Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hardrock - start to Cunningham

Race morning!

I wish I could have slept a little better, but I stuck with my decaf morning coffee because I figured I would be awake soon enough, and I would really appreciate the caffeine jolt a whole lot more the following day. Standard race prep - dress, sunscreen and lube, banana, pre-race Spiz, make sure I have everything in my pack. Catch a ride a couple blocks to the start, isn't that funny? :)

Gotta check in by 5:45 am, check. No last-minute drama this year, from me or anyone else.

Kathy helped me set up a Twitter account for the race, thanks Kath! One last "tweet" before I head out and my crew takes over, captured on film for posterity. Also note the amazing miner-themed crew hat that Kathy and Bob found for John - wow, is all I can say, just wow, I about fell on the floor when they came home with it the day before:

Hanging out with Steve:

Greg is ready to go:

Me and Ryan, hoping for a great race for both of us:

Lined up and ready:

Wow, people are really running:

I started way in the back - no sense in getting overly excited about this just yet:

Can't resist including this gem:

I took it easy along the first trail, just getting my feet under me and taking the time to avoid mud and puddles and finding easy but not-to-wet ways across the little creeks. I was completely aware that my feet would soon be wet from the first creek crossing, but I wanted to give my feet as much of a break as I could early on.

I hung out with a few folks at the back, letting one guy go by so I could stop for a potty break. I was officially in last place, cool!

As I got warmed up and running a bit, I started passing a couple folks here and there. Nothing that took much energy - there was plenty of jeep road and steep uphill in the near future. I briefly saw Kathy, plus Kristina whom I'd met in the parade. I chatted a bit with Allan who had just got in the race from the wait list.

The first creek crossing was simple (calf deep?) but dang chilly. Wooo! Time to walk uphill and warm up the toes. I focused on my poles and posture and got to work. Along the way up the road I passed a couple people here and there, enjoying the chance to meet new folks and greet people I knew and smile and say good morning. My arm warmers were perfect, keeping me warm in the shade and then hanging out around my wrists if I got a bit hot.

Up on the singletrack trail I briefly started across a snow bank until I noticed the word "NO" written into it. That's a word that will get your attention (especially if you've ever trained dogs). I looked around and saw an arrow written in the snow pointing left. OK then. Other runners were a ways above me, but I had not seen how they got up there. I followed the arrow, found a trail, and eventually found a race marker. I looked below and saw that going forward would have taken me to a pretty lake - another time, I guess.

More uphill work, listening to my breathing and feeling OK with it. I tried to breathe deeply and stay relaxed, not let my heart rate get too high. This first climb was just a test for me, and so far everything seemed to be working. And here's the top! I chatted with a couple more ladies along the top of the ridge, Jennifer and a woman I don't know.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a clear trail along the sometimes-snow covered and sketchy traverse. I had heard from a racer named Jeff that it shouldn't be too bad, and it was so easy I started to wonder if all the trail condition reports (snow, snow melt, mud, wetness, high creeks) had been exaggerated. OK, I knew they had not been, but it was fun to hope for a short time.

Downhill time! And it's a steep one. I eased downward, using the poles, still going faster than a few people but not trying to. I was patient and most folks got out of the way when they saw me coming. It was a bit too technical for my tastes up top, but eventually it turned into a nice trail that I could run here and there when I wasn't climbing over random rocks.

What a beautiful morning - gorgeous Colorado splendor. Waterfalls, snow patches, blue sky, green hills. Right here, right now, there is no other place I'd rather be. It was about as close to "in the moment" as I have come, no problems, no worries, just being there on that hillside. So lovely.

Eventually I could see over the edge down to the aid station so I waved my poles in case anyone could see me. There was lots of cheering as most the field passed through the aid station ahead of me. Out of the sunshine into still-morning shadow, across one more switchback. I tripped slightly and caught my pole on my right leg, nothing that would have stayed with me except a) I felt silly stumbling in front of the biggest crowd of the race and b) it put a small mark on my leg. A battle scar! The last time I had one of those I had an excellent race (and at least this one wasn't bleeding). Things were looking up :)

My chair awaiting my arrival - with some new "rockin'" duckies - sweet!

People watching for runners:

Kathy or Bob took this beautiful shot - I love it. Our trail came down to the right of the waterfalls:

Not blazing fast but I'll get there:

Kathy was waiting for me at the creek crossing, and she mentioned that it was a bit deep and fast. Good to know - I got focused and worked my way across carefully. Another creek crossing down, so far nothing out of the ordinary.

My crew went to work like it was a pit stop in a car race! Before I knew it, both bottles were filled, I had a resupply of Spiz packed, I drank my Gookinaid and Ensure, and I was ready to go again. That was fast! Too fast for the duckies to hang on to their perches, they were flying everywhere:

John walked out with me and I told him I was feeling great. And Hi Jim! (the guy with the vest and clipboard):

It was a very nice start to a long race. Time to get back up high for a while.

Cunningham aid station = 2:57 total time, approx 122nd place (of 140 starters)

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