Last year was the inauguration of this race, part of the Big Blue Adventure Series, though then it was a 10 mile or 20 mile distance. This year, they offered 4 distances: 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon, all on beautiful trails in Tahoe City, right at the peak of wildflower season. There weren't all that many runners, probably less than a hundred all together (just a guess), but the organizers say they're hoping to grow the race each year. I think the expanded choice in distances will help that.
I'm no race veteran, but this seemed a very well organized and well marked (we'll get back to that) trail run, with plenty of well stocked aid stations. Certainly the route was awesome, a 5k loop that ran up a gentle slope, then crossing a pond over a dam, up a more strenuous climb through tons of blooming mules' ears, lupines and indian paintbrush. After a short, flat section of fire road, back on single track heading down, then through a couple fields and intersections and back to the start. Repeat.
I'd have some nice photos of all this, but my camera battery was giving up the ghost as we got there, so only a few photos.
Some cool swag for the relatively cheap price. In addition to the nice technical T-shirt, I also scored lip balm, sunscreen and a big ol' bottle of Technu, that stuff that's supposed to halt poison ivy in its tracks.
On to the race. I had a (probably unrealistic) goal of finishing this 10K in 1:10. This had to be readjusted even before the start of the race, because they let us know the course ran long, 3.4 miles each loop according to my Garmin. So maybe 1:20? I started in the back of the pack, and remained there. I did pass a couple of people at first, then settled into a nice place and a nice rhythm. I definitely slowed down on the second climb, and walked a few steps up the steeper section.
I was a little over my hoped for 11 minute mile pace, but still felt I had done ok so far. I got my wind back on the flat fireroad section, and headed down the single track descent determined to make up some lost time. I was running at a 9-10 minute pace for this mile, and started to feel pretty good about my time. After some water at the aid station, I trotted off looking to complete my first loop. I was sure I could do better on the second.
I had been thinking how well marked everything was. Therefore, I was a little disconcerted when I came to an intersection that wasn't marked. Hmm. I went in what seemed like the most likely direction, and soon found myself at yet another unmarked turn. WTF? It slowly dawned on me that, yes, it appeared I was lost. Damn! I ran back the way I had come, looking for arrows or some indication of where I was supposed to be. I heard some cheering off in the distance, and headed that way. Luckily, I spotted a runner and quickly followed and was back on track. But I had travelled an extra .5 miles (at least), and some of that was spent standing around scratching my head. Was I 10 minutes down at this point? Probably!
O well, I am not in it to win it anyways, so I just shook my head at my stupidity and got back on track. My 1:10 was DEFINITELY out of reach now.
I ran through the start gate, and back up the hill to the wildflowers. I had lost a little of my mojo at this point, and decided the best thing I could do was just enjoy the run. There was absolutely no one around me at this point, which turned out to be a good thing. Right as I started the climb (which was much easier this time, further validating my theory that I am useless as a runner for the first 2 miles), my normally calm and acquiescent bowels suddenly spoke up and declared "Everybody out of the pool!" WTF??? I have NOT had the slightest bit of GI running trouble in like a year, and NOW? I ran off into the trees and did my thing.
Mule Ears, whilst being some of the loveliest wildflowers around here this time of year, also make EXCELLENT toilet paper.
I ran another couple hundred yards, and then had a repeat experience, this one leaving me chilled and quivering for a good 5 minutes. Now I knew my race was really shot. I kept a lot of this post in mind, and just kept on going.
I had a great time on the second descent, and came into the finish line smiling. I immediately was assured of my expected DFL status, and took some pride in this first-time accomplishment. I packed up my things and was leaving the venue in a hurry, as we were late for another engagement, when the race director came over to offer the entirely unexpected news that I had, in fact, actually won my age group as well! Another first time accomplishment! I even got a beer glass saying 1st! Oh, and my final time (according to Gary) was 1:36 for a 7.5 mile run. OK for me!
I really had a great race and enjoyed just about every minute of it, it was such a nice day and so beautiful a course. Plus, I have now learned the benefits of entering really small local races . . .
(btw, I had been wondering where one of my favorite bloggers drifted off to, and today I found out. Plus, she's got a really fine contest going on, so drop by.)