25K AFTON Trail race, Hastings, MN, July 1:
Left home on Friday, met up w/ RB a couple of hours later, left my car at her place and we carpooled to Minneapolis. Light shower but also some lightening that went through the cities at night.
Saturday, got up at 4 am, left at 4:30, ate bagel w/ peanut butter on drive to race location, about 45 min drive east of St. Paul. Nice light breeze, about 60 degrees already, partly cloudy, we all know it's gonna be HUMID. Parked close to race, YAY!! Picked up our race packet.
RB got ready and we hung around at start area w/ other runners. 50ks (2 loops) take off at 6:30. I got ready back at car, wore short-sleeved/running skirt/cap/ took sunglasses/ wore waist belt w/ small pocket for my frozen water soft flask/salt tabs/sport beans. I can get water/HEED/food at Aid Station, longest distance between them is about 3.5 miles. I've trained for it so I feel confident I can make it.
First goal is to finish upright safely.
Second is to stay balanced w/ hydration between water and HEED at each A.S.; take salt tab each hour and sport beans when needed.
Third, to finish in 3 hrs.
There are 7 HILLS and I'm not sure how technical they are but half are LONG and gradual, others are LONG/Steep.
At 7:30 am, 493 25K (1 loop) runners take off, I start towards the back, slow and steady is my motto. JOGGED the first two hills. WOW!! Most of the trail is groomed/grassy but hills are gravel/dirt, YAY!! Few front 50k runners passed me. Loved the single track portions. Few portions of it had some wide serious short deep muddy areas from last night's rain. We had to detour to the side of it and walk through the thick trees. A couple of other muddy areas were runnable, glad I didn't lose a shoe! One of the short muddy crossing before a hill, one of the runners ahead of me slipped but I grabbed her or she would have fallen into the mud/water. My left knee scraped a small jutted rock but I kept my balance and knee is good. Glad those were early in the race.
Boy, the DESCENTS were pretty steep and most of it had some technical portions w/ rocks ......runnable, it was FUN!! Lots of winding through trees, then into OPEN fields w/ short, gradual rolling hills, blinding sun. Glad I had my sunglasses. Other times, I took them off when in the shaded areas. I walked through each of the 6 A.S. for water or HEED and had a few salted chips. And got the cold sponge over my head/back, that felt awesome!! After each hill summit, my heart rate was sky high so I had jog before picking up pace again. About 7.5 miles, top of the hill, it was the most spectacular scenic view!! Then tough steep downhill till we got to the path along the river.
From mile 10 to abut 11.5 was along the St. Croix River which separates MN from WI, beautiful w/ the shaded trees but didn't care for the wide, flat, gravel course here, apparently part of the 'rail trail.' OUCH! Took forever! Finally, turned back into the wooded areas w/ another hill. This was tough, jogged half way, then power walked to top. Legs getting more tired. Getting back into running mode after reaching top took every bit of my mental toughness. Mile 12, I caught up w/ a female runner in orange running skirt, and a younger one was behind me who didn't want to pass me so we all pulled each other, up/down the hills. My calves kept feeling like they were going to cramp but I stayed upright and powered through.
The last hill around 15 miles was the 'shortest' but felt the TOUGHEST. We power walked but my calves are screaming for a break, and on the verge of cramping. The younger runner still didn't want to pass, LOL!! She says,"I'll run when you do but you don't have to!" HAHA!! When we got to the top, the runner w/ orange skirt stopped for me to pass, she said she was "wiped out" but I said, "oh no you don't, you keep going, we are behind you!" Saw a huge grin and we all took off!! The last half mile was so much fun, I don't know where we got the extra energy but our pace picked up on the single track, passed a couple of runners, and then turned the corner and, finally, we saw the finish line. The younger one slows down to run beside me, WHAT?!? but I yelled at her, "GO, GO!" She took off! We all finished strong and the younger runner gave me a huge hug after I finished, "thank you for pulling me up the hills and talking to me the last 3 miles," she says. I asked her why she slowed down beside me. She felt bad on passing me. I told her that runners understand and to always go for a strong finish. The one in the orange skirt came up and we all high-fived and hugged ......we are all a sweaty mess from the sweat and water sponges!!
I'm glad I did it. It was more challenging than the 'Dances with Dirt' HM trail that I ran in last year in WI but both were alot of fun for me. I was grateful considering how long it has taken me to get to this point since my injury/recovery. I wanted to run the 50k but I know that would not be smart at this time. This is my longest distance yet. I kept a steady pace, and hydration was well-timed. As I mentioned, I have had (always will, I think, while living in MN) difficulty breathing in the thick humidity which increases my heart rate so had to slow down after each hill summit. Definitely took a few more minutes at aid stations 3, 4, and 5.
There was a cook out at the finish tents, LOVE THOSE!! My body just wanted watermelon. I changed into dry clothes and waited for RB. And then we ate. DH thought that we are nuts to go through all that for a wooden medal but he knows its what we love to do.
Official results: 3:09:55. Overall 331/493. Female 116/214. AG 14/32.