For the last few weeks of May and the first part of June, The light at the end of the proverbial tunnel was Beacon Rock. I went down to the race primarily to celebrate the end of a long two years of grad school by doing some of things I love the most: running and camping and hanging out in the sunshine. I had no big ambitions for race day, until Kerri casually planted a little bug about having a good shot at winning. I usually have better races when I’m not trying to do well, but once competition is in my mind it’s hard to kick out. It wasn’t an ideal time to race at all, but I love Rainshadow races. For starters, there was fatigue- I’d been racing every three weeks since the end of March, an aggressive schedule I’d never tried before. Beacon rock fell only 3 weeks after Sun Mountain 50M, and although I kept to a pretty low key workout schedule, with my daily 12-mile bike commute and a few 10-mile trail runs thrown in to keep up conditioning, I knew I wasn’t in top form. My legs and brain were pretty tired after the long preceding weeks, and on race morning my stomach was having a fiesta- cramps and nausea- hooray!!
Luckily I woke up early to work check-in (with some awesome co-volunteers), and seeing all the other happy racers provided a great distraction from the negative tummy vibes. When James said “go”, I started off fairly aggressively towards the front of the pack, but as soon as the climbing kicked in, I backed off- my calves were screaming and it was only mile 2- not good news. All that stomach business I had been able to ignore before the start kicked back in and didn’t abate until mile 10 or so. Taking gels was entirely unappealing, but I got one or two down in the first loop, along with some potato chips (which are the real reason I race). Clearly not enough food for 15 miles and almost 3 hours.
I had mistakenly skipped the aid station first time through and was aching for some water by the time I topped out the second climb. I felt stronger on the steep climb than the gradual one (maybe because I didn’t try to run?) but by the time I was coming through aid again, I was pretty over running. The thought of another lap was daunting. I knew I was towards the front of the ladies, but not entirely sure of my abilities (or motivation) to do another loop. I really really really wanted to be done after 25k, but then I remembered how much I would hate myself for quitting when I didn’t really have to. It would be different if I turned an ankle, or was throwing up, but while lacking in drive and hydration, I knew I could finish. Quitting while you’re ahead always seems appealing, but I try to push myself to the unknown areas, where there’s an equal chance of encountering success or failure. In this race, if I’m being honest, success was finishing in the top 3 females, ideally winning the womens field. Failure was going too hard and dying. I’m still learning what I can and can’t do speed and strength wise, but I try to keep to the motto of “get it while you got it”- ie. be fast when you can.
I finished Loop 1 in 2:50ish, about 5 minutes behind the lead lady and 1 minute behind second place. My poor little legs told me I couldn’t run much more of the uphills, but I figured if I hiked strong and kept my downhill pace up, I had a chance of catching them. Thennnnn I hit climb 1 again and was pretty sure I would die. The lack of proper hydration and fuel, combined with the heat and the climb, put me in a ridiculously uncomfortable place. My heart was pounding and all I could think about was taking a nap. I really really wanted to quit. I debated going back to the start, or maybe just sitting down for a while but slowly inched along. Amazingly no one passed me, which I took to be a sign that I was not in fact dying, but simply struggling through a rough part of the race along with my fellow competitors. Embracing that helped me find some positivity and get moving once I reached the downhill cruise. I passed the second place girl just after the aid station first time through and took off on the rolling downhill section with renewed determination. I knew that Marta, the lead lady, had poles and I assumed she had powered up the climb and was way out of reach. I never saw her on the climb or descent but when I came into the aid station for the last time, the lovely volunteers there told me she was only a few minutes ahead- I took off with potato chips and a little kick in my step. I finally saw her on the final steep section of downhill and passed her just before turning onto the road. I thought maybe I had it in me to kick it up the hill to the finish, but the legs wanted none of it. When she passed me at a good jog, I told her if she had it in her to run the hill she could have the race. She was very clearly not happy about having to work that hard for her victory, but she gained a few seconds on the climb and I couldn’t close the gap. To be honest, I wasn’t that motivated to win- I felt like she deserved it, but in retrospect, I wish I would have fought for it and won- not just for the money, but to prove something to myself.
I quickly recovered after a few pints of water and nice crisp beer, then grabbed a few slices of pizza and sat down to hang out with Joel and Liz and other lovely runner friends in the sunshine! And then we made a slip-n-slide! No one knows how to throw a running party like James and the Rainshadow crew. It was hard to leave- but I got exactly what I came for: fun and sun and a pretty darn awesome run.
It was a good day.