I woke up an hour and fifteen minutes before my alarm on race day. Terrific. I hadn’t slept well, and after I awoke at 3:45 am I knew I wasn’t going to fall back asleep, no matter how hard I tried, so I just got up. I tried not to make too much noise, as I didn’t want to wake up Andrew too early. I washed, dressed and did some yoga moves to get my body ready for the race before making some coffee.
Our hotel had a Keurig machine which is such a dream when traveling. I can buy the kind of coffee I like and brew it right in the room. And not to get too graphic or anything, but let’s just say the proper coffee is required to get the poops out before a long race. And after my food sins from the day before, I really needed to make sure that happened. My stomach had been topsy-turvy all night, contributing to my lack of sleep along with my nerves. Thankfully, a couple of coffees and some oatmeal with chia seeds and blueberries and my situation was much better. Success in this situation is critical.
Andrew awoke and got himself ready. We collected all of our necessary gear and hit the road back to Rexburg. There was not one bit of traffic along the way, so we arrived quite early to the park where the race both began and finished. The race route was a nice loop (square, actually) through the Rexburg area, mostly in farm country. We stretched a bit, utilized the port-a-potties, arranged for gear check and prepared for the start of the race.
|Starting line photo of Andrew and I.|
The race stepped off promptly on time at 7:30 am and began through a residential area behind the Madison Junior High School. It was a nice way to start, somewhat slightly up hill, but nothing too taxing. As we came out of the residential area and in to the more rural farm lands, one of the first sights of interest we passed was a house with either bighorn sheep or mountain goats in the yard. I wasn’t sure which they were, but if I had to guess, I’d say they were sheep. They were looking at us as if to say, “What the heck it this? We don’t usually see this going by.” Of course, in my mind as I passed them I couldn’t help thinking that it isn’t every day that you see bighorn sheep. Almost immediately after I passed them, across the street on my right hand side was a huge herd of elk! They were spectacular to see and were kept by a farm called the Rocky Mountain Elk Ranch. What a cool way to start off a long run!
As we continued, we entered in to complete farm lands for almost as far as the eye could see. We were surrounded by more of the same kind of fields Andrew and I saw the day before—potatoes and some kind of wheat/grassy crop. Grain silos and more of those huge industrial sprinklers were everywhere, too. The first five miles were spent in this way. It was pastoral and lovely and easy on the eyes.
At mile five the hill started. And what a hill it was. The first part of it wasn’t too bad. Most of the time I’m ok with hills. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other like any other run on any other surface. Just keep pushing forward. But keep in mind, this was a THREE MILE HILL. It was largely steep for the first half, then it leveled off a bit, went up a bit more, leveled off again, went up again, leveled off again then went one last huge steep bit up. Just enough to completely kick your ass. The special timing devices were at the bottom and top of the hill as we had heard the night before, but I knew there was no way I’d be the fastest runner, so I tried not to focus on that. I just wanted to focus on getting over the hill. I did fine, only stopped to take a few walking steps at about the halfway point to catch my breath. During this part of the run, I ended up running partly with a man named John from Utah. He took up running to lose weight, and he was doing a great job. We had a nice chat and talked a bit with each other about races we had done. I asked him if he was a 50-stater, and he didn’t know about it, so I filled him in. I think I may have made a new recruit today. He was a nice guy. He mostly outran me on the hill, but I caught him near the top and then passed him when the downhills started.
Miles 8-10 were up and down. I felt fine physically and took advantage of the downhills as best as I could. There were still a few pretty steep uphills during this part of the race though that kept it quite challenging.
Once we hit mile 10 the race pretty much turned to a downhill sprint. This was wonderful after all the uphills, and it really made the end of the race a pleasure to finish. Just after mile 10 as I crested the top of the hill and started down, the view below me was spectacular! All I could think of was that it was the potato valley below me. It was an incredible vista of the farm fields, houses leading in to the valley, churches, the valley stretching out below and the amazing mountains off in the distance framing it all in. This beneath a perfect clear blue sky without a cloud in sight. Breathtaking.
I ran these downhills as fast as I could get gravity and my legs to take me. It was exhilarating to experience the fun of running downhill to the finish line. I passed the end of the 10K walkers/runners as they hit their turn around and went back to the finish. I ran through a gorgeous neighborhood in the final few turns that led back to the park. Folks in the neighborhood were in good spirits and kids and parents both were there to cheer us on. It was a perfect day.
As I rounded the corner in to the park I could hear the announcer, and since I was running with no one around me, he announced my name as I approached the finish line. I love it when that happens!
I crossed and checked my time which was right around 1:57 something. Certainly slower than my normal pace, but with that big huge hill in the middle, I didn’t mind. I was sub-2 hours and that is always my aim. I grabbed some water and snacks and walked through the finishing area, of course collecting my medal as well. I walked around the expo area, checking out some of the local vendors. I met this cool giant dalmatian while I was there.
After we took a picture together, I noticed that my wonderful husband (and biggest fan) texted me to tell me I had finished 2nd in my age group! My top placement in a race ever! I couldn’t believe it! I also finished 4th overall in the masters category, which is all women 40 and up. Not too shabby.
|Hanging with the big dogs.|
I collected my gear bag and checked in with officials to see if this status was true, and in fact, it was! I was a 2nd place winner with an official time of 1:57:46. I told the race director that I couldn’t stay for the awards ceremony because I had a 1:30 flight out and still had to get back to the hotel to shower, pack and return the rental car.
He slipped me my prize (a gear belt) on the sly and told me to keep it under wraps. I asked the high school kids volunteering at the prize table to do a victory dance for me when they called my name since I had to leave. They said they would. :)
|Me on the awards stage giving the #22 sign. 22 states done!|
Andrew and I found each other and walked back to the car. The drive back to the hotel was easy, and we traded stories of our trials and tribulations along the race route. He spied llamas and cows but not the sheep and elk I saw. I missed the llamas and cows. His IT band was really hurting, so he took it slow, but he finished. Mostly we both felt pretty good though. Completing another state was exciting.
We grabbed some breakfast back at the hotel then got ourselves stretched, showered and packed before heading off to the airport. Luckily our hotel was only about 7 minutes from the airport, so we didn’t have to kill ourselves with rushing around. We arrived with plenty of time to spare before boarding our flights.
|Race t-shirt, number and medal.|
I always feel sad saying good bye to cousin Andrew because he is such an easy going guy to hang out with. He’s super smart, and I love having discussions with him about books or music or running or whatever we touch upon. It is always more fun to have him along on a run than when I’m all by myself watching HGTV in my hotel room. I gave him a hug at the airport because I knew he didn’t have much time to make his connection when we got to Minneapolis (neither did I, for that matter). Off we went.
The flights home were great. My wonderful, amazing, smart, loving, biggest-fan husband genius that he is bought me a first class ticket, so I had plenty of room to stretch out my legs. After a long run that is just divine.