Wearing my Dirty Girl gaiters
The late, more thorough recap of Sylamore..........I absolutely love this race and I put in a respectable time considering I didn't go in to do it for a certain time goal, my only plan was to have fun and finish it uninjured. Well, I succeeded on the fun part, lol. And really the injury part was fairly minor considering what I could have ended up doing, this is NOT an easy trail to navigate. For some reason my left ankle kept turning out on me, I counted 6 times that it occurred. The first time was fairly bad and that just set it up to happen again. And again. And again. I was literally counting the occurrences out loud to Brenda but it was never bad enough to put me out of the race thank goodness.
Despite the ankle business, I adored this race. It's a gorgeous trail with lots of climbs, rocks, views that make you sigh at the beauty of nature. Seriously cannot come up with the words to describe the awesomeness of it all. This was basically a play day for me, I was there to finish but it was FUN. The event pictures reflect this--all of mine show me with a goofy grin (we'll not discuss anything from the neck down though, grrrr). The knee-deep creek crossing was as leg and foot-numbing cold as promised (which worked out great on the return crossing!) and slowed us down quite a bit on the way out........I'm gonna estimate that Brenda and I lost a good 5-10 minutes on the bottleneck here. Robert & Michael on the other hand crossed over on a deeper section and got way ahead of us.
Once we finally got back on the trail and moving, Bren and I had 3 women in between us that were walking all the way up which brings me to my grumble about trail etiquette in the previous post. If you're significantly slower than the person behind you or you have a faster runner flying down the hill towards you on his/her return section, step aside please. It won't take but a moment, I promise it's not going to slow you down significantly and it's just good trail etiquette to do so on the single track stuff. Oh and say thank you when someone does move over for you. If the lead runners can say thanks, us slower runners have no excuse for not being equally as polite. Another thing, mp3 players have no place out on the trails, you most definitely need to hear what's going on around you. What if you go off the main trail (which happened to us more than once) and you can't hear people trying to tell you? There's also the not being able to hear runners coming up behind you and guess what, we are out in the woods, there IS a bear population in Arkansas especially in that area. Ok, so the last is not a likely scenario but we do have bears.
The aid station rocked! Great volunteers and yummy food, I've discovered that a small homemade brownie with a few salty chips (crisps for the UK crowd) makes an EXCELLENT snack for me. No way could I do that on a road race but bring it on for the trails!!!!!!!!! However, it does take a mile or 2 for me to get my breathing and pacing back on track after eating, feel and sound like I'm pushing it on a hard sprint but I'm lucky to be doing 15 minute miles, lol. I gotta have the food though in order to keep my blood sugar from bottoming out.
Did I mention the scenery? It was almost enough to keep you distracted from all the climbing. We were eventually rewarded with this fantastic, long, WIDE, albeit very muddy downhill, I felt like I was flying down that baby to get to the turnaround point. Oh yeah, the turnaround.........it's this piece of pipe hanging from a tree with a plastic stapler thingamajig that you use to stamp/perforate your bib with. Only problem was that I didn't know what to do and I had to wait for the next couple of runners to get there and explain it to me. I wasn't complaining though about waiting, we were right next to the creek again and there was a gorgeous waterfall to ogle just beyond. I want to do the 50k just to see what it looks like, apparently the trail only gets more spectacular. What I will complain about is the rushing water of the rapids made me have to pee like crazy and it was a couple of miles back to the aid station. Yes I could have peed out in the woods but I really try to avoid having to do that if possible. Besides there were REAL bathrooms available and hot water to wash my hands with after so I was determined to make it back, lol.
It was almost scary how great I was feeling at this point, I kept catching and passing people and was not showing any signs of fatiguing yet. Yes, my lungs and legs were screaming with the uphill climbs but that was normal, I wasn't hit with the ohmygosh I'm not going to be able to go a step further feeling. I will say I was extremely happy to get back to the park where the aid station and bathrooms were though..........any further and I was going to have to drop my drawers out amongst the trees. Bathroom business done, another small brownie square and some more chips, chat with Brenda and we were off again. I do really enjoy running with her but especially so on the trails :-).
I did start to flag a bit on the extremely rocky areas before the creek crossing, it takes a lot out of you having to pay that much attention to your footing and to make sure that you haven't wandered off the trail but again I was passing people, mostly those who didn't stay as long at the aid station as I did. The lead guys from the 50k were also catching up to us 25kers so there was a fair bit of stepping aside to let them by. Extremely inspirational, they were working hard but still looked like they were enjoying themselves. Surprisingly I caught up to Michael during this section just before the creek, he was suffering from some calf cramping unfortunately :-(.
Ahhhh, that creek crossing. I was actually looking forward to it in order to numb my left ankle somewhat before the last push to the finish and boy did it do it's work. It had also risen to be mid-thigh deep so I got more wet than what I'd planned for, eek. I wasn't the only one who'd been anticipating the numbing effect, there was a guy just standing there when I entered the water who said he'd been needing that for the past mile or so because his knee was giving him trouble.
Out of the water, through the field past a group of teenagers who were all loaded up with packs for an overnight hike and I get to the parking lot and have no clue which way to go!!!!!!!!!!! One of my bad habits when I run with a group is that I don't really pay much attention to the route. I had to wait for the next runner to catch up and ask, so embarrassing! The route by the way was straight up a dirt road, with a near vertical climb, a level spot, then a climb again. There was a Camaro and a Dodge Charger--parents of some of the teenagers who were camping overnight-- and they were having to crawl up that hill. I walked part of the first climb then ran the remainder up but it was a struggle. I think I impressed the guy driving the Camaro though, he waited at the top of the dirt road for me to reach the pavement, rolled down his window, and told me "good job!". Even if he was taking the piss, it is still awesome to hear something like that at a hard part in a run. Made my day anyways.
I thought I would hate the pavement section, I certainly did on the way out to the trail but once I got on it I knew it was the home stretch and I just let my legs do their thing. It felt so good to be on an area where I didn't have to worry about where my feet were gonna land and just go on auto-pilot. Even cooler than the guy in the Camaro was kicking it in and over-hearing a couple of people talk about how strong I looked headed for the finish line and actually feeling THAT strong. Huge kudos to Robert who had an amazing race & time, he looked like he could have ran another 25k easily and he beat me in by over 20 minutes.
Final stats: 3:54:10 total time, 3:30:26 moving time. 123/202 finishers, 27/64 female, 9/19 female 40-49 age group.
The ice bath aftermath