I got up at 5 a.m. and showered and nursed the baby. I was actually a little sad that this will be my last long race while having a nursling. I've gotten used to the routine of our pre-race snuggles. They calm me.
I headed up to the mountain at 6 a.m. and arrived around 6:30. I parked on the field where they were directing us and headed to the bathrooms. It was near freezing, but I was pressed for time (7:00 a.m. start), so I went ahead and left my warm up stuff in the car. I wasn't too cold in compression socks, arm sleeves, a hat, and gloves.
Afterwards, I headed to the pavilion to gather around the fire with the other racers. I chatted a little with the eventual race winner, Josh Whitehead, as we headed to the start line.
As the race began I had NO expectations for me. Ever since Mountain Mist, my left ankle gets a little tender at times. I wasn't sure how it would do today. I also hadn't been on trails since Mountain Mist, and I hadn't run this course in 2 years! I had one thing going for me--I had run a half marathon two weeks ago. I knew I could handle the distance, but trail races are not the same as road races!
As far as pace goes, I didn't even wear a Garmin. I was thinking that I'd finish around 3 hours, and I didn't want to start too fast. I ended up running alongside Christy Scott for the first few miles and we just chatted. It felt SO good to be on the trails again! They were muddy and lots of fun! We noticed some girls ahead of us, but the 12K starts with the 25K, so we figured they were 12K runners.
Here I am with Christy right behind me.
I warmed up very quickly and had to take off my gloves and hat and pull my arm sleeves down. I made it to the first aid station (5.1 miles), and we started a steep descent on the McKay Hollow Trail (NOTE: See here for a much better course description than I can give!). I heard Christy call out, "Let's go get 'em, Katie!" or something like that, and I just took off down the descent. It felt so amazing to just fly down the mountain. I was loving it.
I ended up alone for most of the rest of the race. I made it into the 2nd aid station (around 9.8 miles) and got peanut butter filled pretzels, Mello Yello, and more Gatorade in my bottle. As I started back on the trails, I knew there was a girl ahead of me, but I saw her on Natural Well Trail sitting down. She'd twisted her knee. I passed her and knew I was in first place, but I kept thinking that Christy would catch me any second!
I crossed the S.O.B. Ditch with Gregg taking pictures of my clumsiness!
The last few miles I was very tired but giving it my all. A girl passed me and became the eventual winner and Christy almost caught me! The last climb is so tough (go read the link I shared for a good description) and you are so spent by this point. I just love being brought to this point though--sheer exhaustion! It's an incredible feeling. Finally, I made it to the finish! Gregg took more pictures as I came in.
I finished in 2:58:09. Right under 3 hours! I was given a coupon for free shoes and a free Road ID, a transition towel, and a finisher's glass. I headed over to the aid station but got VERY cold quickly. So I added clothes in my car and went back to the pavilion to grab food and chat with other finishers.
Here are the top 3 women: me (2nd), Chai-Chi Kuo (1st) and Christy Scott (3rd).
I am feeling better and better each race I do. Today I ended up with blisters on the bottom of both feet, but they hardly bothered me. I feel good about how I am coming back and am looking forward now to 5Ks and 10Ks this summer.