Although the Xterra Trail Run World Championship was maybe the toughest race I’ve done, a trip to Hawaii was a great way to end the season. I was lucky to have three great friends and my sister along for the ride. As soon as we parked our car at the hotel, we literally ran through the streets of Honolulu to catch the shuttle to a luau. We must have looked like the epitome of tourists, with Siri telling us where to turn as we ran along with flip flops and backpacks on. No better way to kick off a trip to Hawaii than learning the Hukilau and sampling traditional Hawaiian Luau foods.
Saturday wasn’t a typical pre-race day for us…running on the beach and going to a Christmas parade were far from my usual pre-race routine of a rainy run in Eugene and watching episodes of New Girl and Mindy Project.
We headed out bright and early, catching the sunrise on our way to Kualoa Ranch. When we arrived, it was just as beautiful AND INTIMIDATING as we expected. As we admired the scene, we overheard a man comment to his wife… “I heard there are still dinosaurs that roam around out here.” (Kualoa Ranch was the filming location for Jurassic Park) We burst out laughing, but loved the thought of this none-the-less. As we sat in the car waiting to warm up, the song “Rather Be” came on the radio. When my sister and I are together, we never pass up an opportunity to dance…so we rocked out in the car, getting some pretty funny looks. Dancing is always the best warm-up for a warm-up.
Number on, warmed up, shoes tied tight, squeezed in near the front at the starting line, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew there were some really tough and talented athletes, but didn’t know who in particular would be leading the charge. So my plan was to run my own race and see where that put me with a few miles to go. There were a few women who got off to a pretty quick start, but once people settled in I was in about third. The speedy little runner in red (Allie McLaughlin) opened up a pretty good gap on us in the first few miles, but we were moving along at a good pace. I was happy with where I was, having some guys to help pull me along. I was lucky to get some encouraging words from a fellow runner. Looking up at the little runner in red, he reminded me, “It’s a long race. We’ll catch her.” As simple as that sounds, it was exactly what I needed to keep myself relaxed, but focused. A few miles into the race, the wise-worded runner moved up, but somehow I still felt like he was pulling me along. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you feel like you’re working with someone else. When we started to get into the steeper climbs, things got much harder. So I kept looking up and taking in the gorgeous scenery and reminding myself I’M IN HAWAII, as much as this hurts, “there’s no place I’d rather be!”
Although I have very little experience with drinking on the run, the physiologist in me knew I should try to drink some Gatorade early in the race. My marathoner friends had taught me the special drinking technique to use with paper cups, but 95% of what I tried to drink ended up everywhere except my mouth. I guess I have some practicing to do before the next race.
For awhile I couldn’t see Allie anymore, but once I started catching glimpses of red, our dance party from before the race popped back into my head. Smiling, I thought, if she gives me a chance, I’ll take it. “It’s a shot in the dark, but I’ll make it.” We hit some smooth, fast down hills and I got rolling pretty well. At that point, I found myself next to Allie and used my momentum to push past her a little bit. But the last major climb was tough. I kept reminding myself to think of the view from the top, but walking seemed unavoidable. Hiking my way up the hill, I could see the yellow jersey of that wise-worded runner ahead. I was sure Allie was catching me, but at least if I kept him in sight I knew I was getting closer to the top.
When I hit the top, I thought things would start to get easier, but that was not the case. This video very accurately depicts the way I got down the mountain…you could probably say I was rolling on that downhill too.
I spent a lot of time on my butt in that muddy, slippery stretch of the race. The last two or three miles I assumed Allie was right on my tail. This sounds really silly, but I tried to make it fun by telling myself there were dinosaurs chasing me. So if anyone caught me smiling to myself the last few miles of the race, you can fill in the thought bubble.
Breaking the tape at the finish line was such a rewarding feeling. Overall, it was a really tough race and I learned a lot. I learned that trail racing is challenging and painful, but also exhilarating and rewarding. And, after meeting some inspiring people after the race, I learned that the trail racing community is full of incredible people. In 2015, I can’t wait to get to know this community even better.