Because one of the participants in the race was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, competitors were encouraged to wear pink. So to show my support and to keep it fun, I added some funky pink socks to my normal running attire for the day.
Mike and I showing off our pink. Don't I look excited to run?
The course is two 14 mile loops around the lake with a three mile out-and-back at the beginning to make up the difference, which also allowed for an early opportunity to scope the competition. One woman was out quick starting up the road and then two other ladies were right by me and got a bit of a lead when we turned back down. I recognized one as Erin Perkin, who I raced against at PCT50 last year.
When we hit the single track, I couldn't see the first place lady, but the other two were just ahead of me. We were frequently visited by two bikers who were enthusiastically cheering for "Shari" every time the trail came close to the road. One of the bikers was Lanny Gower, who I knew from last year's Oregon Trail Series, and he was nice enough to throw a few cheers in for me each time we passed as well.
After a mile or two behind these girls, I just had a sense that I could take them, but I was worried about the girl out front. I liked the idea of just riding the train, but I didn't want the first place girl to slip away if I could help it. But right as I was wondering what to do the first lady came back to us and then we were passing her.
Knowing where I was at, I backed off a tad on the parts that were technical or steep uphill, such that Shari and Erin opened up a 100 yard lead or so, but I caught them easily on the mile or so road section across the dam. I was chatting away with our bike cheer squad as they escorted us across the bridge, but the other ladies were pretty silent.
After the first aid station I was just behind the two again and I was thinking I would stay right there the whole first lap and then see if I was feeling good to take the lead on the second lap. But about a mile after the aid station the course crossed a paved and slightly downhill parking lot, but the other two acted like we were still running on muddy trail, so I moved to the front.
Seven miles around the lake (mile 10) I caught up to Tim Zuk, a Salem physician (and my Facebook friend!) but somebody I had never actually met. So we got to talking as we ran behind one other guy. Maybe we were chatting a bit too much as we followed the guy in front of us up a little spur to the road, but we quickly realized we had made a wrong turn and got back on course with probably less than a 30 second delay. It served as a good lesson to pay attention and not just blindly follow the idiot in front of you. Trust me, I know, because I have been that idiot! I looked back as we got on trail and saw Erin still behind us, and I assumed Shari was right with her.
Even though the bikers were cheering a bit for me, I have to admit I found their presence a bit annoying and oppressive. And I didn't like that they were passing bottles and food to Shari around the course so that she didn't have to carry anything while running.It seemed like it made the atmosphere very competitive. Sure, it's a race, but couldn't we be friendly while we tried to kick each other's asses?? But after I passed, their presence was helpful, because I could tell the delay between their polite cheers for me and their enthusiastic cheers for Shari was getting longer, so I knew I was putting distance on her.
Then through the muddy section. Words don't do it justice: ankle deep puddles, rivulets of dirty water, and plenty of thick and slippery bog with shoe sucking sections. But once you just accepted that you were going to be very dirty at the end of the day, it became quite fun.
I completed my first lap (with the extra first 3 miles) in 2:17. Barely into lap two, I saw Yassine Diboun who said, "Good job. You're second woman but she's only about four minutes ahead of you." What?!? And then I asked another guy standing by the trail if there was a woman ahead of me and he said yes, but only about 400 yards. What was going on?!? Well, at least I was gaining on her!
When I got back to the dam road, I saw her and I immediately knew she was an early starter. But I wasn't taking any chances so I confirmed as I passed. Whew -mystery solved!
I had the normal fatigue but felt like I was keeping a good pace and passed several guys. The mud had gotten really deep the second time around. I had one nice step in the mud section where I sunk in up to my lower calf! I finally made it through and finished in 4:18 (2:01 for the second 14 mile loop which I was pretty happy with).
Right after crossing the line, I learned that I had also won the "Pink Award" for most pink, just barely beating out Mike Burke and his sexy hot pink running skirt! Not a bad day considering I didn't even have to pay the entry fee for this race (an Oregon Trail Series prize)! And the post race festivities in the warm sun just added to the enjoyment. Thanks to the race directors and all the volunteers for a great day!