Don’t ask me why I do it. It would be easy to just stick to short races. But there’s something about pushing myself beyond where I thought I would ever be. Ultimately I end up questioning my sanity at some point. But I end up finishing. It isn’t always (maybe even hardly ever) pretty.
Such was my Saturday. The inaugural Harding Hustle 30k Trail Run. Please note that it was advertised as a trail run – not a trail race. Less than five miles in I started understanding why. So sit back and enjoy this five minute summary of my five hour trail
I should have sensed I was in for an adventure. I had asked for an early start (for slower runners). My alarm went off at 4AM, and I turned over for just a couple more winks. 45 minutes later I woke up. Yikes! I missed out on my normal pre-race breakfast of an apple fritter! And worse yet no coffee! But, I made it to the shuttle with a few minutes to spare. This was going to happen after all.
Promptly at 6AM, the early group started. It was evident from the start that this was a no nonsense course. Up up and up. I broke from a slow uphill jog to a brisk walk inside of 2 miles. Just past mile 4 we ran into the first aid station. 1600 feet of elevation gain. Whew! I inhaled a Hammer Gel. I refilled my handheld bottle with another 200 calories of Ultrafuel and continued plodding uphill. Somewhere along the line Billy and his pal Lori sped past. I think I burped out a hello. If not – sorry for being rude Billy!
The next couple miles of trail were the toughest. Another almost 900 feet of elevation gain. It seemed like the up never stopped. At this point I was really feeling the effects of nothing for breakfast and knew that I was in for a tough rest of the day. In standard trail fashion, I was not paying attention to my pace. I was only focused on the next highlight – the turnaround at the second aid station. And it’s a good thing. We dropped 100 feet in the next half mile before starting our ascent to the turnaround.
I pulled into the aid station (9 1/4 miles and 3000 plus feet higher than the start), grabbed a chair, and quaffed a Clif Bar. Just under three hours since the start. So far I had 700 calories to my name, and only 200 of those in terms of solid food. No wonder I was starting to feel like walking death. Now – for those who have read my blog for a while know – normally I would be snapping pictures of the scenery. After all – we were at the crest of the mountains – pretty close to where we were a couple weeks ago for the Billy Goat. But not this time. I was only concentrating on what I needed to do to keep the thoughts of throwing in the towel at bay.
After a few minutes off my feet and with a refilled water bottle (the volunteers at this race were *priceless*!) I started down the mountain. By mile 11 I was feeling pretty spent. I expected my legs to be spent, but by now just about every muscle in my body was fatigued. My thought were focused on that next aid station at mile 14.
I came hobbling in (well –maybe not that bad, but it sure seemed like it) to another set of outstanding volunteers. Ice water never tasted so good. They refilled my water bottle and iced me down, and I took off for my next adventure. Now – we had been warned about bees in our pre-race briefing. I hadn’t seen any on the way up – so I figured that they had move on. WRONG!!! Just as I turned the camera off I ran right into a swirling swarm of them. Bees! Yikes! A couple of those suckers got caught between my pack and my back. Ouch #1! Ouch #2!! The one thing I learned – even though I thought I had nothing left in the tank – I had plenty! I don’t think I’ve run that fast since my last 5K! And I did it while swatting bees and slipping out of my backpack. This was worse than the rattlesnake I had seen a couple miles back. At least that reptile was docile and just trying to get some warmth in the sun! I wish I would have had someone videoing me. It would have made for great comic relief. Thankfully, I’m not allergic to bee stings, so I sucked it up and continued down down down.
By mile 16 I was pretty much relegated to a brisk downhill walk. The heat was starting to turn up as I dropped in elevation. Along with that – there was no shade at all on the fire road. This whole area had burned in a large brush fire in 2007. We essentially ran up to the top , turned around, and ran back down exposed for all except for a few places where the bank provided some shade. But that doesn’t mean that it was a moonscape either. Life is slowly starting to reappear on the mountainsides that were denuded,. Such is the cycle of life in the mountains of Southern California.
But what was more important was that I was making it down the last mile to the finish line. My focus at this point was on one thing – finishing. I could care less if I was dead last (there were two other runners still on the course). I mustered what I had left in the tank and came jogging down the final dirt path, hung a right, and crossed the finish line. A medal was hung over my neck by Catra Corbett, the Dirt Diva herself! This is a runner who just a week ago, was pulled off the mountain at mile 85 of the Western States 100 on a stretcher with an IV. Amazing stock these ultrarunners.
And with that I was finished. At least for this weekend.