sleepy. Thankfully the bad weather blew over (it was mostly just lots and lots of rain) and we were safe to start the race without any delays. Before the start, we all huddled in the starting area beneath a large blue tarp trying to stay warm. The sun hadn’t broken through the clouds yet, leaving us all shivering in the 50 degree weather– amazing how quickly our bodies lost their acclimation to cold weather! My hands were turning funny colors and I could barely move them.
Finally we got to start running, I was so thankful to finally be moving and warming up. Just a few short minutes into the race the sun finally shined through the clouds and I breathed a sigh of relief. I should have known better!! Sun + recent rain = humidity like crazy, y’all. We ran through the camp ground, receiving odd stares from a family of campers, and then tucked down on to Cold Springs trail for a short out and back section. Thanks to all the rain, the ground was covered in a nice layer of mud. It wasn’t the kind we dealt with on day one that sucked your shoe off though, it was the kind that made you feel like the ground had turned into a never ending slip and slide. Yikes! I don’t know which is worse.
Through the out and back we kept hopping off the trail and into the brush to make way for faster runners that were making their way back. It was cool to get to cheer for them and even give out a few high fives– many people don’t like out and backs in a race but I love them just for that reason! Finally it was our turn to turn around and head back, and soon we were running on Mountain Mist. What a fitting trail for the type of morning, it was certainly misty. We soon decided that the soundtrack for today would sound something like this: Splish, Splosh, SPLASH! We were running through puddles and wet mud almost constantly. It was actually kind of refreshing.
After day 1, where Kim had shared her awesome applesauce packs with me for fuel, I went to the grocery store and got some for myself. At mile 6 I ate my first one and was pleased that it was just as delicious as the day before. MMMM! Apple sauce. New favorite energy product. Thankfully my tummy seemed to be in much better shape today and it did not protest at all; I was very grateful to my poor, messed up, weirdo body for putting up with all my shenanigans. Our resident race photographer, Gregg, was out of town shooting a race in Chattanooga today, so we tried to capture all the fun ourselves. We were again marveling at how GREEN everything was– just weeks ago this was all brown and dead. Nature moves fast, doesn’t she? It felt like were running through a tropical rain forest. Even the SMELLS were different!
We were reaching the end of Mountain Mist and felt sure we were supposed to head a certain way (down K2), but the trail markers kept leading us in another direction. We felt extremely confused, but just kept following the flags thinking they had changed the course from last year. Turns out we all had a case of runner brain and were mistaken, K2 is used on day three’s race! We ran through a short and rocky connector trail that popped us halfway up a big climb called Rest Shelter. We assumed power hiking position and made our way up. It was a lot easier when you only have to do part of the climb!
We were now back on the plateau and following the curvy Bucca trail. The warm sun had burned off all the clouds and now the air was thick and humid. Me and my running buddies were definitely not feeling 100%, Kim and Colleen were dealing with stiff and sore legs, and I was just struggling in the humidity. I was covered in sweat, completely soaked through my clothes, but it wasn’t evaporating off, making me hotter and hotter. Despite that though, I was still happy happy happy and having a good time. We soon arrived at the second aid station and once again stuffed our faces with Powerbars and Coke. Powerbar is a big sponsor of this race and we have now become obsessed with their products! Those granola bars are amazing and we started to crave them like crazy in between aid stops…
Now it was time to dip back into the hollow, and we followed a slick descent on Sinks. My legs were pretty tired and although I am normally very good at the downhills, I didn’t trust them to fly like I usually do. I gently made my way down and tried not to land on my butt in the mud. We were heading toward a loop on Keith and Logan trail and were getting hotter and hotter. On this side of the mountain the sun was beating down and even through the trees it was making us feel like we were overheating. With exaggerated steps, we splashed through all the puddles as heavily as possible just to splash ourselves with the cold water.
(Soooooo much water on the ground! Wet feet for hours…)
It was hot. So hot. If I had been alone, I am certain I would have been deep in a case of the sads at this point, but thankfully my wonderful race buds Kim and Colleen kept my spirits up. It was so nice to have their company, and especially so when we all hit that point of the race where you start to feel a little crazy. We kept giggling at the most random things and laughing so hard we almost couldn’t keep running. Once Kim said, “I just laughed so hard I peed a little!” Cue more hysterical laughter 🙂 The most annoying thing about trail running in warm weather are the horse flies. They were buzzing around our heads, dive bombing for our ears and necks. I waved my arms around my head for a solid 5 minutes trying to keep them away, I was completely out of breath and realized I was using all of my energy doing so. I looked back and Kim had a branch with leaves on it and was waving it around her head. I laughed so hard, but then realized she actually had a brilliant idea… I grabbed my own branch and swishing it around my face used far less energy than waving my arms around like I was trying to take flight.
(HORSE FLY PREVENTION TOOL!)
We turned a corner and were now heading in another direction. Now away from the direct sunlight and feeling a nice cool breeze, we perked up considerably.
(Our “cool breeze” faces)
Finally we were at the last aid station, where we were again stuffing our faces with Powerbars. Those things are just so dang good! As we were doing so a family of hikers passed by and asked us what we were doing, and we explained that it was a three day stage race. “Oh, so like… A hiking competition?” ……… I was all too quick to say, “NO, WE ARE RUNNING!” We runners don’t take kindly to being called hikers. I was personally offended. 😉
We took off from the last aid station knowing that we only had about three miles to go. My shoes were starting to feel really uncomfortable due to all the rocks and dirt that was stuck inside, and Kim needed to empty hers out too. We sat down on a muddy ledge and giggled about being called hikers. “Do you think he thought we were sleeping in the woods for three days too?” I looked down at our dirt covered bodies, “Well, we certainly LOOK like we’ve been sleeping in the woods for three days…” I looked up and Kim was wiping dirt under her eyes. “It’s my war paint” she explained, and Colleen and I quickly wiped dirt on our faces to match. WILDERNESS WOMEN!
The last few miles flew by quickly, and before we knew it, it was time to go back up Cold Springs and head towards the finish line. Power hiking again, we made our way up the slippery climb and I started to fantasize about the post race meal. The RD’s grandfather was cooking grilled chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, and corn. I COULDN’T WAIT!
We made it to the top and wound through the camp ground again, and over the Blue and Red trails. I was soooo tired and ready to be done, thankfully, the finish line was soon in sight and a couple of our friends were cheering us in. We crossed with 16 miles in a little over 4 hours. Overall, we were happy with that time considering the mudfest!
I finally got my plate of delicious food, too 🙂
I feel surprisingly good, not as tired as I was yesterday and not particularly in need of a nap. I am however, going to be a complete bum for the rest of the day and do nothing but snack and watch Netflix. Recovery done right 🙂
Day three, bring it on!!!