I don't normally do race reports. I have lots of really good reasons for that. Firstly, race reports are hard. Secondly, I'm lazy. Also, I always figure the writing of race reports is best left to the people who do well in races, or at least write well about races. Me, I forget so much - minutes after finishing, I couldn't tell you what was happening in mile 2 or 7 or at the fourth aid station. I focus on the trail 8 feet ahead of me and all of my attention stays there. Whatever thoughts flit through my head are like leaves blowing across the trail. I barely notice, and I forget almost immediately.
But I've been trying to pay attention in my recent adventures.
So I'll give this a try. This past weekend, I ran a 25k trail race out at Post Oak on Saturday. On Sunday, I ran a half marathon. I ran with some of my fellow Turtles and some people who aren't officially Turtles but we don't hold that against them. Come to think of it, I'm not officially a Turtle anymore. I don't know if we hold it against me. Do we? Let's start with Saturday.
No, let's start with Friday. Since (I thought) all I really needed to do was wash a load of laundry on Friday night, I readily agreed to have a beer with some friends. One beer turned into two, two beers turned into another bar, a good time was had by all and I think it was one in the morning before I squinted at my alarm clock, did some wobbly math and dropped into an instant coma.
Saturday dawned cold. I trudged shivering to the shower. Standing under the spray, slumping against the wall, I couldn't help but laugh at myself - race morning, and there I was. Shaky, queasy, a little dehydrated.
I tried to remember something Eddie said about running through a hangover - something about how he'd never had a hangover last past a certain mile. What mile was that? I couldn't think. I just swallowed some ibuprofen, guzzled as much water as my sloshy belly could hold and went on getting ready.
At that point I realized that I really should have printed out directions to Post Oak, since I'd never been there before. Luckily, my phone's navigation is pretty reliable. I used that and it got me there, still bleary eyed and shaky, but excited - these days, the part I get nervous about isn't really the race. I worry about waking up late, getting lost, being late to the race, not being able to find the start line, not being able to find my shoes - that sort of thing. Once the race starts, if I'm there, I can finally relax. I mean, it's not like I plan to win.
The people at Post Oak, from the volunteers directing parking to the lodge staff, were just the sweetest, nicest people. Even looking at the world with my hungover Popeye's squint, I couldn't help but be impressed. Just lovely, those people.
So I was there, and I was in the right place and had my chip on my shoe and everything, all my ducks in a row, when the 25k started. I got stuck in a pack right at the start and couldn't go as fast as I wanted, but that was actually a blessing - I have a tendency to take off way too fast for my ability, and when I do that, I pay for it later.
All that water I'd guzzled earlier while trying to rehydrate hit my bladder at the same time and I swear I'd never had to pee so bad in my entire life. That first port-a-potty came into view with an orchestral accompaniment and a choir of angels singing. It was just about the loveliest part of my day, finally getting to pee.
I emerged, feeling ten gallons lighter, and ran to the - it must have been the second aid station, right? Anyway, I was running up and saw a guy who looked kind of like Stormy, but I couldn't really look up because I had to watch where I was putting my feet in the slippery mud. Then he yelled something and I was shocked to realize that it actually WAS Stormy.
And then there was Ken! (It always just shocks the hell out of me when I see people I know volunteering on a race. And then they start yelling my name and saying encouraging things! I want to shush them and tell them to cheer for someone who is going to win or something. But I don't. I just blush, but you can't tell because my face is pink from exertion, and I grin, and I try not to duck my head and say shucks or anything.)
Anyway, seeing that port-a-potty was pretty lovely, but seeing Ken and Stormy at the aid station was maybe even better. I had a feeling I might be all right after all.
So I took off again. At various points, I could see Shelley's green shorts flashing through the woods ahead of me. Once or twice I even saw John, but I knew he was probably way ahead of me, so I chased Shelley and Penny and Debbie. And I chased them. And I chased them.
I thought about a lot of things. Most frequently, I thought, "Don't fall down." I also thought about the curiously delicious combination of soy sauce and brownies for as long as the taste lingered in my mouth - about a mile, I think. I thought about how many different colors of mud I saw - every shade of brown was out there, from slick red clay to sticky black goop, fluffy beige mud with the consistency of pudding - I saw it all, I stomped it all and I brought a little of each kind with me back to the finish line. My gray trail runners turned brown. The sound of my own feet squishing through the mud made me smile. I tried to remember to walk the hills, reminding myself that I had another race the next day. And there were a lot of hills to be walked. When I remembered.
I ran by myself, jumping off the trail to let 50k runners pass me (they were easy to spot, as they were running back the way I had come), thanking the few people I passed when they stepped aside. The trails were narrow and winding. I ran from yellow ribbon to yellow ribbon. I saw Tom as I came around a bend. I yelled his name and he bellowed out a greeting as I stood aside to let him pass. We saw each other again when the trail doubled back on itself. "Kate, you rock!" echoed through the woods. I laughed. I was tickled.
I finished the race, found my people, ate a brisket sandwich, found my way home through a series of trials and errors, then spent a little while napping in between snacks. And I ate EVERYTHING. I picked through my fridge, eating things straight out of jars, poking into drawers and drinking out of cartons. Pickled baby corn, olives, slices of cheese, pickled beets, dill pickles - am I sensing a theme here?
I walked up to my office after a couple of hours just to stretch my legs. I went ahead and printed out directions to the lodge while I was there. Got a little work done. Went home and did a little laundry.
Sunday was an entirely different animal. I woke up with plenty of time to sit around drinking coffee. When I was too impatient to wait any longer, I moseyed on over to the lodge and got ready to run the half.
The Sunday races were TROAD races, meaning all paved surfaces. 8 miles of road plus 5 miles of Katy Trail. Sunday was WARM! It was lovely, even if it was a little humid. I saw no cause to complain. I ran with John, who kept up a steady conversation the ENTIRE TIME. John's a good guy. He could have run much faster, I'm sure, but he chose to stay with me and we ran the whole thing together. He basically carried me. I absolutely could not have done as well as I did if it hadn't been for him. So that was pretty cool. John, I owe you a Gatorade.
Audra showed up at the finish line, which was pretty awesome. It just bowls me over when people come out just to be supportive. I never know what to say, other than, "Thank you." I wish I could explain just how grateful I am, and how unworthy I feel. But I'll just say thank you, because I don't have any of the right words no matter how long I sit here and think about it. Hang on, I need a tissue.
Oh! Also, I got a blister! My very first running blister! I was so proud. It was tender and sore when I went with my sister to get a pedicure right after the race. But then I woke up this morning and it was gone. I guess it wasn't a serious blister. Couldn't even stick around for longer than a day. And here I was all excited. I felt like a real runner for a minute.
That's all I can think of to report. Oh, hey, what were the doubler awards? Does anybody know? I got a coaster thing and a tree paperweight, but I didn't see anyplace to pick up a finisher shirt, and I think I maybe was supposed to get something else? I don't know. I'm not the brightest tool in the shed on a normal day, and this weekend, I sweated out a few brain cells, so it's possible I walked right past whatever I was supposed to pick up. Does anybody know?
Okay, now I'm really done. Back at work today and gearing up for 20 this weekend! Who's with me?