This race is like a rollercoaster baby, baby. You want to ride it?
What a year! I’ve done more races since March of this year than I’ve done in the rest of my entire life combined, and I couldn’t be more happy or more proud. And what better way to bring my 2014 race year to a close than with the second running of the Warrior Creek Half Marathon, put on by the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club?
The race itself was held in Boomer, North Carolina, a bucolic destination nestled in the High Country of Western North Carolina. The weather Gods smiled on us, this 13th day of December 2014, blessing all of the runners who showed up with sunny skies, warm temperatures (for December) and crisp, clean air. As I’ve surely mentioned before, trail runners are the best kind of runners -- laid back, supportive, fun, and humble -- and this race brought out the best that trail running has to offer.
As Latisha, Carrie, and I lined up at the start line, I felt energized and relaxed. I was here to have fun, burn off some calories, and experience my first race on a single-track mountain bike trail. I had set no expectations for myself or the trail, which I am learning is the best way to go about trail racing. You will manifest what you expect, so hoping for the best (but preparing for the worst) is key.
The first few miles of the race was a conga line of runners. I had not previously experienced this phenomenon, but it’s pretty cool when you can see 80+ runners at once following a serpentine route through sunrise-lit forest alongside a glinting, pristine lake.
The Warrior Creek Half Marathon is described as a “rolling” course, which I will not argue. However, if any of you out there are as sensitive to motion sickness as I am, I will raise the race director “rolling hills” to add “roller coaster-y!” The Warrior Creek Half is run on a MOUNTAIN BIKE COURSE, which means lots of quick ups and downs, plus sinuous back-and-forths. By mile 2.5 my motion sickness was in full swing. I could clearly visualize the fun a mountain biker would be having, but between watching the the feet of the woman in front of me, zig-zagging back and forth, and running up-down-up-down-up-down, my head and stomach were ready to revolt! In other words, “Like a licorice twist [this course is] gonna whip your ass.”
But reaching a new level of nerdiness by making myself motion sick running was not on my “to do” list for the day, so I took on the idea that the faster I ran, the better I would feel. And it worked to a large extent! After the first 5 miles or so, people stopped passing me and I started passing them. I picked one target at a time, picking them off, but politely saying “thank you!” each time I passed a runner.
By mile 11 I was hustling hard. I had tripped once and rolled both ankles, but over all I was still in good spirits. It's hard not to feel content when you're frolicking past a rock garden, winding past babbling water, and pounding past a person you never thought you were fast enough to catch up with. After falling somewhere between mile 12 and 13 though (my most graceful trail fall to date!) I was ready to be done, so I dropped the hammer and scooted to the finish line.
I LOVED that the finish chute was placed directly after runners popped out of the final curve in the woods. There was none of that, before you finish you must run a quarter of a mile through a parking lot stuff that can make many of us runners pretty grumpy. Also, the timing company had this awesome setup that I had never seen before where, upon finishing, you could type in your bib number on a touch screen and print out all of your stats receipt-style. Totally awesome!
Though my finish time was my slowest half marathon time ever, I feel that I did fantastic given the course, my tired legs (Crossfit kicked my ass this week!), and the two beautifully distracting blisters I rubbed into my feet by wearing the WRONG socks at the race. In fact, I feel I did better at this race with my slowest time ever than I did in at least two of my other half marathons where I made good time but at the time didn't make the effort to appreciate how awesome of a privilege it is to be able to run a race in the first place!
All in all, this was a fun time with amazing friends on a beautiful day, and I wouldn’t change a single part of the my experience….save my socks! To the race directors, all of the runners, and especially the race day volunteers, you are my heroes!