I went into Hyner knowing that my training was woefully less than what I'd hoped it would be. Prior to yesterday, I'd run exactly two runs longer than 12 miles since October, when I was dealt a grade three stress fracture in my left foot. Due to this injury, I ended up not running for about six weeks, but decided to hit the gym hard and do what I could to stay strong. I used to weight train pretty regularly, but I've gotten out of the habit over the past few years...I have to think that rediscovering squats and dead-lifts again has had a huge impact on my ability to tackle some of the climbs that had previously led to lackluster results during races. Another change in my training has been doing some faster-paced lunchtime running with a new training partner that has seemed to have a huge effect on my ability to hold a faster pace for a longer duration.
In the weeks leading up to Hyner, I have had some major successes- taking 2nd female overall in a 10k, 4th female overall and a new PR in a 5k, and then placing at the Mt. Penn Mudfest last weekend. I was certain this meant that the wheels would come off at Hyner, especially since I had flashbacks to the 10 mile death march I'd endured mid-race last year.
Saturday morning was cool but not uncomfortable. I chose to start in shorts, a long-sleeved top with a short-sleeve top underneath, and gloves. I was thrown a loop when I found out that we wouldn't have the luxury of drop bags this year, and I had to change my approach on the fly. I was planning on starting out in my Soloman Speedcross shoes and then switch out for a well broken in pair of Brooks Glycerines for the final miles. I decided to proceed with the Solomans and tossed a dry pair of Injinjis in my pack.
As the race was ready to begin, the race director asked for a moment of silence for a fallen runner that had passed away from a heart attack after a race since the last year. She was about my age, and I did think about that at several points during the race...we never know if we get to run another day, and sometimes it's good to be reminded of that.
|The first climb is daunting!|
I started the race near the front and settled into a comfortable pace. I knew I wanted to be in a good position as we hit Humble Hill, which is the climb to the abutment where the hang gliders take off. During the first climb, I realized that I was overdressed for the conditions and decided that I'd take off my long-sleeve at the top. The climb was every bit as tough as I remember it being. When I got to the top, I stepped off the trail and stripped off my outer layer. I settled back in behind a woman maybe 10-15 years my senior. After a few minutes, I knew I needed to pass her, so I called and passed. She seemed pretty grouchy, but I paid no mind and pressed on. I rounded Hyner View and arrived at the first aid station. About a minute later, the woman I'd passed arrived and started bitching to a man that was waiting there for her about how awful her race was going.
Now, I admittedly get snarky sometimes when I'm racing, depending on how much stress I'm dealing with, or if I'm in a particularly dark place during a race. I must've felt particularly snarky on this day, because I decided in my head that her name was "Bitchy McBitcherson" and it was my goal to make sure I beat her to the finish...I'm still not exactly sure why, but she nary stopped and took off down the trail with me hot on her heels.
The next section of the course is one of my favorites, as there are some long stretches of rocky, steep downhill. It didn't take me long to overtake my target (making sure to use my best trail manners), and I never saw her again. After a bit, the race course split off for the 50k loop, and I started a less steep but seemingly endless ascent. This is where I noticed the strength training paying off. I was able to pass a good number of people as we all hiked up this section.
At the top of the ascent was the aid station that I foolishly decided to skip last year. The distance between this station and the next is the longest span on the entire course, and my skipping it last year was the reason for my death march during last year's race. I made sure to fill up my pack and grabbed all sorts of food to stash in my pack, almost like a squirrel preparing for winter.
As I tackled the middle miles of the 50k course, I never hit a low. The hollow that had been so painful was fun; I was reveling in the numerous creek crossings that punctuate this part of the race, and my feet seemed to be holding up with little protest. I did realize at this point that I was still really warm, despite being down to just shorts and a short-sleeved tech tee, so I did something that I've never done in a race- I stripped down to just a sports bra. Not too much longer after this, I hit the 19 mile aid station that I had lingered at for so long last year in an effort to recover. This year was a quick stop and then I pressed onward.
As the 50k loop continued, I got to hammer down the section that had been the never-ending climb as I approached the spot where the 50k course rejoined the 25k course. As I flew down the last little hill, I could see the 25k participants below, and several of them cheered me on as I joined their ranks.
The next few miles were pretty uneventful. It is a blessing to be on trail with so many great people, as so many of the 25k runners and hikers would step off trail even before I had a chance to ask, cheering me on as I continued down the trail. This continued until the final approach to SOB, where there was an interesting situation that I'm still not sure how I feel about...
A women was hiking with a boy about 9 or 10. They had a whole line of us behind them, and she was trying to encourage him on as he was less than thrilled at that point. I really wanted to pass, but I didn't want to be that asshole that passed the kid, so I stayed put. None of the people ahead of me were making any move to pass, either.
As we hit SOB, the boy was in tears. It broke my heart to see it. I will say I have no idea about the events leading up to his hiking the 25k, but as a mother, I know that I wouldn't want one of my boys to tackle the course until they were mature (like late teens) enough to understand the ramifications of starting a race like this.
At the top of SOB, I grabbed a quick refill on my water and headed out for the finish. The final section has another good bit of rocky downhill, and I had wings. At one point, a photographer spotted me barreling down the hill and called out "she's flying" at which point I sang back "I love these downhills"...another man hiking just around the bend heard me and chuckled that I was crazy as I continued past him.
I hit the road for the final approach and was still running strong, passing another five or six people before the final hill to the finish. I passed two more women on the hill and crossed the finish at 7:20...a good 48 minutes faster than last year's time. I ended up 5th female in my age group, and just a few minutes from making the podium.
After collecting my finisher's medal, I got to enjoy a lovely vanilla porter and a summer ale, compliments of Yorkholo Brewery. I immediately began to think about my game plan for next year. I went into this race with much less training, but much more experience than last year. My plan of action is now to really start hitting my trail mileage hard, so I can continue to build on this momentum. My goal for this year was to have a better showing than last year. My goal for next year is a good bit loftier...finish in under 7 and hit the podium.