Mouse and I arrived at the race site with about 10 minutes to spare. We headed straight to the portapots as the race director made all the last minute announcements. The only real thing we needed to be troubled about was the last trail marker at 24.8 at which we needed to turn left or face going back and doing that part again when we arrived at the finish. The course was a big 25 mile loop so the marathoners had a 1.4 mile loop tacked onto it.
The race director finished with a plea for everyone to please not drop and it was time for the national anthem. We hurriedly pinned our number onto our drop bag and set it on the tarp and then we all headed over to the start. Mouse had met a lady at DWD that was doing the 50 miler so we went over to wish her good luck and we were off.
We headed out towards the road and quickly saw the front runners coming back. It was extremely funny and the group around us was having great fun pointing out the leaders. We got to the road and turned around to follow the leaders onto the Big M trail. "peanut" hammed it up for the spectators as we headed onto the trail, waving Miss America style and blowing kisses. For a long time we were a line of runners in the woods. The trail was single track. The land there is old sand dunes mostly covered in pine forests now. Absolutely gorgeous. The beginning wasn't thick with trees, but lots of ferns covered the ground as we wound our way up into the pine. We were walking pretty soon up any inclines and I joked that somebody should start the wave or a conga line. Peanut informed Mouse that her leopard skirt was Hawt, super Hawt in fact. And we quickly made friends with the group around us.
"Jah" hollered ahead at one point that Peanut was slowing everyone down and to get a move on. I could tell already this was going to be a blast. My hamstring wasn't making a peep and I was off into the woods with a bunch of fun people.
We arrived at the first aid station after about 45 minutes and I ran off to take care of business. Caught up with Mouse as we grabbed some gatorade and water from the aid station. That was the only station I didn't grab some food at. We headed back into the woods after a short clearing. Peanut and Jah had fallen a bit behind and we picked up the pace to catch up to the group we deemed the "Peloton." We chatted with whoever was around us and heard lots of great stories. A few guys attempting their first 50 miler. A few attempting their 70th+. Always surrounded by beautiful hills and pine of Northern Michigan.
The second aid station came along and we decided to eat something as we were both starving. I had an orange slice and downed some water with one of my e-gels. We headed back out with a runner in Boston shorts matching my sports bra and a TNT guy. He mentioned he was worried about us because he stopped hearing us talking for a bit. We got into a good groove here and hammered until we caught the Peloton again. I think it was at the third aid station that we fell back from them for good. We stopped here and I think I had another orange slice and some chips. A runner caught us and mentioned he was from Ann Arbor and worked in Novi which was funny because those are areas Mouse and I know well. Here we had some big climbs and did some power walking up the hills. We jockeyed back and forth with "Downhill Runner" quite a bit. We'd catch him going up, he'd catch us going down. It wasn't until before the last aid station that we passed him for good.
After the last major hill here we hammered a bit more and finally came to the halfway point. We stayed here a bit longer than most. My ITB had flared up a bit so I stretched as I called my husband and gave him his chip alert. We grabbed some more food and I switched out my handhelds and stuck two ibuprofen in my bottle in case the ITB got worse. We both tried the potatoes with salt, absolutely disgusting! I had some PB and J and some more chips and my second gel. A ton of people went by us during this time, I think we were there about 10 minutes. We finally tossed our bags on the other side of the trail to be taken back to the start and headed back into the woods. I joked that without the Peloton I was sure to get us lost now. A spectator assured me we wouldn't. I took my only split of the day as we headed out and we were at about 2:40. About 1 hour slower than my road race halfs.
About this time my body was getting seriously sore. I was kind of pissed because I always inform all my road running friends about how nice the trails are on your body. But everything was getting sore here. My back, my legs, my hips, my ass, my feet, all sore. I did a gut check and I knew I didn't want to have to walk a half marathon but if that is what it would take that was fine, I was finishing no matter what. Oddly Mouse mentioned the whole body soreness just as I was feeling it, it was nice to know I wasn't the only one. We jockeyed back and forth with a runner from Tucson in this section that was doing the 50 miler. I think he said his name was Billy. We got ahead of him for awhile during what was marked as an easy section of trail.
My ITB was getting angry and I gave in and took one of the ibuprofen pills. My right calf was starting to seize a bit too so I decided I needed some salt at the next station. I stopped to pee and realized I was probably a bit dehydrated so I vowed to drink most of my handheld before the next stop. We made it into the aid station with our friend Billy and I took an e-cap, I have never tried these before but I figured that as a training run for JFK I'd better try everything and find out what works. My stomach had held up surprisingly well with all the food I was eating only trying to cramp for a mile or so. A woman came in behind us and I seriously thought she was going to bite it, she looked woozy and not steady on her feet. She asked for some ibuprofen and I decided to take one of their pills so i would have one in reserve. We took off from the aid station and were still feeling pretty bad. Billy caught us and we let him lead the way. We jogged and walked with him for quite a ways before both of us caught our second wind.
If you had told me a mile previously I would feel this good I would have called you a liar. But I wasn't going to take it for granted so we pushed ahead of Billy as we picked up the pace and conversation. Mouse asked how I met David and that story always gets me excited so we proceeded to chat all the way into the next aid station, we even ran some hills in this section. My ITB was painful but tolerable and the calf seemed to be doing better. I took another e-cap at this station and some potato chips and pb and j and my 3rd gel. We passed a guy who had bit it here and was walking the rest of the way. I am glad I didn't have to do that!
The downhills were starting to kill my ITB now, at some point I decided to just fly down to get it over with and that set off the hamstring. I wasn't happy about that but was glad it made it that long before complaining. I think we found the culprit as River Run is a downhill race, so I should probably avoid hills for awhile.
We passed downhill runner in this section and started looking for a girl that we thought was in our age group. We didn't see many people though and we just kept chatting as disappointment of the race coming to an end soon set in. We made it to the last aid station and were informed by the runner ahead of us that we were having too much fun. Billy had told us earlier he could tell we must have been friends for a very long time. Wonder what he thought when we told him we met on the internet!
We filled up on gatorade and water and I had some M and Ms. I never did try the defizzed coke, Mouse said it was nasty. We headed off towards the finish knowing our left turn was coming soon. There was a pretty big uphill right after the aid station so we walked a bit here. We got a little worried we missed the turn but finally we saw a man standing in the trail and a big yellow arrow pointing left for the marathon. At this point we knew we didn't have much time left to go.
The last section was completely flat soft packed sand and we hammered in. My ITB had had it and I wanted to hammer just in case there were any more hills left we would have to climb. We passed a road and a spectator let us know we had less than a mile to go. I said awesome and declared out loud, less than 20 minutes now, which made Mouse laugh. I like to overestimate time left so that when I get done faster I am happy. We came in to the finish line together and were both handed some awesome finisher mugs. We high fived and headed straight to the beer keg. My legs felt pretty good other than the ITB and the calf and hamstring. None of the regular stiffness I get after a road race.
We got our beers and went to change. I called David and Mouse called Rae and Brent to celebrate. We talked with the runner we passed at the last aid station and headed over to get some food. The awards were already started and we both got "2nd" in our age groups and got some really nice duffle bags. I checked the results and we were actually both 3rd out of 3 but the ladies that took first in our age groups were in the top 3. Despite our time of 5:27 and change we were not the last ones in and if there were an award for who had the most fun out on the course there is no way anyone could compete (except maybe Jah and Peanut).
Post race details to come soon. The fun weekend definitely did not end at the finish line!