The plan had included a van, two preschoolers, a fast boy, and another family. The reality looked like this:
Julie is an SOB (finisher). You can't see my tiger-striped mini-gaiters, but you can see my awesome Run Pretty Far shirt. (really, go buy their stuff; it's beautiful)
I almost didn’t go. Chris couldn’t run, Ashland is 200 miles away (that’s $40 of gas, round-trip, even in my mini french fry-mobile), and the Siskiyou Outback 15K and 50K courses had been altered to be longer with much more climbing because there was too much snow on the regular courses (so I wouldn’t be able to compare my time to last year’s time–and beat it!). Yes, too much snow. For you folks suffering through a heat index of 109, I’m sure that’s unthinkable.
But then I recognized the potential: sleeping under the stars in the Mount Ashland ski area parking lot, bundled in my sleeping bag; hours and hours of Fresh Air podcasts; writing in my journal; seeing how well I could do on a 16-kilometer, 1800-foot elevation gain course; drinking a well-earned milkshake after the race–all this without arbitrating any feuds about magic markers or board books.
At 2 a.m., the stars made sleeping without a tent worthwhile. I ate dinner to hermit thrush song and awoke to nuthatch calls. Thrush (hermit, wood, and Swainson’s) are my favorite avian singers, and nuthatch, while their song isn’t particularly lovely, always remind me of the mountains. A well-behaved but curious border collie woke me up at 5:24 by coming to lie down next to my pillow (I should say I was parked only twenty or so feet from the next nearest runners). When I whispered to him to go home, he slunk back and lay on his mat.
Usually, the 15K heads south-ish on the Pacific Crest Trail before returning to the ski area, largely on dirt roads. The course is rolling, with only one serious, short climb. Not this time. As my quads made clear on Monday, I ran downhill from the start, downhill for 1800 feet. And do you know how I got back up to the start? I ran there. Except when I walked. Chris has tried to tell me for a few years now that I have to learn how to walk up the hills. Usually, I don’t buy it: I’m not as fast as people with longer legs on the downhills, so I have to make up time on the uphills. This time, though, with 1200 feet of climbing in 2 1/2 miles, I found I couldn’t run the whole thing (and the 50K’ers, besides running for 31 miles, had a much worse hill between miles 23 and 26).
The 15K race was fun and fast, and I felt great throughout it. I didn’t go out too fast; I averaged 9:11 per mile for the first 7.4 miles. Then I hit the hill, and I averaged 14:35 for the last 2.4 miles. I finished in 1:43, three minutes behind last year’s time (my goal had been 1:33 on the regular course). In any other age group, I would have finished in the top 4, but I had no such luck among the 30-something women. Darn fast 30s (you can click “15K by class” to see how fast the women 30-39 were).
This trail race was my first after which I thought, “Hmmm, maybe ultramarathons aren’t so crazy.” I need something to do for my 40th birthday, right?