Yep, I knew you all hadn’t yet had your fill of the thrilling adventure that was the 2015 Tsali Frosty Foot 30k, so here to top off your craving is guest blogger Misty! And don’t forget, you can read my recap here.
This past Saturday I ran my first 30K trail race, the Tsali Frosty Foot. I've never considered myself a runner, or even much of an athlete, which probably surprises those who know me, as I do have a competitive spirit. Not competitive in the sense that I have to win, but competitive in the sense that I usually don't back down from a challenge, I always give everything I have, and I am always looking to beat that voice in my head that keeps telling me I'm not very athletic. Don't get me wrong, I love to win, but I also know what's realistic, and for me winning isn't always about coming in first.
So on Saturday I woke up at 4:45AM, met the girls giving me a ride at 6:15AM, and off to Robbinsville we went. The race started at 9am so we had plenty of time to get there, but we still ended up having over an hour wait which will do all sorts of things to your nerves. By the time the race started my feet were numb. The first 3 miles were painful as it felt like I was running on glass. Finally my toes thawed and it was smooth running for a while.
The views of Lake Fontana were amazing. I loved how the trail wound around the lake and the way the sun made the water glisten. Overall the trail was pleasant to run--not too many rocks or roots. There were places where you could run a super fast pace mixed with areas where even the most skilled runner would want to slow a little. The day started just above freezing and steadily warmed to the low 50s. Unusual for January but perfect for racing. We did encounter quite a bit of mud later in the day as frozen trail puddles warmed to muddy obstacles that I chose to skillfully navigate around or over instead of through.
I started to hit a wall as we were heading to the second (and last) aid station. It was more of a mental wall as the group I was running with began collectively wondering aloud when we would come to the next station. It seemed as though the trail would go on forever and I got it in my head that I needed the next aid station soon! I was getting hot and wanted to shed my hat and gloves, and those annoyances were all I could focus on. Finally, we made it to the aid station where the kind volunteer stuffed my gloves in my vest for me. I adjusted my ponytail, ate orange slices, and grabbed a mandarin orange flavored GU to go.
With 4 miles left to go I was feeling a little better. But then, I hit this big ass hill, or what looked like a big ass hill, and I was ready to be done. Our group slowed to a walk, but Katie went around and kept on running. My hamstrings and glutes were killing me and the walk/run thing just wasn't working for me. The pain seemed to intensify each time I changed pace. I decided to “pull a Katie” and go around the group. I could hear the others say, "Keep going Misty." So I did. By the tme I got to the top of the first hill and began attacking the second, Katie had slowed down. But as I approached she said, "Keep running!" The thing about me is that when I decide I'm done and want something to end I tend to get a final wind that propels me to the finish. With 2ish miles left I was able to harness that energy and just kept on going.
Soon, I saw a guy, Adam, that I recognized from Summit CrossFit ahead of me, and he became my target. I would catch him or die trying. I finally caught up to Adam and went for the pass, but right then we spotted a downed runner. Fortunately Adam and a couple of other people stopped to help the woman out. With three of them standing around her, what was I gonna do? She was clearly breathing, and there were no open fractures, so I decided to keep going. I started to slow a bit with no runners in sight to target and overtake. I pulled out the GU I took at the previous aid station and sucked in a mouthful. YUCK! There was nothing in it that pouch that remotely tasted of mandarin orange! Still, I felt the caffeine hitting my system and picked up my speed.
Soon, I spotted another runner up ahead and thought, He's getting passed! I'm gonna pass you, I'm gonna pass you. I flew right by him. Around the next turn I saw a new man and a woman to target. It always makes me laugh when people don't wear ear buds and play their music aloud for all to hear. I'm not saying it bothers me necessarily but again, its kind of funny to hear what some people listen to. So I politely announced I was passing and bolted around the lady who was blasting, "Girl I'm gonna make you sweat. Sweat til you can't sweat no more..."
I could see Katie behind me winding her way along the path and yelled for her to keep going. I knew I must be getting close to the end, and I strained my ears to try to hear people or music from the DJ at the finish line. Nothing. Where are we? Then I meet another girl who was walking around like she was lost. She tried to get me to stop by asking what mile we were at and how much further we had to go. I kept running slowly and said, “I don't know, but it can't be much further.” She started running after me to try to keep up and asked, "But how much do you think?" I tried to keep the annoyance out of my voice as I said, “I don't have a GPS watch.” To which she replied with an astonished tone, "You don't?" Why the hell is that so surprising? Obviously she didn't either. I ignored that question, which isn't what I really wanted to do (if you know what I mean) and began running a little faster.
As we round another corner on the trail we saw a runner who had already finished the race standing on the sideline shouting to us, “The finish is just around the this next bend. You’re almost done!” “Really?” I said. “Thank you so much!” It was all I needed to hear. I took off. The woman was right! I got nervous running through the finish; I'm always afraid I will trip on the mats. But I ran it in with a smile on my face before stopping to let the kind volunteer remove the timing chip from my shoe. Katie emerged from the woods shortly after followed by Latisha and Carrie.
I finished the race, 18.6 miles of trail, in 4:11:33. I thought my time was probably decent, but the next day I saw the final, official result online. Overall I came in 116th out of 147. I finished 21st of 31 in my age group. When I saw this I felt a little disappointed because I thought I had done better. Then I started thinking and realized, seven months ago the longest distance I had run was 5 miles. But then my dear friend Katie kept asking me to run with her to help her get through her first 50k. She's pushed me ever since and I am so proud of the progress I've made. I'm enjoying running. It gives me another outlet besides CrossFit for ridding my body of stress. It's an opportunity to enjoy the company of some really fun women and to appreciate the beauty of nature surrounding me. I've lived here in WNC all my life and until recently hadn’t really taken the time to experience the beautiful mountains I call home. So could I have run faster? Could I have gotten a better finish? Absolutely! But are those goals important to me? No. I want to soak up every minute I'm out there. I want to take it all in. I want to pause to appreciate the scenery. I want to take a picture. I'm never going to win first place and that's okay. I've already won so much more!