And then I got sick. With the El Paso Crud...a severe allergy to the ultra-dry air and constant dust storms. This lasted about three weeks, limiting my ability to run. Every time I ran in remotely windy, chilly, dry, or dusty conditions, I would spend hours afterward coughing. The longest run I completed during these weeks was six miles, and sometimes I went several days in a row without running.
Because of this, I wasn't as prepared for the Prickly Pear as I had hoped to be, not by a long shot. If I hadn't already paid, I would likely have elected not to run. But spending money on an entry fee has a way of motivating one to compete in less-than-ideal circumstances, and I figured I had something of an endurance base I could rely on to finish, even though it might not be fun. So I drove to McAllister Park in a dark drizzle early Saturday morning.
The race was wonderfully organized. 50k runners started at 7:00 and would make three loops of a 10.33-mile course. Ten milers started an hour and a half later. My first loop took nearly two hours, so the ten mile runners had thinned out and were mostly well ahead by the time I started my second loop.
I wore my hydration pack, but the aid stations were so frequent and well-stocked that I really didn't need it. Located near miles 2, 5, 7, and 10, the stations boasted bowls of candy, chips, gels, and best of all: awesome volunteers. I always say thanks to the volunteers, but these were so awesome that I feel like a simple thanks was not enough. Whether it's being handed a cup of Gatorade by a really enthusiastic kid, or being applauded and encouraged just when I need it most, aid station volunteers are invaluable, and I am incredibly grateful for their efforts. I'm also inspired to volunteer myself someday--I never have and I think it would be a fun way to give back!
The light rain continued through the entire first loop; I spent most of it with three inches of mud on my shoes and had to stop to tighten my laces so I didn't lose them. Aside from the mud, I really enjoyed the rain and the cool, humid air.
On the second loop, the rain stopped and the mud began to dry. By this point, I wasn't feeling great and was wondering if I should drop out before the third loop. I struggled with this nearly the entire ten miles, alternating between wanting to finish and dropping out. The idea of having a DNF didn't appeal to me at all--I was sure I would hate myself later for quitting--but the thought of pushing through ten more miles was nearly as unappealing. For better or worse, pride won out, and I slogged through the third and final loop, walking more in the last miles than I care to admit. I made it to the finish in 6:38:18, exhausted but otherwise fine.
My awesome parents were waiting for me at the finish line. I am so grateful for their support! My mom took pictures, and my dad brought me drinks and checked the results, even though I was sure I couldn't have placed in my age group. But it turns out...I did! (Results can be found here). I won the women's 1-29 age group and received a huge beer mug. It's super heavy, so I can get in some bicep curls while drinking! All the women ahead of me, who I was sure were in my age group, were aged 30-39--the top eight women in that category finished before me! As my dad reminded me, ultrarunners get better with age, and the best are often in their thirties and forties. I hope this means I have some faster times to look forward to!
|A bad phone shot of my mug|
This 50k didn't go as well as I had hoped, for several reasons. But rather than focusing on what went wrong, I'm going to put a positive spin on things and write a series of posts about what I can work on to improve my running.