~10 min. w/u (1+ miles)
Target: 12k trail race--don't fall, don't injure myself, have fun
Actual: Success! Oh, and first place female tie @48:35
~5 min. c/d (1/2 mile)
Total: 9ish miles
About a month ago I received an email from JD Lewis requesting a prize donation for his trail race, 12k for Twelve in Twelve. Naturally the title of the race piqued my curiosity, and I quickly discovered that JD was actually quite a unique guy who was undertaking an even more unique humanitarian challenge with his sons. Simply put, next year they plan to travel to 12 countries in 12 months to volunteer with local communities. This 12k trail race, put on by JD and hosted at the US National Whitewater Center just outside Charlotte, is one of several fundraisers supporting his Twelve in Twelve endeavor. After learning more about the charity and also seeing that two of my accounts, Inside Out Sports and TrySports, were involved, my participation on behalf of Karhu seemed like a no brainer. After discovering that the prizes for the overall winners were all-expense paid trips to the Sandals Caribbean resorts of their choosing, my participation as a runner seemed even more obvious. Jordan was also game, which meant that we had the potential to win two trips for two! Or one trip for four! Or four trips for....anyway, you get the gist. Pina coladas for everyone!
That is, until a few days before the race when I discovered the fine print: the grand prize for the overall winner was actually one Sandals trip...meaning that unless Jordan and Ben Hovis both fell off the trail and into the pond, I probably wasn't going to have any chance of taking home the travel voucher. On the other hand, it also meant that as long as Jordan won and as long as he didn't invite his other girlfriend, I could still get in on some fun in the sun. (Aruba, Jamaica, ooooh I wanna take ya...everybody now!) Thus, I wasn't too disappointed by this turn of events. However, it did drastically change my "race" strategy. Whereas beforehand I'd planned to duke it out with Alice and hopefully take advantage of her reputed clumsiness to stay bipedal and out-maneuver my way to victory, instead I approached her during our warmup and asked if she wanted to forego the whole "racing" business and instead enjoy a fun, relaxed--albeit difficult--trail run together. After all, the only other prizes up for grabs were the sweet Karhu kicks, and I'm not exactly short on those. Why kill myself to run an arbitrary time on an arbitrary distance when I could enjoy a nice girl talk sesh instead?
The other factor I haven't mentioned yet was my ITB. While for the most part I've chosen to refrain from boring all my readers with the ins and outs of this nagging injury, allow me to share with you that I spend part of literally every day undertaking at least one, if not several in tandem, of the following treatments: deep tissue massaging, foam rolling, stretching, resistance banding, active releasing, acupuncturing, icing, kinesiotaping and strengthening. While this confluence of efforts has managed to keep my pesky injury runnable, it has not been able to alleviate it completely. Shouldn't it stand to reason that a race on the hilly, muddy, sinewy, rooty, technical(y) trails of the WWC would be the worst possible thing for my ailing leg? Perhaps, but all the aforementioned treatments haven't cured it, so what's there to lose? (One could argue that's the sort of sound reasoning that found me in this predicament in the first place, but that's neither here nor there.) I decided to embrace my inner rebel (or dummy) and throw caution to the wind.
Though the forecast promised 80 degrees and sunshine today, it was low 50s and overcast when Jordan and I arrived at the WWC to set up at 8am. Conditions hadn't changed much for the 9am start, but once we got moving I felt quite comfortable. Jordan, Ben and Alice's beau Lat shot out in front, accompanied by Blue Shirt #2 (I'll explain his name in a second). Alice and I were the next of the 100-person field to follow, and after about 400 meters of open running around the main whitewater rafting section we approached the woods and commenced our single-file, singletrack running. Alice entered the trails just ahead of me and we decided to trade off 10-minute increments of leading, with the intention of keeping the pace honest but conversational. As in, literally conversational; we immediately began chatting away about everything from the Boston Marathon to our weekend plans to the boys we have crushes on (spoiler alert: it's Jordan and Lat). I could hear someone breathing close on our heels; sure enough, as soon as we approached a hill that was wide enough to allow passing, a man soon christened as Blue Shirt #1 sailed past us. "Were you not enjoying our company?" I joked as he forged ahead. "Was it something we said?" He seemed decidedly unamused, and retorted with a I'm-joking-but-I'm-really-serious, "Don't take it personally." As soon as he was clear, Alice voiced what I was already thinking: "Blue Shirt is going down." Hells yes, we were going to catch him before the end of the race if for nothing else than the principle of it.
The next few miles passed with no one in our sights ahead or behind. Having never been to the WWC before, I was delighted by the beauty and technicality of the challenging trail system. There were sections when I literally couldn't even take my eyes off the ground long enough to look at my watch, as I would've surely catapulted over a root or a rock or missed a switchback if I had. Of course it didn't help that the ground had received a good dousing from the previous 24 hours of rain, which meant that the already iffy footing was compounded by sometimes undetectable patches of slick, clay-like mud and sections with unapologetic ankle-deep puddles. For a girl who abhors camping or "roughing it" in any form, this is about as extreme as it gets. And, thanks to my trusty cohort Alice, I was absolutely loving it. As we took turns leading, we also took turns calling out to the other about upcoming obstacles and natural booby traps in our path. Roughly halfway through the race we rolled up on Blue Shirt #1 and returned his favor from earlier. "Good job, Blue Shirt!" we called as we passed. In hindsight, we should've said, "Don't take it personally." But we are ladies and that is not a ladylike way to treat a fellow competitor.
Once Blue Shirt #1 was behind us, it wasn't too long before we had Blue Shirt #2 in our sights. Apparently his blistering early pace had taken its toll, and soon he too was behind us. At this point we knew the only targets remaining were Jordan, Ben and Lat. The first two were undoubtedly many minutes ahead of us, but we thought Lat might be our next candidate. "He's injured," Alice confided with just a touch too much excitement in her voice. "We can catch him!" So though we were beginning to tire and slip and slide around like toddlers on ice skates, we renewed our determination to seek and destroy Lat. Unfortunately, we also grossly underestimated how far along we were in the race (turns out Alice's Garmin didn't exactly have pinpoint accuracy under the tree canopies), so we were surprised and even a tad disappointed when we thought there was over a mile to go and a volunteer told us the finish line was just over the next hill. Sure enough, we crested the short climb (aka Heartbreak) and saw the finish banner about 100 yards ahead at the end of a gravel parking area. Alice and I sprinted in together and then, in a manner we both acknowledged as incredibly dorky and yet completely fitting for the scope of the occasion, we clasped our hands together and raised them over our heads in a show of solidarity as we crossed the finish line. Victory was ours!
Muddy legs post-race
After rejoining Ben and Lat a few minutes later, I learned of Jordan's mixed results. He had succeeded in winning us a trip to the Caribbean...aaaand possibly maimed himself in the process. Turns out his left hip, which had been quietly nagging him for a few days, took a turn for the worse somewhere amidst his three--yes, three--falls on the trail. When I located him a few minutes later he was in low spirits and struggled to walk. Fortunately Ben found him a sweet stick in the woods that doubled as a cane, which assisted him in walking back over for the awards ceremony. Naturally several timely Moses/Red Sea parting jokes ensued, although in hindsight I think he looked more like Rafiki from the Lion King. Either way, he was in rough shape and I felt terrible about it. Good thing he'll have plenty of time to recover with a coconut umbrella drink at Sandals!
And now, I will leave you with a few of my and Alice's favorite quotes from the race:
Me, just before the start: "I think the route is pretty well marked. There's no way we should get lost."
Alice, approximately three minutes into the race: "Um, which way did they go?"
Alice: "What pace do you think we can run?"
Me, feeling like we're running pretty hard: "I dunno, probably 6:45?"
Alice: "Okay. But just so you know, we're doing 7:30."
Me, about halfway through: "We should have a team name. How about Team Beat Blue Shirt?"
Alice: "Yes! I love it! Go Team BBB!"
Me: "Actually, it's an S...you know what, never mind. Go Team BBB!"
Both of us, seeing Lat ahead at a switchback: "Lat, we're coming for you! We're catching you! Watch out!"
Lat, completely uninterested, shrugging: "All right."
It's definitely time to wrap this up, but I would be remiss if I closed without imploring you to check out JD's web site. Read about his mission and upcoming trip and, if you feel compelled to do so, donate to his cause. More info about Twelve in Twelve can be found here. Thanks to JD and the Whitewater Center for the great event!
Saturday, April 23, 2011
~10 min. w/u (1+ miles)