My goals going into this race were ambitious. I wanted to run a time in the range of 4:30 to 4:45 which would be a big improvement from last year's 4:52. Unfortunately I got really sick two weeks ago, sicker than I've been in years! I called in sick to work for the first time in my working life and actually went to urgent care to get meds. This girl rarely takes ibuprofen so seeking medical advice was an achievement. When it came around to race weekend I wasn't feeling 100% but I was able-bodied enough to run.
The weather was perfect on race day with highs forecasted to be in the 60s, but the word was that there was a good bit of snow on the upper part of the course. As we gathered at the starting line my friend, Amanda, and I started chatting and suddenly people started moving. We didn't even have time to get nervous. I tried not to run the first 8 or so miles too fast and saved enough energy to run the relentless uphill dirt road to the turnaround point. I let myself look at my watch for the first time at the turnaround and was excited to see that 2:15 had elapsed... a 10 minute improvement over last year. I figured the snow in the next section would slow me down but would put me on track to finish around 4:45.
The turnaround is always the high point of the race for me because you get to see your friends that are within a mile ahead of or behind you. Getting to cheer people on always gives me energy. I think I was within the top 10 women or so but there were a lot of strong-looking women close behind me. I had been using Tailwind and had put down about 300 calories so my energy levels were where they needed to be. I was a little nauseous but after being on antibiotics all week and being at 9,000+ feet for the first time in a while, this was to be expected.
After the turnaround the course heads back down just short of a mile and hits another dirt road. This road was super muddy and slushy. I ran this road in a thin layer of snow two years ago and that was definitely easier than these conditions. There was a lot of staring at my feet trying to get good footing and I just got used to following the two girls ahead of me. After trudging on for a bit, the girl ahead of me stops, turns around, and in a panicked voice starts telling me that she hasn't seen the girl ahead of her in a while and that the intersection in front of us didn't have any flags.
Sure enough, we were at a Y-intersection with no clear way to go. In denial she starts to insist that there was no way we could have gotten off course and that surely they didn't mark it. She thought we should go right. I knew what she was feeling and I had insisted the same thing at the Dead Horse 50k last fall in Moab. That experience taught me that sometimes you just have to accept that you made a mistake and turn around.
We had no idea how far we had come since the last course marking and I was full of hope that we hadn't gone that far and that I had a chance to make up the time by speeding up. Full of panic/rage I started running as fast as I could and stopped drinking or eating. We had come almost 1.5 miles off course for a grand total of 2.5-3 extra miles (out and back) with some decent hills and a good 40 minutes (since we stopped to talk about our options and to pick up another lost girl on our way back).
When we saw where we went off, I got angry: angry at myself for getting lost on a course that I've been on TWICE! There were two flags veering off sharply to the side but I had been looking at the ground and the back of the girl in front of me. Since then I've been thinking of all the "if only" scenarios. If only I had been ahead of her I would have been looking around more. If only the flags on the hairpin turn had been in my peripheral. If only there had been someone behind us who would have seen us and called out to us. I could go on forever but when you sign up for a race in the mountains, you sign up for a little bit of route-finding.
I was pretty cranky when I considered my options. I could continue on and get in 29 miles and a seemingly slow time or call it a day at the next aid station. I started thinking about a conversation I had with Justin Ricks when he told me about a time he dropped out at a race. When he arrived at the aid station he planned to drop at, the volunteers kept trying to get him going and one volunteered to walk it in with him. But he didn't come to the race to walk it in. He knew he could finish, but he came to win.
That line of thinking made sense to me. I didn't come to just slog out the race. I came to get a PR and to be as competitive as possible. After I DNFed my first road marathon, it was really important to me to finish the next trail marathon attempt no matter what. But I've already finished the Run Through Time twice and I didn't have anything to prove to myself just by finishing. After having the flu for the last two weeks it wasn't worth trashing my body early in the season just to have another finish under my belt.
After I made the decision to quit I still had another 3-4 miles to the aid station so I chatted with the people around me. They were so encouraging telling me that I looked great and that I should try to finish. I smiled, thanked them, and tried my hardest not to let my negative energy wear off on them. At the aid station, the volunteers told me that I had tons of time before the cut off and I should sit and think about if I really wanted to DNF. Again, I smiled, thanked them, and asked the shortest way to get down the mountain. I walked myself out and got picked up on the jeep road by some nice strangers heading to the finish to cheer on their daughter.
The finish line of this race is always fun regardless of if you raced or not. Talking with a lot of friends it seemed that a lot of people either did a double-take at that tricky intersection or went briefly off course themselves. A group of guys did the same thing and back tracked to find Amanda, who thankfully only added about a mile and still managed to take 5th place. At the end of the day, I can only blame myself for not noticing the flags. And that's what kills me the most. I should have known better. I'm trying to take solace in the fact that I got in some speedy miles with lots of gain and ended up with about 25 miles for the day even though they weren't the miles I was supposed to do.
Congrats to everyone who toughed it out on a challenging course. And I'm especially proud of my honey who isn't happy with his race but still managed to take 17th place despite being sleep deprived from grad-school midterms and a full-time job.
The clouds hid the Collegiates when we came into town on Friday
Photo bombed the Runner's Roost guys photo with Bill Dooper
After the race we grabbed some Amica's Pizza and headed up S-Mountain for a picnic with a view
The view just before sunrise this morning
We hiked part of the Mt. Princeton jeep road today before heading home
Cory and the pups