Saturday’s race morning started after a fitful night of being woken multiple times by a restless dog and a husband who was really excited about a bear on the patio at 2am. Knowing my alarm was going off at 4:20am, I was much less thrilled about the disruptive middle of the night visitor. Luckily no one was eaten and I managed a few solid hours of sleep before my alarm pulled my out of bed and into the dark morning.
I dressed, grabbed my gear, and drove the two hours to the course, wishing I had thought to make some coffee for the drive.Happily, the sun began to rise over the peaks just as I arrived, pulling me out of my drowsy state and into race prep mode. I registered and quickly started my warm up jog to wake my legs and get the chill out of my hands and feet. I spotted one other gal doing drills in an ankle-length down coat and runner’s cap and figured she might be my main competition in what was looking to be a rather sparse field.
The small group of us – mainly blue-lipped men in skimpy shorts and tank tops and more comfortable-looking women in tights, long sleeves, and gloves – gathered at the start for some pre-race instructions, an ‘on your mark’, and a very exciting send-off signaled by surprisingly-loud mini canon fire!
I took off conservatively, well aware of the steady hill that would take us from about the first quarter mile up to the 1 mile mark. A group of the tank-top men and I slogged up the double-track, gradually spreading out as the hill took its toll.
The second mile started with a snow-covered switchback onto the only flat bit apart from the start, and then swiftly dove downhill on some frozen dirt single track that wound through gray and yellow aspens. This spat us out into some of the most challenging terrain of the course – deep, uneven grass.
I had somehow ended up in first but kept seeing the gal from the warmup whenever we went around a switchback. Now I was fighting the cold, fatigue from the long first mile climb, and the uneven, momentum-sapping grass to stay ahead of her. I tried to follow the men’s lead on the challenging terrain, sticking to the shortest grass and prancing around the many bumps, holes, and rocks. I rolled my ankle once but fortunately felt it spring right back with just a tiny twinge.
The course brought us tantalizingly close to the finish with about 800m to go, and then sent us around on one more final bit of single track, another section of knobby overgrown field, and then down a steep mowed-grass hill into the finishing flat. I was finally able to stride out and felt the effort, but was determined to stay ahead of the runner behind me who’s footsteps were growing alarmingly close. I pumped my arms through the finish and turned to see a guy finishing close behind and then the gal I’d been racing against.
We all spent a few moments congratulating each other and commiserating over the gnarly course, and then stampeded the concessions stand to get our well-earned muffins and free coffee. I settled on a sun-warmed boulder to sip my coffee and congratulated myself on keeping the ‘curse you mother nature!’ thoughts to a minimum during the race.
After the (glorious) caffeine kicked in I cooled down while cheering on the middle-school racers and then met up to cheer with a Volee teammate who was coaching a local high school team over the same brutal course. There’s nothing quite like spending the morning after a hard effort sprinting around a cross-country course in the Autumn sunshine cheering for a bunch of speedy young upstarts!
Here’s a question for you all! Favorite beverage post-race: hot (or iced!) coffee, cold beer, fizzy sports-drink? Or something more unique?