"The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life." Dr. George Sheehan
I love the above quote, as I think it explains why I do so many races and running adventures. I feel so alive during these adventures, and they really help me appreciate my life and be my best self.
Today's adventure taught me so much! I showed myself once again that I can do something really hard and come out smiling on the other side. I felt strong physically and mentally, and I had so much fun with my friends! My daughter gave me the best encouragement when I got home:
I hope I'm teaching my kids that you can do hard things, be a little afraid of them, but get it done and gain confidence by doing what you said you would.
So here it is, race recap of the Uwharrie 20 Miler:
This winter, I participated in the Fleet Feet Trail Running program for the first time. I have always been a bit hesitant in doing trails, and I live with a Forest in my backyard FULL of trails! I have run the Uwharrie 8 miler before, in 2016 and 2017, and I had a lot of fun, but I thought of it as the toughest trail ever. I had never prepared for the 8 miler by running trails, I stuck to the roads. This winter, I practiced almost every weekend on the trails, and I gained so much more confidence in my ability to stay upright, get lost and found, and slow things down to enjoy the scenery. It was a very welcome change from speed work and road running. I also got to wear the coolest trail shoes EVER! That helped. :)
The Mental Game
The week before the race I started to have a lot of nerves. Could I really do it? People were telling me it was really really difficult. I usually think I can do anything I put my mind to. Was that true this time? The day before the race, I spent some time reading some blogs about this particular race, and I even watched an 8 minute video a participant had taken along the way. It helped calm my nerves, as everyone seemed to just love the race, they all succeeded in finishing, and I found out that there was going to be a creek that looked like you should cross it, but really you don't--follow the white blazes on the trees! So I felt that I had some insider info. Then, I listened to a podcast by Mario Fraoli about an amazing ultra-runner named Amelia Boone. I started following her on Instagram and saw amazing pics of her strength. So I was inspired, and so excited to have FUN. I was reset, ready to go.
Logistics of the Race
Race day! My alarm was set for 4:30am, but my body woke me up around 4:20am ready to go. I showered and dressed, made 2 cups of coffee for the road, and ate a bagel (how anyone can be hungry at that hour is beyond me, but I was!). I left the house at 5am, picked up my friends, and we were on our way! The race was 1 hour and 40 minutes from the house, and thanks to good conversation, the time passed quickly. When we arrived at 6:40am, it was still dark. Parking spaces were ample, and the volunteers helped us find a great spot. We then went into the Eldorado Outpost to check in and get warm. There were bathrooms and portapotties, which we used, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the line for the men's bathroom was longer than the women's! That never happens! I guess more men were running than ladies, so I felt special. :) I fueled with a Clif Bar as well. When we got out of the store, the daylight had arrived, which was really cool. We boarded the waiting shuttles for the starting area, which was about 15 minutes away. When we got to the race start, I took advantage of the portapotties again, and then we were able to stay warm by the fire. Starting temp was 19 degrees! We chatted with veterans of the race, who all seemed to love it, something that boosted by excitement again. Before I knew it, it was go time! We lined up near the front, and off we went!!
As I remembered from previous years, the first part of the race on the trail is a very steep and rocky incline in which most runners are walking. Being towards the front of the pack definitely helped, and we were running again shortly. My friend Mike had graciously agreed to run with me during the whole 20 miles, an unexpected surprise, so I was really looking forward to the company. We had looked at the elevation map ahead of time (a mistake, don't do it!), but thankfully we had forgotten most of it, other than there were some killer-looking hills throughout the course. The first 8 miles went by pretty quickly. When we came up to the 8 mile aid station, I was a little sad remembering that in years past, I would be done by now. But on the other hand, the 8 miles seemed less hard than in previous years, maybe because I knew we were not even close to the end. I used the portapotty (the only one on the course), ate some pb+j, refilled my water, and stripped down some layers (we warmed up quickly with all of the hills and sunshine). I then broke the rest of the course down in my mind into the next 5 miles (until mile 13), miles 14-17 (where our friend Gina and her family would be manning the aid station), and miles 17-20 (the finish!). Breaking it down in my mind definitely helped.
It was really exciting to be on a part of the course that I have never seen before! On the uphills, we walked and I tried to catch my breath; on the downhills, I commented on how this course is great! It was surreal to be out in nature, often only the two of us around. Occasionally we would find groups of runners to be near, but eventually we would either pass or be passed. The terrain was very rocky at times, which made it difficult to run even down the hills--I really did not want to fall. I ended up falling twice, but both were minor, and I had no major injuries. I had one serious ankle roll that did not result in a fall, but I was able to run it off, and I didn't feel any long-lasting effects from that one. As the course went on, my legs were getting REALLY tired. I felt like I couldn't pick up my legs enough, so I kept stumbling and ALMOST falling, which is sometimes worse than ACTUALLY falling with how scary it is and how every muscle in your body screams on high alert trying to keep you upright. I felt like this.
There were some pretty gnarly hills from miles 15-16, it's all a blur now, but we walked them, and it was ok. There were also a lot of stream crossings. I knew from prior years that it is often easier to just get wet than to spend a lot of energy balancing on rocks to avoid the water, but most of the streams were really low so I only ended up wet on 2 streams, and my feet dried pretty quickly. There was one crossing that involved a 10 foot log balancing act, but it was pretty fun, and thankfully we did not fall in there, ha! There were a few times that we were not sure where the trail was headed--we were supposed to follow the white "blazes" on the trees, and most were well-marked, but a few times we had to stop and look around to make sure we were not going off course. We figured out that 2 blazes meant a sharp turn, which was a new discovery from prior years, and that helped us navigate a lot. As we got tired, we noticed that our vision wasn't quite what it should be, and everything seemed a bit blurry, so that combined with the bright sunlight reflecting off the leaves made everything a bit of a challenge.
We finally made it to our friends at mile 17! I ate a chocolate chip cookie (it was heavenly) and refilled my water bottle and we were off for the final 3 miles, which were so much fun since I knew at this point that we were going to finish! We also thought we had a chance at our long-shot goal of under 4 hours, so we tried to stay running as much as possible. Our GPS watches were off a little so we weren't entirely sure. The last part of the course was also really fun because we got to see a lot of the 40 milers turning around and coming back our way, so we had some people to encourage, and it put our 20 miles into perspective--at least we could be done at 20 and did not have to turn around and do it all over again!
Finally, when we thought we still had almost a mile to go, we saw our friend Randy on the course taking pictures, and some colorful flags just beyond. "Is that the finish?!" I asked incredulously. It was! What a nice surprise to be done early, and we finished just under the 4 hour mark. Yay!
I would say the race was mentally easier than I thought it would be, but physically harder than I thought it would be. The terrain and hills are a lot harder than the 8 miler, so I did not quite know what to expect there. But mentally, I kept going and never felt like I was going to die (it happens on long runs, you know that). My mantra was "I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful" from the movie "What About Bob" (not sure why that was in my head). Check it out here.
I also had just listened to Justin Timberlake's new song "Man of the Woods" which I felt was an appropriate soundtrack for the day, so that was running through my head.
At the end of it, me and Randy and Mike all gave each other our new trail names (mine gets to be Ladybug!!) and we ate some food (potato soup and peanut M+Ms for me), then we got a ride back to the car. After changing into some warm and dry clothes (temps were up to 40 degrees now) we headed back home. I will say, the drive home was pretty uncomfortable. and as I write this in my bed, my legs are pretty much done. Running on tippy toes up a mountain for four hours will do that to a person. I plan to continue rolling out my calves tomorrow, I got a good headstart today.
So, in summary, I DEFINITELY recommend this race. The whole Uwharrie race series is so well put-together and organized. The energy is amazing. Everyone out there wants to be there and is so encouraging. Also, you can challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible.
Finally, I will end with this quote by one of my favorite runners, Alexi Pappas:
"Run like a bravey
SLEEP LIKE A BABY
Dream like crazy
Replace can't with maybe
Through sunny and shady"