Red Mountain 30K. 18.6 miles in 2 hours and 39 minutes. 8:30 pace. Third place finish for women, eleventh place overall. Snazzy UltrAspire "hydration system" (aka water bottle) as a prize. By all measurable terms, I totally rocked this race.
And yet, as my feet pushed on for mile after mile, I couldn't stop thinking, "Endorphins, where art thou?" The course was gorgeous, the weather was lovely, I was flying, I should have been thrilled. And yet for all its glory, this race was extremely challenging for me. Physically, my legs were sore and my stomach slightly queazy. The hardest part, however, was the mental battle. With so few runners (only 34 in the 30K), we were spread out so sparsely along the course that it hardly felt like anyone else was running with me. Instead of having other runners close by to help push, inspire, and encourage, the most I could hope for was was to keep the guy ahead somewhere in view. As the road climbed on and on, I kept wondering, what's the purpose? I even stopped and walked for a bit, hoping another runner would catch me and push me to the end. It took nearly five minutes before the guy behind me finally caught up, at which point he promptly started walking as well. Oh endorphins, why didst thou forsake us?
Still, this race taught me some valuable lessons:
1) Training matters. While I may have managed to finish this race, last spring's marathon was much more rewarding and enjoyable because I'd put in the work beforehand.
2) Watch your step. While road racing may not be as technically demanding as trail running, you still need to stay alert. I had some close encounters with an expired cat, snake, and something else unidentifiable.
3) Don't start off too fast. Jason likes to call me a metronome because my pace is so consistent. When running, I pick a speed and generally stick with it no matter what. Well, shooting out of the gate, I pushed the tempo far too fast. But once established, I was stuck. Burn rubber or bust--and bust I did.
4) Ultra runners are hardly human. You see, if a mere mortal runs a 30K at the same time an ultra-runner is running a 50K that started 13 miles up the trail, they are likely to get passed. Shaun Martin came whizzing by when I still had 5 miles left to go, crushing the 50K in 3:15. He sailed past so quickly that he seemed an impossible blur--my eyes grew wide, my jaw dropped, and the most intelligent thing I could say was "Wow."
Guess I know who stole the endorphins.