Federal Way, Washington
Even with a 9:00 a.m. start, I somehow arrived with 5 minutes to start time. My friend, Stephanie, picked up my bib number for me and met me at the start at the 2 minute warning. I miscalculated the driving time but somehow managed to start with the group. Half marathoners and 10k runners would start after us. The drive to Federal Way was blustery and, at times, a downpour of rain. Race start was dry but the trails surely would be affected by all the rain overnight and in the morning.
I opted to carry my camel pack and also stuffed hand warmers in my gloves as my fingers get cold very easily. The first one and half miles of this race are mostly uphill and include stairs. I chose to start toward the back as I didn't want to get pressured from faster runners behind me on a single-track trail. After the Mountain Marathon debacle, I set out to finish this race with no time limits or self-imposed pressure.
I found myself behind some runners who were going slower than I would have liked but I had a lot of miles ahead and figured going slower may help me later on. The trail conditions were muddy as expected but for the most part, were runnable...er...joggable. At least they weren't cantered and I found I could keep moving without falling down. The positive life experience from Mountain Marathon is that I knew that although this trail wasn't "pristine", there is always something more difficult. I was thrilled I could keep putzing along without a constant fear of falling or slipping.
The trail was mostly single track through seemingly endless woods. Most of the elevation gain was in the first part of the loop but beyond that, it seemed much more moderate. An aid station was placed a few miles into the trail, and I was able to find a wider area to pass some runners mid-way through the first loop. I had wished I didn't carry my camel pack since there were 2 aid stations per loop (start/finish and mid-way). It felt cumbersome on my back but I kept it "just in case". On the second loop, I counted 10 women coming toward me and I assumed they were in front of me. I think they were in the half-marathon but I didn't know it at the time. The pressure was off to race this and that was fine with me. I wasn't looking at my garmin except at the finish of each loop. I learned that when running trails, a garmin is not always a motivating factor. The miles seems to take so much longer, but given elevation, technical trails, twists and turns, it's impossible to compare it to a road run.
I finished lap 2 and saw a couple women runners not far behind me approaching the aid station. They looked like they were marathoners so I figured at least I wasn't last. But I could be, they looked so strong! I had to walk much of the beginning of each loop as my heart rate would skyrocket as I climbed. It didn't feel like it was a huge elevation change but my body screamed at me to walk so I did. I once again skipped the mid-course aid station and arrived for the last time at the start/finish before heading out one more time. One of the timers noted that I was the first female marathoner and that caught me by complete surprise! I downed a gu and as I made my way out, one of the girls I saw was only a minute or so behind me.
It was so nice not to have any pressure on me but all of a sudden I was in first and had 6+ miles of trail ahead to stay in first. I reluctantly walked again in the first 1.5 miles because I knew if I tried to force it, I may end up walking a lot later on. Let's be real here...even when I was "running", it was in the high 9's to 13 minute pace. I told myself to just relax to get my heart rate down, and if someone passed me, they earned it.
I waited and expected her to come blazing by me any moment but she didn't. At the mid-way aid station, I stopped for the first time and grabbed a couple clif blocks and they told me I was first woman. I told them another woman was catching up fast and they shooed me to get moving.
A couple of switchback areas did not reveal her directly behind me but runners can appear so quickly. With a couple of miles to go and the elevation challenge behind, I was very intentional about keeping my pace up to the end. I finally made it to the stairs and knew the finish line was fast approaching. I didn't want to lose first in the last stretch so I imagined her directly behind me and pushed myself to finish strong.
The finish line was a welcome sight and I won the women's marathon! No medal or awards for this race, but I did get points in a race series. After a short stop at the food table, I made my way (slowly) to my SUV and drove home. My family was quite impressed with the layer of mud attached to my legs! Oh, and that I won, too. Turns out only 3 out of 7 women finished the marathon, so a win doesn't feel quite so impressive, but in the end...a win is a win!
|Muddy Brooks and clean Brooks...guess which ones were on the trail?|