Saturday, March 24, 2012

The One Where I *Won* The Medal

If you can remember back far enough to my last post, you'll remember that I have decided to take on 70.3 miles/Vineman again this year.  For the past 2(ish) months I have been working with a coach (HI DARYL!) which I can very honestly say has been the best decision I have maybe ever made.  I am doing more than I ever did last year, more consistently, and feeling more rested all the while.  When talking about the upcoming race season and what my plans are Daryl suggested that I do some 5K and 10K racing which helps in building speed without requiring much taper or recovery after, so that basically I can get back to training ASAP.  :)  Immediately I went online and found the Bakersfield Track Club which had a listing of local upcoming races.

And there was a trail 10K just waiting for me to find it.

See I really love running trails.  I love the focus they require so you don't break an ankle and the beauty you encounter by being off the beaten path.  I love that they are usually hilly and hard and each time I run trails I come away feeling like I really accomplished something.

So there was the Kern River Trail Run, with a 10K (and 5K and 10mi) option.  Quickly I emailed Daryl and told him I had found my first race of the season, it was put on the schedule, and then I promptly forgot about it until about 10 days ago.  Go figure.

Because I am shifting my recovery week to match the weekend Troy is off work, I am at the very end of a 3 week build, and quite honestly my body is tired.  *But* yesterday was a rest/recovery day and the 2 days prior were light and easy so come (this) race morning, my legs were actually feeling pretty darn good.

Kern River Trail Run is held in Hart Park, a large (huge) park that is nestled up against the foothills of the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and honestly doesn't resemble Bakersfield (which is only 15-20 miles west) at all.  The river and Lake Ming are surrounded by rolling hills which were a perfect purple/blue on my drive out to the race as the sun rose.  It was clear and a little cold, so after registering I headed back to the car to sit in the heat until 25 minutes to start.

Then it was bathroom time...

Then I did a mile warm-up (this is the first time EVER I have "warmed up" for a race, feeling like such a serious racer!).  The announcer was calling runners to the start line just as I was jogging back into the area... *perfect timing.*  There was a few words about the course and the spots where the 10 Miler and 10K split and come back together and then....


Its a small race, I won't estimate the number of people because honestly I'm terrible at that, and the group of us took off down the road, off on to a bike path, and then finally the single dirt track.  The first couple miles I took it really easy, I knew from looking at the maps online that all the climbing was between miles 1.5 and 4.  We moseyed down along the river and then under the main road and up into the hills.  The climb to the top was mostly gradual, with only a couple really steep sections, I kept my breathing regular, my feet quick, and my body relaxed.  Came to the first 10 Miler/10K split and nearly took the wrong turn!  We continued up and around, dodging ground squirrel holes and rocks finally coming to the top of what can most easily be described as a table-top mountain (hill).  We ran the perimeter of the hill where the views were amazing of the lazy winding river below with the park and the lake in the distance.

And then I finally saw my first mile marker.  Mile marker 4.  When Daryl and I were talking race strategy he suggested I take it easy first 2 miles, maintain the next 2 miles, and let it rip for the final 2....  So, it was time to let it rip.

 This was also when it was time to go back down... and in a crazy way no less!  The trail turned off and down the hill into a section that I now know is called "Mr. Toads Wild Ride" because it is *quite* the descent.  Basically runners have turned a small creek canyon into a trail, including sharp BANKED turns, steep descents, and lots of little (and not so little) rocks to watch out for.  My brain and body couldn't decide if I was loving the descent or terrified of breaking an ankle, and when I finally emerged at the bottom I was happy to have survived the ride unscathed even if my quads were complaining.  The trail returned us back along the river for the final mile or so before turning into the grass area of the finish...

As I ran toward the finish the announcer was reading off bib numbers of finishers and their names...

Then I heard it...

"And here comes our first female 10K finisher..."

I was so confused, I couldn't *see* the woman ahead of me...

"Bib number 675....."

Wait, that sounds familar....

"Ashley Sult!"

Holy Crap, he pronounced my last name right....

Wait..... *I'm* the first female 10K finisher??????

Wait what?

I came down through the shoot, given the first of my 2 medals of the day, several people people congratulated me on my *win.*

I got some water, got a breakfast burrito, made an appointment with a chiropractor that was on site, found another 10K I want to do.... (keeping busy is what I do)

I'm still confused... *I'm* not a fast runner.

I stayed (for the first time) for the awards.  When I was called up as the Overall female finisher I had a fleeting moment of being embarrassed that I didn't *look* enough like a runner to have won. 


But now, I'm proud.  Its not an easy course, I had never run a single foot of it before, and I posted a time that with or without the win I would have been happy with.  I've also come to realize that I will never snub a race because it "only" has a cotton shirt, not a tech shirt... Why?  Because most events that still have cotton shirts are small, and a small event can turn out to be a wonderful confidence builder. 

So for now I'm happy with my 54:55 finish...

And my win...

And next year I want to break 50:00.  :)

Let's keep training.