I ran in the Sapper Joe 30K today (yesterday) and had the most amazing experience. The race started at 6:00 AM and I was up by 4:20. I picked up Jun at 5:15 and we headed over to Camp Williams, where it was really cold and windy and we both debated on what we should wear. I decided to wear a long sleeved poly-pro breathable with a short sleeve t-shirt over the top. I figured if I had to shed the long sleeve I could tie it on my waist.
We made it over to the building where everyone was waiting and after a few minutes of laughing with Jun about various things the race director gathered us all for a few words and we were all ready to go. Being there with Jun really calmed my nerves and we were having a great time. It's too bad I couldn't keep up with him once the race started.
After meeting a few bloggers (Faceless Ghost and his wife Catherine) the canon went off and we took off at about an 8:00 pace heading toward Redwood Rd. After crossing under Redwood we came onto the dirt road that would take us into the hills, and after only a few minutes in we were climbing. This would be the theme for most of the day. It didn't take long before Jun picked up his pace... or maybe I took mine down a few notches because of the grade.
The next 20 or so minutes we were steadily making our way up the steep slope and people were still passing each other and settling into their paces. The slope becomes really steep and you have to hike, so I was power hiking every slope and my legs were feeling strong. I passed a lot of people that had passed me on the flatter sections.
After about 30 minutes there was a group of about 10 that stayed pretty close for the next few miles. We would pass each other and then pass back depending on how steep it got. I could see the faster runners already making a lot of distance and Faceless Ghosts shorts (orange) made it easy to pick him out. He was flying. I could also se Jun for a while, but eventually I lost him.
The first 4 miles are all uphill and they are not gentle at all. I was pushing hard the whole time and still feeling really good. About 1/4 of a mile from the top of the Cedar Point summit I flet a little pain in my right ITB, which has bothered me off and on since I ran 20+ miles in Cedar Valley with Crockett and Jun. This was the worst and most scary part of the day. So many things went into my mind. Would I have to quit? No way. Would I have to walk in and be the last to finish? Would it get so bad that I would have to quit to save the rest of my summer? I was scared. At the summit I stopped to stretch it and a girl that had been just behind me passed. We both had passed each other a few times and she took off across the ridge, so I didnt stretch for long.
The descent from Cedar Point is STEEP! The grade was really bad for my knee and as I ran down it was now hurting. I was so mad, but at the same time I started taking it really easy. I slowed down a lot. 3-4 people passed me and I finally pulled 800 mg of Ibuprofen out of my pocket and downed them while still running. I could see the first aid station now and when the grade leveled out I was just hoping my ITB would settle down. The bad thing about this is that it really made me tentative for the next few miles and I slowed down a lot.
At the aid station I was quickly downing a Hammer Gel and another runner knocked my water bottle lid off of the table. It took me a couple of minutes to clean all of the sand out of it and really got me flustered. I wanted to be in and out of there. I also took a pill (Hammer electrolyte) and took off. Well, I wasn't moving fast. I was still worried about my knee.
The next two miles I was slow. I was worried, but my knee actually started feeling better. I think the steep slopes had just been really hard on it and now that it had leveled out (that is relative, this course never levels out) it was feeling better, but I was still so worried about it that I wasn't pushing at all until I saw a guy and woman making up some ground on me and all of the sudden my competitive juices were stronger than my urges to play it safe. I kicked it in and pushed. For the next two miles the guy was on my heels. He was breathing hard and I was enjoying the challenge. I told myself that I didn't want anyone to pass me between aid stations and I held him off until a few hundred yards from the aid station and he passed me. We told each other nice job.
At aid station number two I ate another Hammer gel, took another electrolyte pill and then retied my right shoe because my ankle was getting sore so I loosened it up a bit, and then I took off. From here the course starts to head back to the start/finish. It was a steep slope and had to be hiked. I left before the guy that had passed me, and I was on the heels of another guy that was at the aid station when I got there. I wasn't expecting so many hills on the way back and it seemed like they just kept coming. After about a mile from the second aid station I took another gel while I power hiked up one of the hills and now I could see 3 people gaining on me. One of them (the same guy that passed me just before aid station number two) passed me on one of the flat sections and the other two stayed on my heels until aid station 3. I also had a small rock in each shoe and it was very annoying. I wanted to stop and get them out, but I didn't want anyone else to pass me, so I just pushed as hard as I could and for the most part I was feeling great. My knee wasn't giving me an trouble and that really boosted my spirits.
About 1/4 of a mile before aid station number 3 a woman that had been in my sights and behind me since two miles after aid station one was now pushing hard to pass me. I held her off and then 100 yards before the aid station she went into full sprint mode and passed me. I guess she had set a goal to pick me off before then because I had sped up and was moving fast, but I wasn't going to play the sprint game though.
There were four of us at the aid station and another guy showed up. I took another Hammer gel and electrolyte pill and then started to take off my shirt when the others took off. The lady that past me went first and the other two guys quickly followed, so I didn't take off my shoes and get the rocks out. D'oh! I did change into my short sleeve shirt and it felt a lot better and just as I did another guy and lady showed up and I just bailed fast.
We had 5 miles to go and it was all downhill. My left hamstring had been a little sore all day, and now my calves were sore as well, but otherwise I felt great. I really went fast the next two miles and I was pretty sure I would reach my goal of under 4 hours.
At mile 17 I could see 3 people behind me, a guy in an orange shirt and the guy and woman that I left at the aid station. I was really hurting at this point, but seeing them coming made me keep my pace fast. My calves were burning hard now and my hammy was on fire, but I pushed it and I was happy I was able to push even though my legs were tired.
About mile 18 the orange shirt guy finally passed me and the couple was close behind as well. Just before the last hill of the day the guy passed me. I was right on his heels though and when we hit the hill he stopped to hike and I kept running. I kept running up the hill and I had a burst of energy and I was the only one running. I started thinking that I could pick off some of these guys and I did. I passed 2 more of them on the hill and I was right behind another that started running when he heard me coming from behind. He looked like he was hurting and I picked him off after a few hundred more yards and I finally saw Camp Williams, which lifted my spirits, but I was really hurting.
There were now 3 people right behind me and I was determined not to let them pass. The last mile was really hard and I just pushed as hard as I could. As I entered the base I started really gaining on the orange shirt guy and he kept looking back and then speeding up. With about a hundred yards left I knew I wouldn't catch him and that the 3 behind me wouldn't catch me, so I coasted a little bit because I was spent.
As soon as I crossed the finish line my hammy and my knee both started to hurt. I tried to stretch out my hamstring and then I limped inside to have a drink. Finishing this race felt so good, and I was so happy that I was able to finish strong. I have no idea what place I finished in, but my time would have put me in 14th place last year. I was elated that my ITB didn't give me more trouble. This was a great learning experience for me and I had an amazing time. I think I am hooked on this racing thing. It is just a lot of fun.
The results are in and I came in 26th place. I thought I was a little closer to top 20, but they ran a lot faster this year. My two goals coming into the race were to finish in the top 50%, which I did, and also to finish under 4:00, so I am still very happy with my result and am already looking forward to next year. I'm feeling great with only a little soreness in my left hamstring and my right knee.