Slept terrible. Wind and rain storms, plus knowing I needed to wake up early for a race, kept me up all night. Got out of bed at 6:30 to get ready. Debated between trail and road shoes. Went with trail, a fortuitous decision I would later discover. Ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sourdough for breakfast. The wind was raging outside, with bursts of rain here and there.
Drove out to Highland/Alpine into the north foothills for the Traverse Mountain 9 Miler. I’ve never run this area before. The weather must have scared a lot of people away, because only about half of those who registered showed up—about 25 of us. Several familiar faces.
The steep drop-in onto the course right after the start
Ran ¾ mile as a warm-up, but spent a bit of time in my car until 8:30. Surprisingly chilly out, with insane wind blowing down from the north. Despite the cold, I still went with a sleeveless technical T and shorts. Others were bundled up with jackets and rain gear.
Holding onto 2nd place for the first 100 yards :)
The course starts at 5200’ and heads north, climbing to 5875’ over 2 miles. I started out relatively quick, but got passed by several uphill experts right away. Mile 1 = 9:18. Mile 2 = 10:40. I was running with Crystal around mile 2, a female running phenomenon, when it started to hail. (Her older sister came in 3rd overall) It was shooting down at nearly a 45 degree angle, and we were running directly into it. Both of us were letting out yelps of pain as the balls of ice pelted our face and arms. That’s the first hailstorm I’ve had to endure in a race. I don’t recommend it.
Crystal. She beat me at both the Gruesome Grizzly and Battle at Big Springs. We ran neck and neck this race, but I managed to pass her on the final stretch of downhill to chalk up a victory.
Hail turned to freezing rain, and soon we were flash frozen as the wind blasted us with cold air. The next two and a half miles were almost all downhill on single track. The rain had left the trail muddy and slick, making it difficult to stay on your feet. My shoes turned into mud-filled skis. I ran as fast as I could through a really pretty area, complete with streams and covered bridges. Managed to avoid falling too. Mile 3 = 7:21. Mile 4 = 7:33. Mile 5 = 7:43.
Mile 4 ½ to about 6 ½ was all uphill, going from 5,000’ back up to 5,875’ in 2 miles. It never stopped raining, and the trails were even worse. I was carrying about 3-5 extra pounds of mud and water with me. I wrung out my shirt a few times and scraped my shoe bottoms on every root and rock I ran over. Another strategy was to run through the weeds on the side of the trail. This was a really tough uphill section already, but add to it the wind, rain, mud, and loss of traction, and it reached a whole new level. Mile 6 = 11:52. Mile 7 = 11:39.
Final stretch to the finish
From 6 ½ to the finish (8.8 miles), it was all downhill. I had to hold back some the first half mile because it was just too muddy—all my focus was on not taking a tumble into the rocks. After that I was able to follow a rocky runoff area in the dirt road which was more difficult to maneuver, but at least was devoid of mud. This is where my trail shoes saved the day. They provided the extra protection I needed from the sharp rocks and stability I need to keep from rolling my ankles. I went balls out to the end. Mile 8 = 6:43.
I forgot to stop my watch at the finish line for about a minute, so I don’t have my final pace time, but I finished in about 1 hour 19 minutes. About a 9 min/mile pace. Good enough for 8th overall, plus, I won a headlamp in the raffle. Fun race. Great trails.
Chilling in the RV post race. We held the awards ceremony inside, since it was pouring rain outside.