I took a few days to reflect about my experiences at Hyner before I sat down to write, so I could see things with a bit more clarity. From the moment I knew this race existed, it almost felt like destiny that I would run it, given the fact that I had spent so much of my childhood at a cabin just down the road. When I ran my first 50k in the fall of 2011, I already had my eye on running the inaugural 50k at Hyner.
As luck would have it, I never got to run the first 50k in 2012, but was relegated to being on the sidelines as a volunteer, about 8 months pregnant. I knew even then that I would be making my Hyner debut in 2013.
I ended up having to work Thursday night into Friday morning, so I got a brief nap before packing the family up for our journey to Hyner. We got to the registration about 6:30 Friday night, and then made our way about 10 miles further out to our cabin. I had invited some of the rest of my family to join us, and they got in much later. I woke up briefly when I heard them arrive, but headed right back to bed, as I was going on about 3 hours of sleep at that point.
5:15 and I was up, making coffee and finishing my last minute preparations. I had prepared all of my gear the night before, but did one last check to make sure that everything was in place. Maybe I should have saved this step for after the coffee...
I arrived at the Eagle's Nest at 6:40, ate a banana and talked with several people that I've come to know from other races. At 7:30ish, I met up with the online running crew, several of whom I'd not had the opportunity to meet in person before. I lined up near two of them, Jaime and Marie, and finally we were off. While I had been nervous in the days leading up to this race, I knew that I had put the training in to really do well.
In the first few miles, I caught up to both Marie and Jaime, pushing on at an aggressive but comfortable pace. I admittedly was probably being a little too aggressive, as one of the volunteers along the way told me I was in 7th place among the women. As a middle of the packer, this thrilled and terrified me, and I didn't want to lose ground. A few more miles in, and I'm still feeling great, and now I'm in 5th place or so. I met a few great people in these miles, including a woman named Janine who was running a pretty aggressive pace, as well, and a young man that mentioned that he was the youngest 50k runner in the field.
I decided to stick with Janine, as she was going to help pace me to my goal of a sub 8 finish. It was at this point I made a HUGE error which I would discover a few miles down the road...I skipped the aid station, knowing that I had plenty of fluids, as well as food to get me through to the next station. Unfortunately, this was the point that the aid stations were most spread out (about 10 miles), and I soon discovered that I had left my snacks in the truck; not in my pack where I swore I'd packed them.
My fluids consisted of Nuun only, so no calories there. I started to feel the effects of a lack of fuel. I'm not someone that generally needs a ton of calories, but since starting to pick up my distances after having my youngest son last summer, I have needed to watch this more closely, as I am currently nursing him. This combination brought me to my lowest point of the race. I hurt, I had no reserve, and people started to pass me as I trudged along the creek bed. The young man that I had run with earlier caught up and ran with me a bit. He was sweet, except for repeatedly referring to me as being "experienced". I think he was just calling me old.
After a bit, my new friend pushed on and Jaime caught up to me. He probably saved my race at this point, bestowing me a bit of chocolate to get me through to the next aid station. As I finally made my way to the aid station, I saw Jaime and my young friend still there. Jaime took off again, and as I was recuperating a bit, Marie arrived. I decided that it was finally time to press on, and I was slowly starting to feel a bit better. Not long after that, Marie blew by looking strong, not to be seen again until the finish.
As I started to regain my strength, I was again joined by my young friend. We ran most of the race together from this point, chatting as we went. Not only was he the youngest 50ker, this was his first 50k period! He knew the last miles of this course well, though, as he'd completed the 25k several times before.
SOB was a welcome sight, because I knew once I hit that point, I would finish no matter what happened. I climbed with a renewed vigor, and I was surprised that SOB didn't feel as hard as I thought it would. My young friend had beaten me to the top, but off we went together again. In the last few miles, we passed a good many hikers, and he started to push a bit harder. I ended up getting stuck unable to pass, but started talking to an older man running behind me. He told me that I was really pushing him, and I decided to stick with him instead of trying to catch up to my other friend. About a mile from the end, the older man wished me well and slowed his pace. I ran the last mile feeling strong, but reflecting on some of my errors of the race. Hard to believe that I would ever be thinking this way, but I'd made an error allowing myself to think that this was "just another 50k".
8:08 was slower than I had planned, but given the circumstances, I was okay with this. As I crossed the finish, I saw my dad, my brother, and my brother's girlfriend, along with the young man that I'd run with for so long. Behind them were Jaime, Marie, and Stacey. After being congratulated by my family, I got to talk to my new running buddy, that I now knew was named Logan, along with his mother, who thanked me for taking care of her baby. I was happy to learn that Jaime and Marie had both done very well, improving their times from the year before.
At my low point of the race, I thought I would not sign up for the 50k again next year, but I changed my mind in the latter miles of the race. I plan on returning to Hyner. It tried to break me, but I survived. I know the course now, and I can train there whenever I get up to my cabin. I will return next year, and I plan on being a force to be reckoned with.