I would have liked to title this entry "The Rumble Of The Rookies And The Showdown Of the Smiths," but I think that would be an egregious overstatement of my proximity to the eventual winner, Caitlin Smith. So instead, I just have "the Rumble Race Report" :
Sunday dawned clear and cold, shivering-my-butt-off cold. At the start I was on the back of a small pack, including two other women, Caitlin and Jenn Shelton. There really weren't any other women around by the time we turned on to the trail. Jenn stopped at the first Aid Station, and Caitlin pulled ahead and just kept up an impressive power chug up to the top. In fact, the only time I was able to catch up to her at all was when she stopped to pee and when she was (wisely) more tentative than me on the very slick ice fields. As long as she was running, I didn't have a chance. Too bad for me there wasn't a hell of a lot more ice on the trails! ;) I fared pretty well on the wide flat section, but on the downhill trail, Caitlin was off in front once again. I was picking my way down a bit more gingerly, but still managed to take a major digger. I went down hard, but I did a really awesome job of protecting my worthless hands by landing on my knee, chest and shoulder - aaargh! I got up and seemed to be ok as I made my way into AS5 (~20 miles).
I knew I wasn't going to catch Caitlin so I eased up a little on the road stretch but then really started feeling tired as the course started going back up. Near the first plateau, I just kept moving along the road when I come to a T-intersection and nothing is marked. I turn to the right and after about a minute I see this road turns into a driveway for a horse ranch. Hmmm - that doesn't seem right. I start walking back, waiting for someone else to come by. About 30 seconds later there is another runner on the road and he is not really happy that I don't know where I am going; obviously, he was following me. He walks down the other way of the intersection and I notice a little trail coming off that road so I walk down it for 30 seconds or so. I still don't see any markers and I know this has been a very well-marked course. Finally, I tell the guy I am going back the way I came. We jog back for just over a minute and then I see a runner on the other side of the creek and figured we must have to cross it. I go over to the bank and look for a way to jump across and not ten feet from where I am standing is a plank walk-way over the creek with a yellow course market ribbon hanging above it, as clear as day, but I had missed it nonetheless. It felt like we were lost for an eternity, but I think it was really only like 6 or 7 minutes.
Back on course, I could see three early start runners that I had already passed that had passed me back on my "detour." I was sure this meant the third place woman had passed me, too, since we had all been pretty close earlier on. I started running thinking maybe I could catch her again, but a few minutes later I was on my face again. It wasn't a bad fall at all, but I just kind of mentally lost it. I kind of remember thinking,"Whatever - third place is fine" and I just started walking. At one point the words "Disaster of epic proportion" popped into my head. A little melodramatic and certainly not my finest moment! After five minutes or so the trail seemed to be approaching the top and I started jogging again as it flattened out.
At the penultimate aide station I took an S-cap, a GU, and a handful of food. I was especially delighted by the pink marshmellow chicks, which seemed amusing and festive, right when I needed a little spirit boost. I think that all did the trick, because I started feeling better and was able to run OK.
(photo by Glen Tachiyama)
Coming into the last Aid Station, they were all business: "What's your name? What's your number?" I thought about asking them what place I was in, but I was actually worried that they would tell me I wasn't even in third any more, so I just kept running. The prospect of the finish line was obviously a motivation to my weary body as I managed around 8:10 pace for the last four miles. When I got to the finish (5:02:27), a couple of guys congratulated me and asked me what place I got. I was serious when I said I didn't know! Turns out I was second; I hadn't gotten passed on my detour after all. And even better - there was plenty of warm sun to lay around in after the race!
My goal was to finish under 5 hours, which I missed by 2+ minutes, but from this side of the finish line, I don't think I'd dub it a "Disaster Of Epic Proportions". I had a bit of a rough patch in the middle, but the day was gorgeous, the people were friendly and the race was well organized. I am looking forward to more Oregon Trail Series Events.