I could not take a bus to today’s race. I could not take a train. I did not even consider a cab, as the cost would surely be outrageous. I needed to travel about 100 miles. And so I relented and rented a car.
After bathing early last night, I tucked in about 9 PM. Though the household was quite loud, being Friday night with 3 boys owning weekend bedtimes, I fell asleep pretty quickly, partly because I forced myself not to nap midday.
I woke to a 4AM alarm, casually dressed. I drank 2 cups of coffee, packed the car. Then after placing my hands on all three boys’ chests to make sure they were breathing, I kissed my husband good-bye (as he slept) and drove away in the dark at 5:00 AM
Everything went grand at first. I drank my breakfast along the way (a protein shake), and then about 45 minutes later, the 405 freeway came to a halt. We lost one lane at a time, until just one remained. And then . . . AND THEN, the entire freeway, all lanes, were closed, and we were routed onto surface streets. With much time lost in the traffic jam, I followed the orange detour signs diligently, until THEY VANISHED.
Okay, it looked like I wasn’t going to make the race. I had no idea how far away Interstate 5 was, so I did what I didn’t want to do. I called my husband at 6:00 AM!!! I felt terrible about this, REALLY. The whole reason I rented a car was not to inconvenience my family. Well, to make a long story short, he got on the computer and suggested continuing east to the 5. Whereas, I opted to hop onto the 605 and head back to the 405. Ends up my choice was good. But I was way, way behind schedule. (And I didn’t need to call and wake hubby after all!)
I admit that I drove over the speed limit the remainder of the way. About 15 miles over the speed limit. And I still wasn’t sure I’d make it.
What a morning! I arrived to the park and found a space far from check-in.
Stupidly Not thinking, I left my pack in the car and checked in. Turns out the line was long, and I had to run back to the car. And then . . . AND THEN the bathroom lines were enormous (as the 6k runners were prepping for their race), so I tucked into the thorny bushes for a pit stop. Then running off to the start line, I realized that I LEFT MY BIB IN THE CAR.
Off back to the car I ran (a good 1/3 mile), grabbed my bib and then ran all the way to the Start Line (probably a whole mile!) It was just like a dream that I usually have before a race. If this was a chip-timed race, I wouldn’t have minded. But this was gun-time only, meaning my time started the minute the race started, NOT THE MOMENT THAT I ACTUALLY STEPPED OVER THE START LINE.
Luckily, the race start was several minutes behind and I started off on-time, but a bit breathless.
I will say this. I felt fine. The weather was delightful – cool and cloudy. Bulldog wasn’t so tough either. Wait. It was tough, but it was easier than it ever has been for me. I remember thinking only once, “I HATE BULLDOG.” Then I laughed out loud over the fact that I keep returning. When it got tough and I hiked (and that was often, though I ran more of it than I ever have), I said loudly in my head, “HIKE AS FAST AS YOU CAN LAUREN!” And I did.
Amazingly, I saw runners going up with no water. Others ran with just a single water bottle, that was now empty. I felt terrible for them. I saw runners staggering, and wondered why it took me so long to pass them.
At the top of Bulldog, an aid station volunteer said to me, “This is not a race to improve your time on . . . this is a race to DO.”
I recovered quickly at the top of Bulldog Road. And I actually ran pretty much the entire ridge. I enjoyed myself so much that I found myself running lackadaisically. “This is a race, woman!” I told myself more than once. “Pick it up, you can run faster than this!” And therefore I did.
At the bottom of the mountains, I got to talking with a road runner on her first trail race (a young woman, not a bird). She just happen to pick this particular race – “Do you know that you picked the toughest trail race of this distance around?”
“I KNOW NOW.” She was bloody from a recent fall. And she was so happy when I told her that we were going to do some road running in a bit. When we hit the road, she blasted ahead. And then back on the trail, we both, at different times, took the same wrong turn. According to my garmin, we took A HALF MILE detour. Finally, we made it together to the base of Backbone. And I told her, one great thing about trail racing is the stories you get to tell afterward.
She didn’t find our detour very amusing. But she laughed and said, “Keep telling me good things about trail running, because I can’t find anything good right now.”
Amazingly I ran all the way up Backbone – that’s a first. And I ran back into the finish feeling strong, not dead-dog tired, where I’m going to fall to the ground, like I usually do on this loop. I felt good.
Miles logged: 14.17 (a little more than planned). I only increased my time by a little less than 5 minutes, so I still came in toward the back of the pack. That is a little disappointing to me. But I can’t deny the fact that I had a great deal of fun. And I felt strong. And most importantly, Bulldog didn’t beat me up and spit me out. I recovered very quickly after Bulldog and raced on with pretty good speed afterward. So the fact that my time improvement was only minimal is disappointing at this late hour, many plus points came out of this race. And lest I forget! I took a half mile detour by taking that wrong turn. So maybe I would have beaten my time by 10 minutes instead of 5. Who knows. All I know is that I did it. I went up Bulldog once again! Will I ever improve any more than this? I hope so. But what I hope more is that I continue to enjoy the adventure. (video at the end of this post)