Most of the week was consumed with tapering. Not sure if I did it right, but it seemed to work for me. Took Thursday and Friday as complete rest days so I would be fresh on Saturday. We'll pick things up with Friday.
Friday we had to put our dog down. She has been a member of our family for 14 years. It was tremendously difficult to say goodbye but we knew it was time. We'll always remember her gentle nature and what a fine friend she was. What was going to be a weekend of just celebrating a running achievement turned into celebrating the life of our furry friend and all the joy she brought our family.
It was time to pack up and go. We got the camper hooked up and... no lights. What?! Tried a different plug. Still no lights. Cleaned everything. Still no lights. Time was ticking. If I was going to make packet pick up before 8:00 p.m. we needed a new plan and quick. My wonderful wife suggested we tent camp instead and proceeded to get all the stuff we'd need and get it to the car in less than 30 minutes. Wow. Somehow we made packet pickup before they closed and still managed to set our tent up in the fading twilight.
Saturday morning came. The whole family got up in the dark and they took me over to the race site and dropped me off. The plan was for them to return at 1:00 p.m. or when I called, whichever came first. The race director had some last minute details for us, the Canadian and American anthems were played and then the marathoners lined up and were off. About 20 minutes later the Ultra folks lined up and then they were off. Then about 20 minutes after that all of us half marathoners lined up, the race director said "go!" and we took off. First a little .1 mile loop through the parking lot and then we were into the woods. Did I mention this was a trail race?
For the first mile or two it was just one long, line of runners headed up the trail. And I do mean up. Up, up, up. Surely there would be a down, right? By about mile 3 or so the pack began to thin out and separate. By mile 4 and the first aid station I mixed in with a small pack of people that I pretty much stayed with for the rest of the race. We did a little passing back and forth but for the most part just clicked off the miles together.
It was a beautiful day to be in the woods. Clear blue sky, cool temps, no humidity to speak of, and not much in the way of bugs. There were times when I would just start enjoying the scenery and forget we were racing. Then came the aid station at about mile 6. Wow. An incredibly steep climb up firetower hill, a brief moment to enjoy the view and gulp down some Gatorade and then back down that same steep trail. My right foot had gone numb at about mile 4.5. That climb and decent totally cured it. I did not have any more issues like that the rest of the day.
From this small pack of intrepid half-marathoners there was a more seasoned gentleman than I that fell in behind me. He said my pace was good for him and he didn't want to pass. He called out the miles from his Garmin as they went by and was right there behind me all the way to the finish. It was like my invisible runner that chases me suddenly became real. I appreciated having him there to push me along and force me to dig deep.
Other than seemingly endless climbing and descending, the last 6.5 miles just clicked by. One thing this course didn't have was any boring flat spots. Whew, my thighs are still barking a little.
Then suddenly, there it was. The final mile. My small pack had strung out and there were just five or six of us now. We all turned it up a notch and headed to the finish line. I was only a few steps behind the guy in front of me, but I had nothing left. There was no way I was going to catch and pass him. Somehow I ended up with a medal the size of a dinner plate around my neck and someone was handing me a bottle of water. Thank goodness for race volunteers. We wouldn't be able to enjoy these great races without them.
This is what the race looked like to me:
Just a blur as I whizzed down the path avoiding tree roots and trying not to look too much like a noob.
The lead marathoners were finishing right with us mid-pack half-marathoners. The coolest part about that is that I got to meet someone I only knew from Runner's World Online who was running the marathon. He finished literally two or three steps behind me. He was 4th overall in the marathon. Cool! Great job Thom!
My goals were to 1) Finish - DONE!; 2) Have Fun - DONE!; and 3) Not Be Last - DONE! My goals I didn't tell anyone about were to finish in under 3 hours or a stretch goal of 2:45:00. I finished in 2:41:59. Yay! I ended up calling my wife at 11:30 a.m. to come get me. This left the rest of a beautiful day to enjoy some family time.
Post race the family and I went to the beach in Manistee, MI to relax:
After the beach it was time for ice cream. Whoo Hoo! One of the main reasons I run is for ice cream. We headed on over to The House of Flavors in Manistee, MI and enjoyed some excellent ice cream in handmade waffle cones. Yum!
The race was an awesome experience. I can't wait to run some more trail races.