I spent the first half hour of the race cursing the cold morning and wanting nothing more than to return to the shelter at the start line to wait until the temperature went up. Alas, the breezy wide open plain was MUCH cooler than the hill where we awaited the start of the race. I hadn't given a thought to wearing gloves. Following Coleen's example, I pulled my Moeben sleeves down around my hands to form makeshift mittens. My fingers still stung and I alternated my water bottle between hands until the fire in my digits died down. (Hurray for alliteration!)
I stayed on Coleen's heels for several miles. She was setting a great pace, plus, she's the most kick butt female ultra runner I know, so I figured I couldn't go wrong. The girls (Debbie, Deb, Julie and Kristen) caught up with us when we took a walk break to eat at the unmanned water station, and I decided to take off at this point. For better or worse, I had lots of energy to burn from not running all week, and just felt like letting loose the inner beast. So I kept a brisk pace, for me, until I got to the main aid station at mile 13. I passed a few folks, got passed by a few, and before long I was at the aid station, listening to shouts of encouragement.
As I shed the jacket tied around my waist, Phil Sheridan filled up my water bottle and Nick replaced my supply of salt caps which I unintentionally destroyed in a water crossing. Lesson learned. Don't put salt caps in a skirt pocket if you're going through waist high water crossings. Nick fed me a salt cap, shoved my salt holder in my Moeben sleeve pocket and gave me a packet of Honey Stinger chews (which I shoved down my sports bra for lack of a better place).
Fatigue started to set in as I ran the gentle slopes which characterized the beginning of the Big Bluff Loop. I guzzled water waiting for the salt cap to help curb my fatigue. Doubts surfaced that I had been overzealous when I broke away from my pack of girls, but I didn't spend too much time worrying. After all, even in my fatigue, I still felt better than at the beginning of the race in '09. I cursed the painfully steep hills of the middle section of the loop, but before I knew it I was past them. It seemed much easier than last year. Keyword "easier" not "easy".
I crammed some pretzels and banana into my mouth at my last stop at the manned aid station, grabbed another pack of Honey Stingers and headed out for the last leg of my trek. My previous state of fatigue transitioned to soreness in my ankles and knees. I slogged on, but with a little less pep in my step. Before I knew it the energizer bunny, otherwise known as Coleen, caught up with me. I cursed her steady speediness! I'm pretty used to getting my butt kicked by Coleen, but I thought maybe I could stay ahead of her since she was running twice as far as me. Alas, I was wrong. Perhaps if I had stayed with her and not taken off like a jack rabbit, things would have ended differently, but I still had fun!
Before I knew it, Coleen was far off in the distance. I gathered all my gumption and decided to pick up the pace - not to catch Coleen, but to get to the finish line as quickly as I could. Hearing a shout of encouragement from Tony Clark on his way out on his second loop might have helped a little. It's always nice when the faster-than-snot guys take the time to cheer for the slower-than-slugs folks.
I knew I was getting close when I got to the sandy section, followed by the big water crossing. Seeing Dick Ross on the other side of a waist high crossing put a smile on my face as I came ever closer to the finish line. When I finally reached the road to the finish line, I started to fly. Quick finishes are my specialty. No matter how slow I've been the rest of the race, or how sore I am, I always sprint to the finish. It probably looks silly for such a long slow race, but I like to do it anyway.
I was pleased to see that the race clock read 5 hours and 38 minutes, a full hour faster than my '09 time. Ok, to be accurate, it was only 58 minutes faster. After pacing around outside by the finish line for a few minutes, I sauntered inside the shelter to check out the food selection. I ran into the most wonderful race co-director, Stacy Sheridan, who graced me with a fabulous hug. When she handed me a horseshoe that read "Third Overall", I think I shrieked something like, "What?!!!!! Are you serious?!!!!!!" I immediately followed my shouting fit by giving Stacy a big bear hug. I then rushed out of the shelter yelling that I had to show Nick my "major award". I must say that I was ungraciously boastful of my award for the rest of the day, simply because I never expected in a million years to receive it.
I can't thank Nick enough for being my crew. He got me in and out of the aid stations lickety split. I know it was hard for him to NOT run the race. I've been there, and it sucks to watch all your friends having fun, puking and being delirious without you. I love him for being there for me. Of course, I also have to thank Phil and Stacy Sheridan for taking care of me, and all of my wonderful friends for encouraging me.