Before the start of the men's race, the race director gave the following instructions:
If this is your first trail race, you've made a mistake... [insert other ominous statements]... The course is well-marked with orange flags on the trees. There's a flag no less than every 100m or so. In some sections, they're about every 50ft. So, if you go too long without seeing a flag, you're lost, and you should probably back track to the last place you saw a flag. Oh, and there are some switchbacks on the back half of the course. There's barbed wire at the end of one, so don't miss that turn.So, I figured that I was pretty much screwed. Not only was this my first trail race, but I get lost on out-and-backs in downtown Raleigh. How are you supposed to look for an orange flag on a tree when you are staring down at the ground to make sure you don't trip anyways?!? The men's race was first, and Sean took off with the pack.
So, I'm running along, making sure not to go out too fast. I get to a downhill section... not too bad... then I get to "the" downhill section (that vertical drop a little before the mile mark). Wow. Ok, so I tried to remember the advice from the trail running magazine and take short quick steps. All of a sudden the woman in front of me loses control and starts slipping down the mountain. I think my eyes were as wide as saucers at this point, luckily someone either grabbed her from the sidelines or she caught a tree or something. Then there was a brief break, before we headed up and up and up (ahhh, this is why Sean looked tired the first time we saw him). Of course, this was "tame" compared to what we'd "run" up later, but at the time I thought it was miserable. There was about 30sec of level ground where you could actually get back to running, and then another huge downhill, at the end of which my quads were shot.
Then came the uphill. I ran up for the first bit... short quick steps... and then I tripped on a root or rock and almost fell off the singletrack. And, it was my right foot with the somewhat inflamed 2nd toe joint, which was only being compounded by the fact that the grade was forcing me to land on it at an angle... my ankle felt AWESOME by the end of the first half. I could see everyone in front of me "hiking". The hill was pretty steep at this point, the roots were pretty big, and the rocks were pretty frequent. We just kept going up and up and up... you could never see the top... everything from my lower back down was killing... and I was just praying that it would be over in a 1/4 of mile.
And, finally, it was. We came through the halfway point and I heard Matt, Sean, and Nikki cheering. It felt great to be able to run again. Sean yelled something about trying to make up time by the lake, so I kept at it. Truth be told, the next 1-1.5 miles were pretty nice and I caught up to some people.
I started climbing, spurred on by the thought that the end was at least close. This glimmer of hope lasted until I came to the "rock wall". Matt took a picture of it (left), but the picture on the right is a much more accurate description (note the look of absolute I don't know what on my face):
DONE! (my pictures)