Day Three: NO RUNNER LEFT BEHIND!!
We couldn’t let a day of the stage races go by without repping our No Runner Left Behind shirts, made for our Sunday trail running group that actually helped prepare many runners for this event and other trail races! Team NRLB, represent!
By the third day of the stage race, you are officially insane. When my alarm clock went off that morning it took me a good 5 minutes to figure out how to turn it off. I struggled to figure out how to put my socks on. I wasn’t sure I should be allowed to operate heavy machinery. I was sore, I was groggy, but I was still positively excited to spend another day in the woods with my best buddies! At the state park, runners were standing around in the parking lot, moving decidedly slower than on the days before, and music was playing in the background. As I was standing with a few friends talking about how tired we were, the Cupid Shuffle came on. What do tired runners on day three of a stage race do? Dance along to the Cupid Shuffle with GREAT ENTHUSIASM of course. It was a good pre race warm up.
Time to get started– wake up legs! It’s go time! We took off down the main road in the state park and I was immediately made aware of just how unhappy my legs were. I had a pretty sharp pain in my right calf, and soon after that my left hip started to ache and feel weak. Ouch. It wasn’t particularly fun, and I found myself lagging behind my race mates. I felt bad that I was slowing them down, and mentioned several times that they didn’t need to wait for me. Kim pointed out that they wouldn’t want to leave me any day, but especially not on the day we are wearing our NO RUNNER LEFT BEHIND shirts. It’s just bad luck, man. I was thankful for the camaraderie. Their positivity and happy faces helped me push through the pain.
We hit the first aid station at ~3 miles and then dropped off the plateau on to Mountain Mist, once again on a jelly bean and pretzel high. Kim decided she prefers the pretzel sticks over the pretzel twists, and shares with us the merits of the clearly superior pretzel stick. We were merrily running along when we came across some other racers… running back towards us… looking a little lost. “Do y’all know where we are going?” Uh oh. Were we lost? I’m pretty sure we aren’t lost. This is the right way. I KNOW. I’VE DONE THIS RACE EVERY YEAR. Guess what? We were going the wrong way. We back tracked and found our wrong turn. “How in the world did we miss this?” Kim questioned, and we all agreed– the marking was clear as day, and somehow ALL FOUR of us had run right by it. Same thing happened to us last year on a different section of the race, sometimes you’re too tired to register anything logical, even hi-viz orange course markings!!
Now on our corrected course, we trampled on towards K2, a long descent with questionable footing in many areas. I was dreading this section because any sort of elevation change really strained my achy calf muscle. At least we weren’t going UP it, though! I repeated that to myself over and over as we carefully made our way down. We made it to the bottom in one piece and stepped out on to the powerline cuts– ahh! The breeze was magical! The thick cloud cover kept us getting too hot and we were able to enjoy the views without feeling like fried eggs on a sidewalk.
Through the powerline cuts, back into the woods, up Warpath Ridge, topping out at O’Shaughnessy point again for the aid station. To be honest, I had briefly considered dropping out at this aid station, because my calf and hip just weren’t loosening up. Thankfully Kim wisely advised me to pop an Excedrin and see how I feel in a few miles. She knew I didn’t *really* want to give up. We dropped off the plateau once again down on Rest Shelter. I took a brief potty break and as I was relieving myself I realized that there was a millipede in my pee area…. MY BAD, sorry millipede, please don’t send a millipede army to my house.
Upon reaching the slush mile we briefly considered sacrificing our souls to this rock in exchange for new legs. I also pretended to be Ariel on this other rock. This pose makes a lot more sense when the creek is full and there’s water everywhere. (Can you tell the goofiness had REALLY set in by this point?)
We finally made it to the long, steady uphill on Arrowhead (that’s easy enough to run on a normal day but feels much harder when you’ve been running for three days straight), where we officially lost our minds. I’m not sure how it started, but somehow we all started singing weird church camp/vacation bible school songs we learned in our childhood. I started with, “MY GOD IS SO BIG, SO STRONG AND SO MIGHTY” and eventually we moved on to “I AM A C, I AM A C-H, I AM A C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” then we started into other weirdly prolific songs that everyone knows but no one knows why they know them, like On Top of Spaghetti and Miss Suzy (HELLO OPERATOR, GIVE ME NUMBER NINE). Finally Kim and Kara started performing old chants from their cheerleader days. Before we knew it, the uphill was over with and Kara said, “I should probably stop chanting, I can hear people up there at the aid station and I don’t want them to think I’m crazy.” TOO LATE.
The aid station workers dumped cold water on our heads (at our request) and we were quickly on our way. Just a little bit more to go. We turned on to Natural Well and on our way down the crumbling trail I had several near falls where my life flashed before my eyes. I think I did a full on rendition of My Heart Will Go On, and Kim started singing “WE’RE ALIVE, DAMMIT!” We were a giggly, tired, delirious mess. And loving every minute of it…. Until we got to the bottom of Death Trail. Sigh. The moment we were all dreading, the never ending upward climb out of the hollow. We trudged forward and collectively considered as a group to give up now and just live on Death Trail forever, “This is my home now,” Kara said lovingly to a large boulder… but our tired legs kept moving forward. Up and up and UP! We passed some hikers who looked at us like we were wild animals, I warned them not to hike any further or they might come out of the woods looking like us.
We finally pulled ourselves out of the waterfall and trotted towards the finish line. Year three of Grand Viduta, done! The streak continues! YIPPEE!
Day 3: 4:58:40