Monday, November 11, 2013

Dirt Cheap Stage Race series report: Adventures in Mendon Part 1

Exhausted selfie. The point is, I got the
coveted sweatshirt.
This weekend I ran 19 miles through the woods, split up over three races in Fleet Feet Rochester's Dirt Cheap Stage Race in Mendon.

Last year I did Stage #2, at Devil's Bathtub, billed as a 5.5 mile race but actually a little shorter. I was jealous of all the people who did all three and got the coveted sweatshirt. I vowed to come back.

Life being as crazy as it has been lately, though, there was a good chance I might have let this one fall through the cracks. Enter Allison. We decided to do this series long ago, before our marathons, and she kept reminding me. She had me on the hook, I couldn't back out.

I was by no means trained for a trail race. I've just run casually since the Wine Glass Marathon a month ago. I haven't done hill training in eons.

So I took it slow, walked all of the hills, Allison stuck with me in the last two stages (more on that saga, an adventure in itself, in Parts 2 and 3.) I finished the series with a combined time of 4:23:46.

This will be a 3-part blog. Stage 2 will post this afternoon, and Stage 3 Tuesday morning, then a special post on Wednesday.

STAGE 1: Time Trial

The first stage was a 3-mile hilly time trial Saturday morning, which I finished in 40:46.

The morning started with an adrenaline surge. Alarm went of. Hit snooze for ten minutes. Drifted away again. I wake up to the phone ringing. The caller ID says "Allison."

I immediately assumed it was a runner's first nightmare: I overslept and Allison was going to say "where on earth are you?" I relaxed when I saw it was still 7:30-something. The phone call wasn't good news, she had a family matter to attend to so she'd have to miss the first race. Bummer, but I'd still have her for the second two stages.

Took the dogs out. It wasn't that cold. Drove to Mendon. What a difference 20 minutes makes, burr, why didn't I bring gloves?

They lined us up, and we started one runner at a time, 5 seconds apart, I was #145, so I had about a 10 minute wait. In this time it started snowing oh so slightly. We started on a slight uphill grade, my legs hated me immediately.

When they said hilly, they meant hilly. These were some of the most treacherous, brutal climbs I've ever faced. I walked most of the inclines, some I couldn't have run if I tried. I laughed at my old self who might have forced myself to run the whole way. The light snowfall made the run absolutely beautiful.

The best volunteer ever stood at Mile 2. She cheered us on as we turned a corner and started to attack a giant hill. "This is a bad hill, it is not the last hill, and you are not almost there," she said.

The well-intentioned-yet-lying volunteers at Musselman constantly promising me that "this is the last hill" still haunt me. Gotta love the honest ones.

I clawed my way up the beast, which seemed never ending, and at the top was Boots, coowner of Fleet Feet. "This is a no standing zone" he says as I'm huffing and puffing my way to the top. I grin. "It's all downhill from here, right?" I say, repeating an oft-heard but rarely true phrase that comes from most volunteers.

"Nope. There's a little one, it doesn't last long."

"Thanks for being honest!!"

I slog my way through the remaining mile, then head back to the lodge for delicious Nutella and cashew butter. A chiropractor there adjusted my back, oh so good, then I got coffee and drove to Devil's Bathtub, the start of Race #2, put my headphones in and closed my eyes for a bit.

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