I ran A Hurricane JEM 16.5 Mile Trail Run on Saturday, October 15th in Virgin, Utah. It was my first real trail race where I had to follow course markings and there was the possibility of getting lost! I signed up for this race for the adventure, to revisit Utah, and to mark Utah off my list of states I'd run in. As an extra bonus, my family decided to come with me to see me race and keep me company. My sister, nieces, nephew, dad & stepmom all joined me on this trip.
I always planned on having fun with this run but I have to admit that I'd hoped to do well. That all changed on October 1st when I crashed my bike. Suddenly, I wasn't sure I'd be able to even run the race at all. In the crash, I bruised the entire back and side of my left leg. There was a huge lump above my knee from fluid/blood that had settled there. Any jarring of that area was pretty painful and I tried everything to help it heal but according to the doctor, it would just take time. Time, I didn't have! I wanted to run the race, but I didn't want to risk further damage or delay the healing. Finally, on the Thursday before the race, I was able to run 3 miles, slowly and with the area wrapped by a compression sleeve to hold the jarring to a minimum. Jason felt that if I could run another 3 miles on Friday, I could go ahead and run on Saturday. Run though, not race. On Friday, I felt okay to run and I felt better on that run. I had hope that I would be able to finish on Saturday! Woo!
I probably should have stayed off my feet for the rest of the day but we were in Zion and the weather was gorgeous. We took the tram into Zion and did some exploring. We did some of the shorter hikes but nothing too technical or strenuous since my six year old nephew was with us. It was a long, long day day and I was pretty tired at the end and my leg was aching. I had to wrap it at the end but it was worth it. Zion is stunning and the views are soothing and inspiring to the soul. We got back to the hotel around 7 and my family decided to rest, change, and go out to dinner. I stayed in and just had some peanut butter and bagels for dinner so I could put my legs up and rest. I set the alarm for 4:45 and went to bed.
On Saturday, I woke up, ate breakfast, dressed, took care of business, then headed over to the race start to check in and get my bib and bag. Oh, and the map of the course. I guess there had been some confusion last year with a mountain bike race from the week before and some runners got lost. They were worried it would happen again this year so they handed out maps and made sure we knew to follow the orange markings only. I had a gel and hit the porta potty and I was as ready as I could be for this.
They sent us off just before 7:30. I felt pretty good for the first few miles. My leg wasn't hurting much and I was taking it easy. The first half of the race was a steady climb up to the halfway point with small rollers. This is my favorite profile for a run. I passed a few runners on the uphills and by the first aid station at mile 4, I was on my own. There were about 50 runners in all for both the 16.5 and the marathon so it was a small race which meant I wouldn't be able to just follow runners on the course. We were strung out enough that for big chunks of the race, I didn't see any other runners. It was nice and quiet. But if you are one of those runners who needs crowd support, this is not for you. There were a few people out at a couple of the intersections where a dirt road met up with the trail but other than that, it was just the aid station crews cheering us on.
The first half of the race was very nice. I got to watch the sun rise over the valley and it was beautiful. I took a couple of photos and then my phone went wonky and the camera wouldn't work. :( Boo! So I just tried to absorb the views. I was feeling really good when I went thru the 2nd aid station a little after mile 8 (about 90 mins) and had visions of finishing in 3 hours. I decided to have a gel and that's when things went south. I know better to run and do a gel at the same time, especially on the trail but it wasn't a technical section so I thought I would be okay. Wrong!
So…I'm running thru a relatively flat part of the course (on top of a mesa) and it's single track but not a lot of rocks so I decide it's safe for me to eat a Gu without stopping. And BAM! My foot catches on a rock and I start stumbling. I told myself to just fall and get it over with so I don't strain or break anything. I fall and roll and what do you know, I fall on my left side! My injured side. I remember thinking “couldn't you have fallen on the other side” and then I get up and start gathering up my stuff that went flying: my hat, my water bottle, my Gu. Yep, I picked up my Gu and finished it. It was the only one I had and it was another 4 miles to the next aid station. I only had water in my water bottle so I needed the calories. So I ate some dirt, figuratively and literally. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
Next, I took assessment of my body. Sore arm, scraped knee, sore calf. But otherwise, I'm good. I run a few steps and it's not bad so I just keep going. I'm mostly thankful that no one saw me fall! Right after my fall, the trail took a steep turn down from the mesa to the canyon floor and that's when my knee protested. Needless to say, I did this section very, very slowly. Of course, that's where the photographer was so he got plenty of chances to catch me with my new dusty look. And once I was away from him and I thought I was in the clear…there was his daughter taking pictures at the bottom! Why couldn't they have been around a mile earlier when I looked fresh and strong! Sheesh.
The next few miles were mostly easy single track with a few ups and downs. I couldn’t take advantage of the down hills as much as I wanted though because of my knee and a few people caught me. They would ask me if I was okay because they could see from the dirt covering me that I had fallen. One nice gentleman came up behind me and asked me if my shirt came like that or if I’d made the pattern myself. I said it came like that and I was going to tell him about the tribal design on my shirt when he said “I meant the dirt all over your back”. Ha!
When I got to aid station 3, I stopped to get some water to rinse off my hands so I would stop getting dirt and mud on face and in my eyes. Then I grabbed a half a banana and ate it, contemplated cleaning up my knee, decided it could wait, and prepared to head out. But first, I decided to look at my map since I knew that we would be splitting from the marathoners soon and I didn't want to accidentally run a marathon! But there was no map! It must have fallen out of my pocket when I fell. I had about a 10 second anxiety attack and then just started running. The course had been well marked so far so I figured I wouldn't need the map. And if worse, came to worse, I could see from the landmarks in the distance where I needed to go so I knew I’d get out eventually. By this time though, I was getting tired and didn’t relish the prospect of adding miles.
I was on my own for the rest of the race, not a soul except a few lizards and birds. I walked a few of the technical uphills and downhills in the last few miles and I could tell my time for the second half was going to be a lot slower. So I trudged on. I stopped again at aid station 4 (unmanned) to grab some cold water and there were just 2.5 miles left to go and it was all dirt road so I could relax a little. I did get a little sidetracked because I wasn't sure if I supposed to go right or left at a fork in the road. I started out going right (which was the direction I should be going to the finish) but then decided the left was the “right” way (even though it was in the opposite direction). And luckily, I was right! There were a few people cheering at the end of that section so I knew I'd picked the right way.
Now there was just one mile to go. By then, everything was aching: my leg, my arm & shoulder, my lower back. I shuffled on. Then finally, I came to the street the park & the finish were on and saw my sister and my niece waiting for me at the corner. My niece ran with me toward the finish and then I was done! My first trail race. I crossed the line and ran over to where my dad was and he gave me a hug and I just leaned against him to rest. The race director came over to give me my medal and he congratulated me and asked if I'd left any dirt on the trail! Then he had the race photographer come over and take pictures of me (one of the front and one of the left side) so I could be captured in all my trail dirt glory. ;)
I grabbed some food (they had bread, cookies, chips, grilled cheese sandwiches, and root beer floats) and some water and sat to clean up my knee. After a little bit, we went back to the hotel so I could shower and then it was time for lunch (In-N-Out!) and more sightseeing. All in all, a successful, fun-filled family vacation. Can't wait for the next one!
My time was 3 hours and 34 minutes. So the second half did take me a lot longer. It should have been easier but I guess that wasn't in the cards for me. I ended up 9th out of 11 women. Actually, I was kind of hoping I would be last! I've never been last before. It would have been nice. Um, without the fall though. Maybe, just maybe, the trail gods were reminding me that I was supposed to be taking it easy! Sigh.