I did this race last year, and they were sponsored by Hostess, so I filled my pockets and my backpack with twinkies and hohos and devil dogs, and the pain of the race faded quickly into a disgusting greasy sugar high tinged with whatever it is they put in twinkies to survive the next nuclear winter. I was hoping they'd have Hohos again this year, but apparently enough to the runners eschewed those disgusting not-food substances that they found a different sponsor, so the post-race party was much less interesting to me.
I realized I might easily fall into the "I started too easy last year, I should start out harder this year" (and then you blow up) trap, so I decided to line up with Donna Smyth, since I beat her last year, but didn't catch her until the bottom of the first singletrack, therefore if I ran with her up the hill this year, I'd be that much further ahead after the downhill. I see no flaws in that plan.
They said to wait for the siren and then start, and someone blew a whistle so we all started running. That is not a siren. A couple seconds later, the siren goes off, false start for the entire race? I quickly noticed that Donna runs fast uphill, and that the stupid first uphill goes on for what feels like forever. I guess when you're running up something called "Mile Hill Road", its going to go uphill for a mile. By the top I was pretty well redlined, and facing the harsh reality that running offers no rest on the downhills. I passed a couple groups of runners, but that downhill singletrack just wasn't long enough, and not nearly restful enough, and when I hit the gradual uphill on a work road, I was just as pegged as I had been at the top of Mile Hill.
So then the streams of people started passing me back, it felt like the entire race passed me by before we started the second real uphill, in reality it was probably 10 people, but I was really looking forward to that second uphill, because it was steep enough that people were hiking it, therefore, I could stop running. The flaw in this thinking is that we're hiking it because its too steep to run, therefore, hiking is just as hard as running. I was wheezing, humping my way up the hill with my hands on my knees, but at least people weren't passing me quite as easily. I did lose the entire group of girls I'd passed on the first downhill, but just couldn't move any faster without blowing up - I was close to the edge, and didn't need a heart rate monitor to tell me I was hovering at the point of no return.
The worst part was when the portly, elderly man hiked by, explaining to me that if I stood up straight I'd be able to breathe easier. Arrr! I held on to him the rest of the climb, but he was pretty good on the downhills (gravity?), and I couldn't get him back. The last two miles are basically downhill, with one small uphill blip just to insult your wobbly noodle legs after all the downhill, and I did what I could to fall down the hill as fast as possible. This netted me exactly one place in the women's race, although I passed many men, and she caught back up to me on that insulting little uphill bit. I dug deep, and held her stride as we crested the hill, then gave it what I had left down the remaining hill and into the finish, terrified that she was right there. I held her off, and ended up 5th in my age class, 11th woman overall. And most importantly, 40 seconds faster than last year. Although the finish loop was shorter... I'm going to ignore that fact.
I must have been overstriding on the downhills, because my outer quadriceps were cramping pretty badly post race (at least the cramps held off until I finished), and stairs were quite painful for the next two days, but I can deal with soft tissue injuries. Downhill running races are hard. Without the promise of twinkies at the end, who knows if I'll do this race again next year...
This is the "oh god is it over yet?" face.