Monday, May 20, 2013

Just because "Quick" is in the name doesn't mean you have to be fast (thankfully)

Last year I ran the Quicksilver 25K and struggled a bit at the end. My finish time was abysmal, and this year I knew it would be easy to beat that time. Plus Mrs Notthat ended up sick and missed last year's race and was tired of me going on about how well done it was - this year she would get to find out for herself.

But the weekend before this year's 25K, Mrs Notthat and I decided to do the Rim to River to Rim Grand Canyon thing. Which left us both more than a bit tired after all that downhill followed by all that uphill.

Nothing like getting checked in by an amazing ultra-runner who is also ultra-adorable!
We arrived in plenty of time for checking in. It was already very sunny which meant it would soon heat up. (It ended up getting quite hot very shortly.)

Volunteer: "No downhill for you! Keep going up!"
The course starts with a few rolling hills just to lull you in, and then smacks you with a serious uphill stretch.

Weird Haired Mom signed up for the 50K version of this race, and the long distance runners (there was a 50M version too) started two hours before us. Since her squeeze Needs Cool Name is reasonably bright and didn't sign up for the 50K (or anything else that ended in a "K" or "M"), he had some time to kill while waiting for her to make it to various points on the course. So he spent a lot of time loudly cheering on the other runners - he ended up a celebrity of sorts since he was out there the whole day and was really hard to miss. It really perked me up seeing him here.

But not quite enough. The way the course is laid out, after that first hill you end up back pretty close to the start area. I knew this and had promised myself that if I wasn't feeling it (and I wasn't), I would just head on to the start area and call it a day while waiting for Mrs Notthat to finish. (I hadn't seen Mrs Notthat since the first 100 yards of the race. I figured that she was halfway to being done by now.)

But when I got to the point where I had to make the call - keep going or pack it in - there were all these people standing there cheering. I was pretty sure that all of them could easily tackle me if I tried to skip the turn, and I knew that the best part of the course was to the left. So I really had little choice and made the left turn onto some of the best single-track around.

And figured I'd just have to get through the next 13 miles as best I could.

One thing was sure; Mrs Notthat was going to be waiting a LONG time for me to finish.

I really like this bit of trail. A lot.

At mile 6.4, I arrived at the first aid station. I was thrilled to see these guys, mostly because it meant I had less than ten miles left. The single-track had helped me feel like I had a reasonable chance of finishing, although if I had been presented with an easy way to drop it would have been really tempting. But it looked like these guys had hiked in here, so catching a ride back was not going to happen. And I was felling good enough to make it to the next aid station in any case.

And then the strangest thing happened about a half mile from there.

There was Mrs Notthat. While I was having my own personal minor struggles, it turned out that she was having actual meaningful struggles with her knees. The first hill had went well for her, but halfway down that single-track her knees rebelled and forced her to start walking.

Suddenly my issues were trivial and I decided to hang with her. (I also figured she would start to feel better soon and leave me in the dust, so I would enjoy this time together.)

At mile 9.7 we made it to the Dam aid station, run by the Steven's Creek Striders. Their aid stations are legendary, and this one was no different - there was an amazing amount of food, hydration options, and volunteers. Which was a good thing since some runners would hit this aid station three times.

What a great looking picnic table!
As we went along together, I began to realize Mrs Notthat was really hurting and wasn't going to suddenly get better, and also that there was no way she would drop. Even worse, it was going downhill that caused her the most pain. This was sad for two reasons: 1) She LOVES running downhill and 2) There was a LOT of serious downhill ahead of us.

"If you can get it started, I can drive it" she said. Sadly, I have no hot wiring skills.
Yes, there were many stunning views.

One of the greatest sounds was hearing NCN cheering for runners somewhere up ahead, which meant the last aid station, mile 14.5, couldn't be too far away. And it wasn't.

These volunteers were amazing. Mrs Notthat sat down and they brought her bags of ice to put on her knees. After a nice long rest, we decided we had to get going - there was only 1.5 miles left. The scary thing was that most of that 1.5 miles was downhill. Some of it obnoxiously so.

Mrs Notthat worked out that not bending her knees made her look like a dork. But it also made it possible to keep going.

Eira (not her real name) suggested a piggyback ride. Photo by NCN.
For the really steep bits though, I pretended to be a mobile hand rail. Yes, we looked dorky and about as far away from being trail runners as you possibly could, but the important thing was that WE WERE GOING TO FINISH! PROBABLY!

And before we knew it (HA! It was well after we knew it), we arrived at the finish line!

Photo-finish (by NCN)! Who do you think won?
We were determined to cross the finish line at the same time, causing total chaos for the Quicksilver timing people. My secret plan had been to hesitate a tiny bit and let Mrs cross first, but this picture shows that I failed at that. But somehow the timing people read my mind and Mrs Notthat officially beat me by a second.

And then we rested and ate and drank and ate some more. This Quicksilver race (which always sells out) is known for its great trails and organization, but it is REALLY famous for its post-race BBQ - yes, there were hot dogs and burgers and chicken, but also ribs and (sit down for this) lobster. And snow cones. And coolers filled with an amazing assortment of fine beers, sodas and juices. This group knows how to throw a party!

Weird Haired Mom being paced to her 50K finish by the grandkids. Photo by NCN.
WHM had many struggles of her own in dealing with her 50K, most involving GI issues. (The heat was nobody's friend either.) But she stuck with it (having a 50M race going on at the same time means there are no real cutoffs for the shorter distances) and managed a much more energetic finish than we had.

The shirt the 25K runners received and the mug all finishers got.
50K and 50M runners didn't get a shirt. They got this AWESOME race bag instead. (Decorations optional.)

In the end, I set a new, even more abysmal finish time PW (personal worst) for this race. But the really cool thing is that we both finished a race that pushed us to our limits for the second weekend in a row. And even better, we both can't wait for next year when we can run this race properly.


That's it - move along…

PS: You can see more of my pictures here.

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