This year was my fourth go at the Pere Marquette Endurance Trail Run (PMETR). As I mentioned last year, it's somewhat of an unofficial STL championship of trail running. It's a REALLY HARD 7.5+ mile route. In 2009, my first year, I remember looking at the winning women's times and thinking...really? The winner went 8:13/mi pace? I totally got this. Uh....yeah....that year I finished in 1:24, good for 11:12/mi pace. See what I mean? PERE MARQUETTE IS REALLY HARD.
So. 2012. How to describe? Pre-race I had some goals that I didn't share with anyone (not that anyone asked, which is a good thing). After two years of being second in my age group, I wanted to finally win the darn thing. And, I wanted to improve on my time from last year which was 1:07 low. I knew this was going be hard since 2011 featured lightning fast trails, and I had somewhat of a breakthrough performance (11 minute improvement from 2010).
Anyway, back to the race report itself. I leave my house about 15 minutes behind schedule so when I get to Pere Marquette State Park I have to rush through pre-race prep. Park car. Get race number. Get shirt. Change clothes. Find water. Go warm up. I've gotten to know quite a few people at this race so it's hard to execute all of these things without getting drawn into well-meaning conversations. So to those I spoke with briefly before the start of the race: I apologize for cutting things short. I had several things on my mind. We are still friends.
I see fellow SLOC member Eric just as I'm beginning my warm up and am actually grateful for this chance at conversation - I want a trail report, and to confirm my shoe and clothing choice with him since he's just returning from a jog. We agree my Salomon Speedcross 3s are appropriate for the slick conditions, shorts and a t-shirt are good choices, and the trails are wet and muddy but not peanut-buttery. OK. Time to go find out for myself - I jog part of the first climb. My HR is higher than I'd like it to be but since I'm not planning on using that for pacing today, I just start ignoring it now instead of later. My legs feel good and the trail isn't as bad as I expected with the overnight rain and fog, but it's still going to be slick.
|The only picture proof I have of racing...can you even spot me? Photo by Brent Newman.|
I let my legs loose and they start churning up the first climb...350' gained in just over 1 mile. It's a rough one, and two girls in my wave pass me: pink shorts (Katie) and high pony (Janet). I let them go (after assigning race names) because my strengths are pacing and downhill running, both of which are not important in the race just yet. Much like the 5k, I try to run the first two miles at an uncomfortable but not crazy pace. On the downhills is where I let things rip. High pony starts to come back to me about mile 3 I think. I'm able to pass her where a tree has fallen across the trail.
Just after passing high pony, I start to have some doubts. Do I have the strength to chase down pink shorts? What about 1:05? You're not even half-way there yet! I'm already breathing pretty raggedly and snot is flying everywhere. Negative thoughts creep through my brain. I start to get scared. But, almost as soon as the bad stuff enters my mind, I remember some words that we start every Monday night yoga class with. I can't quote directly but it's something like "acknowledge thoughts from your day but then release them and focus on your practice now". So I acknowledge. I feel my burning legs and bursting heart. And then I release those feelings and focus on running fast.
|One of the few photos that captures PMETR's steep terrain. Photo by Brent Newman.|
I rip the next descent. I pass a lot of people, many of whom I've been yo-yo-ing with all race. By now we're friends and they make comments like "nice downhilling" and "see you on the next climb". It's awesome. I learn that one of them has been a participant in every single running of PMETR so far. He's in a Team Godzilla shirt and as I pass him he says he's been blessed to run so much. I hold onto that positive thought add it to the cheers from spectators as we approach the base of the last climb. I am leading pink shorts at the road crossing and she is still behind me as we hit the stone steps. I have a race-crazy thought pop in my head and I say it out loud: "Let's rock these steps!" No one is laughing. I go back to my ujjayi breathing.
|The stone steps, about mile 6.5. Photo by Brent Newman.|
I'm flying. Really. It's exhilarating and scary and in-the-moment. This is RACING. I don't dare look back even once I get to the flat. There are still about 400 meters left in this race and pink shorts has excelled so far when the trail is flat. I see Eric jogging backwards on the route cheering, and he yells at me to GOOOOOOOO!!!! I try and then pink shorts comes sprinting past me. There isn't even a half-second for me to latch onto her hip and gut it out. She wins by 2 seconds. But we both run 1:05 for 4th and 5th place overall female. I can't even bear to ask her age so I look it up once I'm back in the lodge. She's 24. RELIEF!!!
|I have never gotten so many facebook likes on a picture before.|