Net Down Marathon Run
Net down! Get those words right out of your head. They mean ONLY that from the start to the finish of a marathon, you have gone down in elevation. This is the second race I've done this summer that was a "net down" and they were the two most difficult races of the year (Bizz Johnson and this one). They also were both on trails which I find to be technically more difficult but a lot more fun.
We're already moving so fast, the photo is blurry Chris and I drove to Redding, CA on Friday evening. I planned on leaving at 3:30 am alone, doing the race, and coming back, but why not have the older kids watch the younger one and make a night of it?? Hotels are pretty inexpensive ($96 with everything included) and it was a great excuse to get out of town for a 9.3 mile (15K) trail race in a town I've never been to.
The race was amazing!!! The first half mile was downhill followed by almost 2 1/2 miles UP 600 feet in elevation. I was told it was a one-lane gravel road but after a turn would become a single-track trail. OK. Accurate. Sort of. Yes, the hill was big. Partway up it leveled off and a man next to me heard me say "Holy Cow". He looked at me and said, "Oh, this isn't the hill. Just wait". And it most assuredly went up more but was also shale which is a bit tough to get up. Not as difficult as coming back down partway. If there was a rock slide or an avalanche, it wasn't me, it was the other guy.
The gravel road was great. One lane, but beautiful, twisting and turning through the trees. The single aid station was at the "turn" I had been told about. As in hairpin turn. I talked with the guy that ran the aid station later and he said (as he was giggling) that he loves to do it just to see the look on everyone's face as we turn into the woods. The next five miles were beautiful and wound around the lake, but the term "single track" should be used loosely. At many points, it was a ledge in the side of a mountain riddled with rocks, tree branches, tree roots, covered in pine needles with a 700-foot drop of death if you had a misstep. I was reminded of a roller coaster ride constantly running up and down, with hairpin turns, moss-covered rocks, and 5 piles of bear scat to vault over. So I looked up roller coaster rides:
"Once the Vortex gets you in his grip, you're his forever! You'll be rocketed through 3,800 feet of track at speeds exceeding 55 miles per hour through two vertical loops, double corkscrew, boomerang turn, and a 360-degree helix."
OK, maybe not quite the description I was looking for, but the general idea is there. It was technically tough and it was a ledge on a cliff. It was breathtaking and ethereal and incredibly awesome. When I popped out of the mountain of shale onto the road, I pretty much held my place. No one passed me and I passed two people. There was a guy behind me and I told him if he wanted to pass to let me know but he was good staying where he was. The final 3/4 mile is back on the Shasta Dam on the pavement to the finish line. Rick (yup, I even asked his name), and I ran it in together and I finished just before he did. He thanked me for pacing him, but we all know how it is to have someone just behind you - it pushes you to keep on. I finished the race at 1:41. I placed 20th overall, 7th female, 1st in age division averaging just under 11-minute miles. I expected to be a bit faster and the female that was 3rd overall only beat me by 4 minutes, but I'll take it!!
I saw a friend from Reno, a runner that came to Running with the Bears and met new friends as always. I walked away (OK, hobbled) with no blisters, falls, injuries of any kind. I felt great the entire race - although I worked pretty hard - and I felt great when it was done. After the race, we went to breakfast, back to the hotel to shower and pack up, and then we visited a local site - the Sun Dial. When I spoke with the race director, he told me the hill in this race is "mild" and there are lots more during the year. Hmmm...... I might have to visit again.