This is the second time I have run this race. Training goes pretty well; despite three blizzards I manage to get in 12 runs of 20+ miles, two of which are 50K distance. Initially, the plan was that this race would be a training run for the MMT 100, but the more I tried to run on the MMT course, the more unlikely it became that I would actually run, or finish the MMT, due to lack of requisite speed to handle the steep climbs and downhills within the time cut-offs, particularly since the course has changed and, according to the RD, is more difficult. So, I resolved to tackle BRR like my major spring race.
The day dawned cool and clear. My running partner, Mark, showed up early as usual, arriving on my doorstep at 4:45 am. Grilled cheese sandwiches seemed like the ticket so we downed those and headed to the start, about 20 minutes from my home. We milled around in the lodge before the start, staying warm and greeting other runners with the usual banter. Ken, our comrade from last year, is in rare form, trying to get our goal time out of us. We refuse to tell him, mostly because we don't KNOW what it should be. I suspect Mark wants 11 hours while I secretly want 11:30 or at least to be under last year's 11:40.
Long sleeve tshirt over my Cody's Crew singlet. Standing at the start line, I talk to Jason from Pittsburgh, whom I ran near last year and also ran with when I paced Caroline at MMT last year. Caroline arrives late, a little concerned because she overslept and then locked her keys in her car. 6:30 am and we start. Dawn is breaking and we do a lap around the parking lot to let the pack spread out. There are 350+ starters.
Onto the trail and down the Hemlock hill. There is a bit of a stiff breeze. The bluebells are in full bloom. I chat with Jason and Ken's cousin Peter for the first mile or so and then they surge ahead, as does Caroline. We hit the first aid station (7.2 miles) and head north to the turnaround. At the turnaround, I comment to Mark that I think we are in last place. He assure me that we are not and that our pace is fine--he is being kind. I feel like a turtle and my hamstrings are aching. Aid station again at around mile 12. I take advil. Back down the trail to the start, up the super steep climb, wishing that it were 34 miles from now and we were finishing, not wanting to think about climbing that hill again.
Aid station at Hemlock, mile 16+. We try to move thru efficiently, noting a lot of runners sitting down there. Now I don't feel like we are last. Down to the trail heading south this time we pass Jason. He says he feels ok but comments that he does not have a lot of miles in this season. Aid station at Bull Run Marina is around mile 21. I am always happy to clear the dreaded soccer fields and find the Marina. Ken and Mark and I run along. I lead a fair amount of the time. Ken takes a few stumbles and we warn him not to knock us down. He says he is the Captain of "Fly and Die Airlines" and entertains us with his advertising slogans. He is famous for going out super fast and bonking, as he did last year. We encourage him to drink and take E-Caps at each aid station.
Mile 23 and the leaders are flying back up the trail! I comment that they are several miles ahead of where we saw the leaders last year, both male and female, and that I think both records will be broken. That is precisely what happens; the men's winner runs a little over 6 hours, the female winner around 7.5. It is fun to cheer them and we see a steady stream of northbound runners all the way down to Fountainhead and into the famous Do Loop.
The aid stations are wonderful, as always. I am adventurous with nutrition today--quesadillas, perogies, grapes, bananas, coke, ginger aid, popsicles and ice cream sandwiches are among the items I try. All go down nicely, to my delight...well, I do regret the perogi but only for a couple of miles. I pass on the pizza at the Do Loop station. SpreT is working there...he has been sick and says he is in a funk and doubtful about MMT.
Mile 37 changes things. I take a header, landing hard on my left hand and left knee. Both hurt like crazy but I try to run it off. The fall scares me and angers me. I fear that I am hurt and will have to drop. The next six miles are very difficult and I am extremely grouchy. Every step hurts. It feels like the fat on my thighs shakes with every step. Downhills are the worst. I try to keep running. I swear off racing anything more than a 5K and maintain I am retiring. Mark and Ken humor me and convince me to try more Advil. I keep saying: "I just want this to be OVER." All of a sudden, the Bad Patch is gone. I start tuning in to the conversation about our pace. It seems we might beat last year's time. I surge ahead. We pass Caroline at mile 40, the Wolf Shoal aid station, where the volunteers are dressed like the Wizard of Oz characters.
Running becomes feasible again and we can see Bull Run Marina up ahead. We get to the aid station at 4:30 pm. 5.5 miles to go. At 4:40 I call my family and ask DH to bring some beer to the finish, predicting that we will finish a bit before 6 pm. He is clueless enough to say "It is going to take you more than an hour to run 5 miles??" Never mind that they are miles 45-50 on a trail...
We pass a few more runners. One guy tells us we passed him in the same spot last year. Ken charges ahead of us. The miles tick down, we are going to be close to 11:30 if we can keep going. We get to the base of the hill at 5:43. I know it is 1/2 to the finish. The hill seems so steep that I struggle to catch my breath. We hit the top and start running across the field, walking the last uphill, vowing to run when we hear the finish line.
We turn the corner and hear the cheering. The clock says 11:21 something and we push it in, crossing in just over 11:22. The race officials ask Mark: "have you seen Kate? Is she lost out there?" I look at them dumbfounded and say: "I am right here". They look at my number--apparently it has been upside down all day! The RD comes over and says that he knew I was fine as I know the trail very well and that I was probably with Mark. We get a good laugh out of that one.
My family straggles in a few minutes later, bearing beer and the kids head directly for the food tent. Ken finished in 11:16; Caroline in 11:45, a PR for her too. I note that I am having trouble taking deep breaths. Later on, I realize that it may be the high tree pollen count and all that I have breathed in. One toenail may be a goner and some slight chafing but no horrific blisters like last year.
I am pleased with the race over all — thanks for reading!