All day people have been asking how the race went, and every time I begin my answer with one word: Amazing.
Even though it was a difficult race, I finished with a smile on my face and would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
We woke before 4 am, but we got a good night’s sleep because we set four alarms and got a wake-up call. Race buses were scheduled to leave at 5 am and there was no way we were missing it!
We arrive at Doukenie Winery (the start) at about 5:30 am. We took photos, prepared our gear, and saw the most amazing sunrise. We stood in a circle and did our stretches. It felt like a special training, pretty normal, the weather was still cool.
After stretching, Mike (one of our awesome coaches!) led us to the start. There was music playing and so we indulged in some nervous pre-race dancing – we were really rocking out. We were pretty much the only ones. A lot of people were too busy taking one last pee in the field near the start. Most people were just standing around.
When the race finally began, 15 – 20 minutes late, Kevin, Beth, and I crossed the start line together with friends right behind us. Kevin took off ahead of us and Beth and I settled into a comfy, but slightly faster than usual, starting pace. We ran the whole first mile and felt great. We were surrounded by smiling runners. We met other Team Challenge runners and coaches. At mile 1, we felt incredible. We felt like we could keep running, but decided to preserve our energy and start on our intervals. We never quite got to our intervals because of distractions like race photographers who we paused and posed for, meeting Team Challenge participants and coaches who kept us running beyond our intervals, and water stops. The first five miles flew joyously by. We were sticking fairly close the 2 hour and 30 minute pacer without too much effort.
Then we started in on the sixth mile: gravel. We hadn’t trained on gravel, we’d trained on pavement. We’d heard that the gravel stretch was short, so we figured it was a good time to walk, especially because of the heat. We were really sweaty and extra tired from the heat. So it was a welcome shaded uphill walk to mile 6, HiddenCroft Winery.
HiddenCroft gave us several gifts: cheers from our endurance manager Katie, a taste of traminette wine (mmmmm), and a small bottle of lemon-lime Gatorade (aka liquid gold). We felt totally renewed and ready to go.
But then the gravel persisted. And the heat got worse. Turned out the gravel stretch of this course is 4 miles. We tried running on the gravel, but I nearly turned my ankle and Beth’s body just hurt more running on the uneven terrain. Plus, the heat. It was making us both cranky.
When we finally arrived at mile 9 (the re-start of pavement), we were desperate to run. We ended up needing to part ways to meet the needs of our bodies and minds, but it worked out for the best. (Tip: If you’re going to run with a buddy during a race – set your terms in advance. Are you willing to part ways?)
During our long walk, many of the people that were running at our pace zoomed past us. That didn’t help our crankiness at mile 8. We were suddenly pretty alone. But what we didn’t know was that they had or were about to begin walking the last few miles and we were actually catching up to them at the point we felt we were falling farthest behind. EVERYONE we talked to slowed down considerably because of the heat. Some of the most talented runners we know admitted to walking a good chunk of the race. It was just hot.
I started doing a lot of running again around mile 10 and I was one of the few running at that point. I still never got to our intervals of long runs because I was so ready to run and so pumped to finish the race that I couldn’t keep myself from running really fast. When I saw my running buddy Shawn, I sprinted to catch up to her and walk a bit. I did a bunch of short fast intervals followed by walks. I ate a Chocolate Outrage Gu that my body needed so much I thought it was quite possibly the best food I’ve ever eaten.I started cheerleading everyone I ran past, encouraging them to try out running that last mile of the race because it felt soooo good to me. And then I walked a little so that I could run the final .1 to the finish.
There was so much cheering. Actually, there was a ton of cheering during the whole race. Sooooo many people were cheering for Team Challenge specifically and I just was so amazed!! We had a GRAND time. I’m still so elated that I can’t fully express myself in concrete details or good strong words, so I’m going to say AMAZING, GREAT, and ONE OF MY BEST LIFE EXPERIENCES and leave you with a bunch of pictures. What a race!