As I stood for the start of my first trail race I was excited and nervous, mostly nervous. The Race Director announced, “this year, out of all years, I am nervous. Please do not try to PR through this course. Oh and we added about a half mile to the course because the conditions were not safe”. Colorado was its crazy self and dropped over a foot of snow the previous week in mid-May which meant the trails there would be snowy, muddy, or slushy. I looked over at my boyfriend, Barrett who knows the trails much better than I and told me “you’ll be okay”. We counted down, I started my Garmin, and off we went.
I had to start walking within the first 10 minutes. I am not an uphill runner and as everyone passed me I kept telling myself, “this isn’t about pace, it is about getting out there”. Being one of the last people has its benefits I thought. It means you are on the trail alone. There is no one trying to pass you and pushing your pace. You are responsible for pushing yourself. As I came down to the first part of Meadowlark Trail I saw my boyfriend cheering me on and the volunteers taking pictures. I was really happy for some downhill even for a few minutes.
Then we started up Plymouth heading towards Homestead and it was steep but absolutely beautiful. The snow covered the trees and the trail became more slushy. We started climbing and there was a sign “Do it for those who can’t”. As I saw that, thoughts of my late sister Danielle filled my mind. She would have loved to be able to hike and run like I can. My memories of her seeped from my mind into my heart and then propelled me forward through the rest of the race.
The climb ended as I took the Homestead trail and was thankful for more downhill and a gradual uphill. This was by far the most beautiful part of the course. The trees were dripping (literally) with mounds of snow. It was gorgeous and I was actually comfortable running some of this section. Then I started Red Mesa loop which is a gradual uphill and I thought to myself, “only 8 more miles, 8 more miles. You’ve done 8 miles before. You can do this”. Running is a constant battle with yourself, reminding yourself that you signed up for this, you are doing what most people don’t!
Then I went up the first out and back “Golden Eagle Trail” and another runner stayed with me because she was lost. We ran the downhills and hiked the uphill and the 7th mile was complete. During the out and back my friend Ryan showed up. He gave me a high five and told me to keep going. I was shocked to see him. I knew some of my friends were going to be waiting for me at the finish, but I had no idea Ryan would be running. I saw him 4 or 5 more times during the race and each time he as he ran past me he encouraged me to keep going. Moments like that are the most memorable.
My incredible boyfriend joined my new friend and me as we went back down the Plymouth Creek Trail and he joined us for the last major climb. By this time I was over 3 hours into the race and had only eaten once and finished my water. I never eat enough when I run, especially long runs. During the downhill, I ate some chews and felt great. I knew I was on the home stretch! Only 3 miles to go and they were mostly downhill. As we finished the out and back of Plymouth Mountain I was running and getting impatient to be done and slipped. But the slush that I slipped on saved my butt and I was not hurt at all. I told myself “I’m never doing a stupid race again”.
I finished the out and back made my way back to Meadowlark Trail with Barrett. As I started up the last tiny downhill I told Barrett, “I just want it over. I want it to be done. I’m not going to go below four hours. I’m a failure”. Barrett reminded me that I was not a failure. I was completing my first trail race in very difficult conditions and the pace does not matter. He reminded I had bronchitis five times over the past six months and it IS NOT ABOUT PACE. If you ever feel it is, just remind yourself that most of our country does not get out and even try. Ryan and Barrett ran forward so I could finish the last half mile by myself.
As I finally had dry trails I ran. I ran all the way to the finish. My lungs and legs were tired and by this point it was noon and the sun was out and it was beautiful. As I was running in I saw more friends and my family cheering me on. They were the loudest and made me tear up. I was just so happy it was over but I was more thankful. Thankful my friends and family who came to support me, and Barrett who ran the majority of the race with me. He never gave up on me which helped me never give up on myself. While it took me longer than I wanted to finish the race, I was happy to finish. I was always intimidated by my friends and boyfriend who on average run 30-60 miles a week. I thought, well I’m not their pace so I should not run races because I’m just too slow. But you never know what you can do until you test your limits and the only person I am competing against is myself. I highly suggest this race: the course is beautiful, the people are wonderful, and it is on the Front Range, so go out and test your limits! As for myself, I caught the bug, and I'm signed up for the Dead Horse 30k!