Usually when I post a race report it's all about how much ass I kicked, the awesome schwag (sic?) I won, my pace average between 5 and 6 minutes per mile, and how I was close to the leader most of the way but couldn't hold on (I have finished second or third in an absurd number of races, and I think I've only won once). Not so this time. In the 15k race at the Meeteetse-Absaroka Challenge I ran 1:57:54. That's about 13 minutes per mile. And I finished about 25 minutes from the prizes.
I can say I was close to the leader for the first few miles. We were together through the 5k turnoff and I was close behind at the 10k turn-around. A young boy, probably in middle school, led the field for almost a mile -- he was really motoring up the hills and wound up winning the 5k. But that was merely the prologue. The road up to the 5k turnoff was pretty steep, and it leveled off a bit up to the 10k turnaround. Beyond that it got crazy. Too steep to run crazy (and I ran up 4.4 miles at a consistent 10% grade in training). The leader had a bit more legs than I did at this point and pulled away (though he wasn't running much either, at least up the initial ascent).
Then I had trouble seeing the course markers. They were the standard orange ribbons tied to trees, but the combination of exhaustion and mild color-blindness led me off the course several times. I never got too far off, but each time was costly. Pretty much every time I did I got passed by someone, that being one of the major ways I found my way back to the course. So after the long, steep climb we ran along a ridge for a while. A couple more short climbs, then a downhill section that occasionally got scary. For much of this time I was talking with a guy that had just passed me while I was lost, and we helped eachother find the course. And then, as the website put it, "one of the most RADICAL FINISHES around". I climbed, at times on all fours, up a rocky slope, ran on another ridge for a while, and then charged up a steep grassy hill (it was the last real climb of the race, so I showed some life) and headed for the big descent.
I don't really know how long the descent was other than "really long". Way too steep to run down, and I couldn't get enough traction half the time to stop from sliding and falling. My knees and ankles were on fire. I got the hang of it more the farther I got down, though I still looked like an idiot for the photographers. Yeah, that's where the photographers set up. I hope they had an easier time getting down with their equipment than I did. By the time I was at the bottom of the really steep part my knees, ankles, and small stabilizing muscles were so tired and sore I could hardly stumble around the trail without tripping. And I was so short of glucose and so terrified from sliding down the mountain I could hardly think. After getting lost twice around what was probably a really simple creek crossing I followed an older guy that looked like he had some idea what he was doing through the rest of the narrow trail. Then we spilled out onto the dirt road we started on for the last half-mile or so and I brought out my amazing kick. Have to show off the speed somewhere.
After the race everyone hung around, ate, and talked. Lots of nice people. As I told the race director, I had gone out to the area a few weeks before and run some of the trails before deciding on the hardcore 15k race, but since I didn't know exactly where the race was going to be I just picked random ones. I picked much, much easier ones than what we ran. If I'd known I would have either run the 10k or invested in some trail running shoes for more lateral support and better traction, and maybe some of those things that keep pine needles and rocks from getting in the shoes. Next year that's what I'll do. And I'll eat a bigger breakfast to avoid bonking. At least I brought gloves (not everyone did, they were useful when I was falling on my ass).
Overall: hell of a race they put on there out west of Meeteetse. The starting elevation is around 7000 feet, and I think it climbs up to about 8500 before the final drop. I could be wrong, though, as I have only a very faint idea where anything but the starting line is on a map. For anyone curious, Meeteetse is this town, which is very small but full of good people. And the race start is around here.
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