Friday, March 4, 2011

Post Oak Challenge: Part 1

What an incredible weekend. Before I even start, I have to wholeheartedly recommend the Post Oak Challenge. February 25/26 next year. See you there.

Michele, Hannah (me!), Nickki

We arrived at the Post Oak Lodge Friday late afternoon, and checked in. We were in Lodge 5 - it had a common living space, and 4 (locking) bedrooms, each with private bathrooms. We were greeted by two of our Cabin-mates, Rick and Guy, from Minnesota. They were awesome and doing the 50k trail run and the Marathon.

The pasta dinner was held at the main Lodge. It was such a beautiful building. The food was delicious! As a vegetarian, I typically expect that my "pasta dinner" will consist of dry pasta (with olive oil if I'm lucky) and vegetables. I was amazed that not only was there a vegetarian sauce option, but that it was  quite tasty. It had mushrooms and eggplant and was so delicious! Two thumbs up. And the dessert was really good, too. We sat with three runners from St. Louis (all doing their first 50k) and one runner from Oklahoma City (also doing his first 50k). Great people.

Our speaker was Randy Ellis, author of the book "Running With Payne". Randy did a transcontinental run from California to New York in 1998. Beyond the book and beyond the awesome thing that Randy accomplished, he was hands-down one of the nicest men I've ever met. Genuinely and shockingly down to earth and kind and it was so obvious that he truly cared when he talked to each person. We enjoyed hearing about his journey, and talking with him after. (I geeked out big-time, and got on the topic of Ultramarathons with Randy - specifically my upcoming 100 miler in October. It was awesome, as he's done the 50 mile at Heartland, so is familiar with the course, and is also a 100-miler himself. I love runners.)

Michele, Myself, Randy Ellis, Nickki.
He's tall. 
My friends and I headed back to our Lodge after dinner, and drifted off to a restless sleep.

Saturday morning we had a 6:15 wakeup - for an 8am race. Our wakeup time even provided us with extra time! Every other race I've done has required being up at least 4 hours prior to the run. It was heaven to know that we had to walk 30 seconds and we were at the start line.

Us at the start line...that wasn't really the start line.
We were all a little unsure of what we were getting ourselves into, as none of us have ever set foot on a trail in our lives. Especially not a trail with the intent of running! (Or, as we would find out...merely attempting to run.) The great part was to be there with friends, and knowing we were all getting a new experience out of the deal, in addition to having a wonderful weekend away from our day-to-day lives. Nickki and I said goodbye to Michele, as she was doing the 10k and it had a start time 30 minutes after ours.

Myself and Nickki - anxiously excited!
The gun went off and the 25k and 50k race started. I say "race" very loosely, as Nickki and I started near the back, and enjoyed the first part of our run across a giant field. The trail switched quickly to mud, hills, trees, branches, hills, rocks, roots, mud, rocks, mud and single-lane trail. (I don't know my trail lingo. But, hello bottleneck!) It was probably very good we couldn't go any faster or slower. Looking at our pace was pointless, both because we didn't really care what our pace was, with nothing to compare it to, and also because we knew we had a long road ahead of us for Sunday's events.

The trail switched between being in woods, to big fields. Though the real kicker was that we would hit an area and be thrilled to see wide trails, only to realize there were still 3,253 rocks to contend with, along with mud that I feared would suck my shoes off.

Hiking up Holmes Peak.
This picture makes us look like wimps.
I swear it was bigger than it looked...
Our friend Coach Scott had warned us that we would have fun, but at some point would say, "Are you freaking kidding me? I am only 3 miles in?!" And that we'd get to a hill and look up at it and just not want to take another step. He was dead on. I think that was the best way to describe it. He also told me that I would use more profanity during the trail run than I will in October when I do my 100 miler. Talk about a pep talk! (In all seriousness, his wisdom and honesty helped us so much, as we knew any defeat we felt was just part of trail running fun. And we really were having fun!)

The views are apparently quite amazing with clear skies!
I had been in contact with the race director, Johnny Spriggs, several times via email. His biggest suggestion was to get gaiters. I am so beyond thankful that we listened. They were awesome, and I cannot imagine if we didn't have them.

We met great people on the trail. Everyone was so nice. Because Nickki and I weren't concerned on time, we would walk, stop, move off the trail to let people by, etc. It was just an adventure. However, we did feel sort of lame when these two little boys passed us looking about 95% more energetic than we did!

Little boys. Seriously.
I did fall at one point. So thankful I didn't bust my face open, but I did slam my knee into a rock, and banged up my hands a tiny bit. It didn't affect me much, except when it continued to get colder out. Though I won't deny that I did feel 74% more badass after taking my first fall on a trail. We debated that morning whether or not to take gloves, etc. Because of the forecast, we decided against gloves. Bad choice, as the forecast changed and ended up colder. I think that was the one time I really really started feeling my knee aching - when I got pretty cold. Felt much better when we kept moving at a quicker (but still slow) pace.

Crossing a creek behind Lyle, a fellow Marathon Maniac.
Per usual, I had to have fun, especially since I wasn't racing and I was feeling good. Therefore, I give you my jumping picture. (Obviously had a difficult time getting off the ground...)

Jumping is fun.
The race photographer was in the middle of the woods, and got a great picture of Nickki and I. Honestly, I think she and I both got to a point where if we weren't laughing, we would have been crying. It was very cold, and we were slow, and the course was marked in kilometers, which jacks with your brain. Or it jacks with my brain, anyway. I swear I spent 25 minutes while on the trail trying to figure out the equivalent of 2k in miles.

Happy and thankful that we can go out and do this!
I had a wardrobe malfunction that become an issue the last half of the trail run. I wore the wrong socks. Yes, I had the correct socks with me (unlike Nickki who completely forgot her pants...she's wearing my extra pair because I am crazy and take extra of everything...) but for whatever reason, I just didn't put them on. Finally, I gave up and took my gaiter off, took my shoe off, and pulled my sock up once and for all. It was a big mental boost to not be annoyed by my lame sock and my apparent lack of smartness to put on the correct socks. Oy vey.

We eventually made our way to the finish. Ahhhhhh. Nothing like running a marathon finishing time, only 10+ miles shorter distance! Though not my marathon time, thank goodness.

Nickki, Myself, Michele - Done!
Michele had a gerat time on the trail, and very much enjoyed her 10k. I am so proud of both she and Nickki, as they hadn't really been running much at all. Trails are so odd, as it was like many many miles running benches at a stadium, combined with lunges, combined with lateral jumping, with small bursts of running. It was fun, and I did succeed in my goal of wanting to walk away understanding why people love trails so much. Nickki and I agreed that we would absolutely do more trail runs, even without having a place to train for trail runs. It was just fun, and mentally challenging, and physically challenging, and awesome. And muddy and wet. Because I'm sure you want to know, we didn't take dead last, but not far from it...our time was 3:36:31.

Trail runners!
I'll be back soon to recap the rest of the weekend, including my 26.2 miles the next day. Good times!