I felt pretty good with my training for the Cle Elum 25K. Sure, I was “normal-race” nervous, but I knew I would finish it.
But, then the night before the race I took a closer look at the race website and read that the 25K-race (which equated to about 15.5 miles) would in fact be an 18-mile race.
My heart sunk a little as I went to bed. What was I getting myself into?
I actually got myself into something really great.
Bryce and I met up with Jackie and Brent
bright and early. We left Seattle before 5 a.m. and arrived at the race start around 7 a.m. It was chilly, but I knew I wouldn’t be starting for another two hours.
Jackie and I wished Bryce and Brent good luck on their 50K … yeah, I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy — yet.
And then at 9 a.m., it was time for the 18-milers to begin our journey.
I was a little worried I would be cold in my singlet and shorts so I packed arm warmers (that I’ve never used before) in my hydration pack. I’m happy to announce that I never had to break them out. I’m even happier to announce that I did not need to take a single pit stop the entire race! As a road runner/racer, I’m not used to not having portapotties at the ready.
The beginning of the race is all up hill — like literally, for the first 6 miles we were just going up and up and up. And not even a mile into it, runners started walking. The road runner in me was appalled. I told myself to just keep running. If I stopped to walk now, who knows when I will finish!
I passed the walkers as I slowly ran up this hill. Once my Garmin beeped indicating that we had reached the 2-mile mark, I realized why all those people started walking a mile earlier. Now the course was really going up.
Giving myself a mental pat on the back for running continuously for two miles, I continued the trek — now walking. From then on if others walked, I would follow their lead. I was new to all of this, after all.
Up until about the 7-mile mark, it was rough. There was about 3,700 feet of elevation gain for this race. Here’s a breakdown if you are so inclined.
Once I arrived at that first aid station at about mile 7, I knew I would be OK because it would be “all down hill.” Since I had my hydration pack (with water) along with packs of Gu and chews, I really only craved Gatorade. Instead of Gatorade, there was water and soda (Coke and Mountain Dew). I poured myself half a Dixie cup of cola — If everyone else is drinking it, I should too, right?? — and chugged it and went on my way. A few other runners left the aid station along with me and we began our descent along the forest service road.
“Hopefully it’s all down hill from here!” another runner cheerfully said to me as he sprinted past me. (BTW, trail runners are so energetic and friendly!)
We weren’t at the very top of the ridge like the 50K runners, but we had a pretty good view. The sun was in full force. It was a beautiful fall day. I had one of those moments where you think, “I am so lucky to be here in this moment — and to have the ability to run.”
I kind of felt like I had to pee but I pushed the thought to the side. I didn’t want to veer way off course just to find a secluded area to maybe relieve myself. I continued on and before I knew it, I arrived at the second aid station. This time there was Gatorade. I was at about the 10-mile mark!
I was getting a bit tired but my legs and everything felt more-or-less fine. I found myself behind an older female runner, maybe late 40/early 50s. She had no hydration pack nor even a water bottle with her (like most of the other trail runners did). She seemed to be going at a steady pace, so I told myself to just stick with her. “She’s probably completed countless trail races,” I told myself.
The miles ticked by. I wasn’t worried about pace, or my time. I was just on a mission to finish. A few times I stumbled or tripped, but caught myself. The woman in front of me — who I nicknamed my running guru — did the same.
Then, just short of mile 15, she fell. She tripped over a rock or a root and completely tumbled to the ground. I stopped immediately and helped her up. She hit her head, but luckily wasn’t bleeding.
Another runner caught up to us and asked if the woman was OK. She said she just needed to walk a bit. The two of us started walking with her.
At this point I wasn’t sure how long I had been stopped from running. I knew I wanted to start again though. The woman was conscious and moving. After a few minutes of walking together, I said that I needed to run or else I would begin cramping. (Not entirely a lie, but the only way I could easily find myself to be on my way).
Now I was alone. I didn’t really hit “a wall” like I have done in so many past road marathons. But, at about mile 16 or so, I was ready to be done. The only time I listened to my iPod was from mile 16 to 17.
When I finally arrived at the last downhill, I knew I was close to the finish. I kicked up dirt as I attempted to now quickly get to that finish. Jackie was along the sidelines as I neared the finish line. I took what I had left in me to sprint in, but suddenly both of my calves started seizing and cramping.
“I’m cramping!” I half yelled and half laughed at her. (She said it didn’t look like I was cramping, so there’s that …)
I was glad to be done. I completed my first long-distance trail race! And, I did it in a time of 3:47:38!
I didn’t go into this race with any time expectations. I just expected myself to finish. But yes, I figured I would finish somewhere between four and four-and-a-half hours. I was pretty proud that I snuck in under four hours — which includes the time I stopped to help the woman who fell. (The woman did finish, she came into the finish running strong).
Bryce and Brent both did amazing jobs on their first 50K, too. They are now ultra runners and have inspired me to consider doing an ultra — some day.
Unbeknownst, I also snagged an Age Group win! I didn’t hear the race director announce my name during the awards ceremony (but I wasn’t really paying attention), but Brent saw my name written on a piece of paper on an official-looking clipboard.
So, I ended up with two medals from this race — one for finishing and one for the AG win!
Best of all, I didn’t fall during this race.
When Jackie and I were hanging around the finish area, waiting for the boys to finish their ultra, another runner came up to me and we exchanged congratulations. She saw my cut up and bruised left leg and asked if I fell.
“Oh no, that was from another trail run,” I casually said.
It was like this city girl could fit right in.