This past weekend was my first ever running race.  Since I was Suzie’s pit crew the weekend before she was mine this time around.  We left Saturday morning with stops at Ikea and Dabney State Park in Troutdale, OR for some disc golf.

By the time we got to Oak Forks Campground it was too late to get a run in.  We set up camp and it was right into cooking dinner.  We had a fire as well but it never really got going, which pained me since I pride myself on making great fires. The audacity of that wood!

I was up at 7 am and felt good.  The nerves hadn’t started yet but they would before the race.  The weather was as they said, overcast and some showers.  We made our way a mile down the road to the start/finish and I checked in.  #460.  I put on my shoes and ran the first half mile or so of course to check things out.  All systems were a green and I was good to go.

We started after a brief runners meeting.  We were warned of possible wrong turns, which it turns out a lot of people had done the day before in the full marathon and the half.  Then it was race time.  First those who planned on running faster than 2 hours lined up, all 15 of them.  Then 2 to 2:15 pace runners were next.  I slotted myself in this group, really having no idea if I belonged there.  I was more hoping I’d finish in that time frame.  We actually started one at a time since the course was mostly single track.

The race started fast being down hill at first.  I did my best not to go too hard but quickly I fell in with a small group of runners which I lead.  We ran close to each other for a while until I let them around deciding I needed to pace myself some more.  The first 45 minutes went be fast, so fast I didn’t realize it and missed taking my first Gu at the 30 minute mark.

I recalled most of the trail from 2007 but forgot how hilly it was.  I was told that section was the hilliest so once I got past it I pushed a bit harder.  The turn off the PCT, the section of trail I “knew” came up fast.  Knowing I had just down the hilly part going into the unknown didn’t bother me.  Right before the turn off  I recognized the camp site where I spent the night after my longest day on the PCT, 37.1 miles).

At mile 6 I got to the first of three aid stations where I only filled my bottle and then moved on.  I must have looked pretty funny trying to run with an open bottle under my arm, cap in my mouth, and trying to get a nuun tab out of a zip lock bag while holding a 8 minute pace.  I did it but alas the bag ripped.  It was during the last feed station that I failed with the second nuun tab and dropped it.  It was raining so it got dirty and started to fizz when I picked it up.

I mentally started to question myself between miles 6-7 but just focused on the beauty of the trail instead and soon I was picking off more runners.  One being the woman who was running with me earlier in my group before I held back.  I caught her at mile 9 and we chatted up to aid station #2 where she stopped for water.  It was at this point I really started to feel like I was physically hurting. By aid  #3 at mile 11 I was slowing but I just kept telling myself it’s 3 more miles.

I passed another runner who was walking after the aid station.  Then at mile 12.2 I ran by our campsite.  I thought as I passed the tent how nice it would be to take a nap after the run.  I forced myself to keep the pace up since I knew I was close to finishing under 2 hours.  “Oh, wait I thought you weren’t running for time Craig, just to finish”, my mind thought as I battled with myself.

I approached the last hill which was the steepest of all of them.  We had come down it already since it was on the out and back portion of the course.  I attempted to run the whole thing but found it was just as fast to fast walk it so I lean over and powered up it.  Two runners were just in front of me.  I pushed myself until I caught them with just under a half mile to go.  When I went past I went hard to make sure they didn’t come back.  I had no idea if the guy was even in my division.  My heart rate was in the 180’s but I just kept going.

Finally I made the last left turn towards the finish and knew I had done it.  More importantly I felt good about my effort.  I turned the last turn and put some more speed into my legs finishing strong.  It was only after I stopped and Suzie told me I saw my nipples were bleeding and you could see it running down my shirt.  Very hot!  My quads were on the verge of cramping if I bounce too much so I walked it off some.  I changed and got a massage before walking a mile and a half back to camp.  As I walked I did the math thinking about how many times around the same lake would I have to run to run a 100 miles.  My math told me it was over 7 times.  I was hurting before finishing one lap!  Then I said out loud to myself, as I walked in the rain with my giant golf umbrella,  “Baby steps, Craig. Baby steps”.  I smiled and walked on.


More photos at flickr.

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