Ron Horn of Pretzel City Sports claims you must be a Half-Wit in order to run this race. I say you’re a Half-Wit if you don’t! Sure it’s tough and I definitely did my share of cursing and questioning my sanity a few times during those 13 miles, but I will definitely be back next year! The fact that I chose to do this race 4 weeks out from 70.3 Worlds…now that calls into question my level of intelligence. Yes, this is the time of year where trail running and racing is equivalent to a crazy night out on the town for me. I really want to do it, but I know the possible setbacks that may occur from my actions 🙂 This year has been slightly different. Although I’m not hitting the trails quite as often as I would like to, the lure of doing some amazing trail races that Southern PA has to offer is just too strong to ignore. The good news – I made it through the trails no worse for the wear!
I decided to stay in Oley the night before the race so that I could ride my bike to and from the race for a good warm-up and cool-down. It was a great idea – I left the house with sunny skies and 63 degree temps and made my way to the Liederkranz. It is mostly an uphill ride, but I had time to take it slow and enjoy the morning. The last climb up to the race start was the only time I questioned my decision to take an “easy” ride to the site. 5 minutes out of the saddle and I could feel the love from the 4 days of intense training I inflicted on my body during my mini “vacation”. But I figured this was perfect training – tire out some sore legs and then tack on a 1/2 marathon.
One of many things I love about trail racing is that I rarely feel nervous. I always believe I am out of my league since trail running is not my main sport, so I don’t put too much pressure on myself. That’s such a nice way to go into a race! At the start line we were asked to repeat the Moronic Oath in true Pretzel City Sports fashion, then we were off! Utilizing my less-than-brilliant racing strategy, it was time to go out hard to get a good gap, then try like hell to hold on for dear life. Will I ever learn?
The first 3 miles I can say I wasn’t really enjoying myself. My heart rate was high and my legs felt heavy. But right on cue, Magic Mile #3 hit and I suddenly felt settled and in my groove. It also helped that soon after was a long descent. I actually said out loud “I’m having the best time ever!” I often talk to myself when I think there is no one close enough to hear me… I decided to wear my inov-8 Mudclaw 265’s. This shoe is a beast, and is built for rough terrain. I never raced in them, but thought this course would be the perfect test to see how they would treat me. I definitely made the right choice!
The Mudclaws have the perfect amount of cushion to them and superior protection. But best of all was the support and grip. I was able to fly down the long descents and even close some gaps on men in front of me where I would normally take the more cautious approach. I truly love the line-up that inov-8 provides – they have a shoe for every course condition.
Soon after mile 6 it was time to climb the “128 Steps from Hell”. I actually enjoyed these beat-up, overgrown hunks of rock heading straight up the mountain. But once I got to the top, I was questioning what happened to the feeling I had at mile 3… Every climb from that point on felt tougher and tougher. On the steeper ascents, I had every urge to hike and give my legs a break. Then I would remind myself that there are women behind me that actually know how to pace a trail race and are probably closing in on me. After having the lead from the start, I didn’t want to give it up without a fight. I was happy to come across the alternate beverage aid station, knowing that I was getting closer to the finish. As I approached they asked if I wanted water or beer. Call me a lightweight, but I wanted to finish that race with my stomach contents intact. With 2 miles to go, I started to feel strong again and picked up the pace as I made my way to the finish. I didn’t beat the course record (yes of course, I checked that out before-hand) but I was able to take the overall with only 9 men finishing ahead of me. It was one of my most pathetic finishes ever – I’m sure to the crowd it appeared as if I had powered my way to the finish with some alternate beverages as I stumbled in.
Thank you to inov-8 for providing me with the best trail running shoes on the market! And a special thank you to Derek Schultz for cheering me on at various points throughout the race. Thank you to the Liederkranz for an excellent job hosting a great after-party. Great job as always by Pretzel City Sports in hosting the most memorable races around! See you at the next one!