Maybe it was the fact that my family apparently needs to eat every single day, a detail that always escapes me until about 20 minutes past meal time, when I realize I should feed them and start thinking about what to make, a little quirk that left me finally eating lunch about 15 minutes before I'd planned to leave. Maybe it was the fact that, despite making plans earlier in the week to follow the race with a team meeting/sleepover at Bob's house and a gravel ride the next day, I didn't really start packing until after the aforementioned lunch. Maybe it was that, despite my (well-founded ) "late Kate" reputation, I really like to have a lot of time before a race to get things together and (more importantly) socialize. Whatever the reason, I headed to the Mound with less than my usual excited happiness, and while I was still there 20 minutes before start time, I spent most of that time running back and forth to my car grabbing things I'd forgotten. Suboptimal, as Emily would say.
I still got to say hi to lots of friends, including my teammates and the Lederhosens, who are in "training" for an expedition-length adventure race in Belize.
|Photo credit: Lori Vohsen|
Like last year, the race started with a run to the top of the Mound. This year, the evil race directors added in some motivation for the speedy runners with a "king/queen of the mountain" prize: the first man (Little Woods race director Travis) and first woman (all-around badass Emily) to the top would win custom beer carriers. Not being in contention for the prize, I took my time starting out.
The St. Louis area has had more than its share of snowfall this winter, and above-freezing temperatures had begun melting away the foot of snow that fell last Sunday. The soggy conditions had forced a course change; so as not to destroy the Lost Valley singletrack, the race was redesigned as a gravel out and back. I was concerned enough about being chilly on the less-protected doubletrack that I wore a light jacket, but the most immediate evidence of the weather was the big puddle stretching across the trail not a quarter of a mile into the race.
|Photo credit: Lori Vohsen|
|Going up... (Lori again)|
The relief of making it downhill uninjured was dampened by the big hill we immediately had to run UP, and by "run" I mean mostly walk. I caught up with Doug near the top, and we ran together for a while talking about racing, training, and self-sabotage (some of my favorite activities). When he waited at the bend in the road for some friends who were a little concerned about getting off track, I ran ahead, enjoying the moonlight shining through the trees onto the snow-covered trail.
|One of the few pictures I bothered to take...|
Eventually I made it to the downhill, which was also covered in snow. It was here that I started really regretting leaving my screw shoes in the car in anticipation of the trip back up. The trip down was without incident. I passed the gate, looking forward to stopping to swing on it on my return trip and hoping to have friends in proximity who I could lure into taking a break in the race to play.
I thought about taking a gel, but my stomach was feeling really iffy. Luckily, around this point the leaders distracted me on their way back to the finish line. I always like to cheer for everybody else, especially in a race where I have so many friends running; figuring out who was who in the dark without blinding them with my headlamp was a bit of a challenge, though. I made it a game to call out as many names as I could.
As the trail leveled up, I caught up with a guy in camouflage. "Good evening," I called out. He grunted a response, either immune to my dubious charm or irritated by all these runners disrupting his hunting (or, likely, both). I could see reflective gear in front of me and realized it was Adam as I closed the gap. We ran to the turnaround, high fived the incomparable Jim Davis, and headed back the way we'd come. Josh and Russ caught up with us on the hill, where I had to stop and walk (and walk...and walk...). I'd like to blame it on my stomach, but uphills are definitely a weak area for me.
When we reached the gate, the guys were all cool with stopping to play. Adam and I got a good start and flew around, banging into the tree at the end, and then Josh and Russ were up. I'm so glad Chuck noticed that gate this past spring...we've had so much fun there. :)
|Russ and Josh|
By the time that we were back on the Hamburg trail with just a mile or so to go, Jules mentioned that he was glad he'd caught up with us because his light had died. Somebody, I think it was Josh, said it was almost bright enough to run without lights, and without even discussing it we all turned off our headlamps and ran by the light of the moon reflecting off the snow. It was a cool moment.
After a minute or so, we turned our lights back on. Adam and I still had to make a trip into the cemetery to get a name off of the tallest stone, and I didn't want to miss the turn. Josh and Jules had already been there on the way out, so we split up when we reached the cemetery trail. I don't think either Adam or I was too sad about having to slow down to crawl under a downed tree. It took some teamwork to make out the words on the stone, one of us lighting it from the side, and then we hiked back to the main trail.
Neither of us was feeling great, but with less than a mile to go we were both ready to run it in and be done. Nearing the parking lot, we heard cowbells and cheering, and we ran up to the finish line and our cool SHITR medals (woodles) and stickers. The SHITR may be a free race, but they still send you home with some nice swag.
|Coming into the finish... (another Lori picture)|
|Probably more relieved than happy.|
Photo credit: Mickey Boianoff
|We were at the SHITR...where was everybody else?|