Sunrise on June 19th - heading towards Bell Buckle, TN. Home of the RC Cola and Moopie Festival and my possible death from heat exhaustion (though here's a spoiler alert - I didn't die). It's about a 1/2 hour drive from my house to this place. The race started at 7 am but there was no pre-race pickup so everybody got their stuff that morning. I had never been to Bell Buckle so I left my house way too early. But it was better this way because I never felt rushed or worried about getting things done on time.
When I got into Bell Buckle my first job was to find someplace to park. I looked through the website and race materials but never found any information about where to park. I really wish they would have included, "Parking anywhere within a mile of the race will cost you $5." I had no cash on me and the town is so tiny there's no readily available ATM's (that I could see anyway). So I kept driving up the road and finally found a parking lot for the private school that had no signs on it. It was a good 1/2 mile up the road which was no big deal BEFORE the race. But the town of Bell Buckle is charming and has a lot of cute little shops. I really should go back someday when I'm not sweaty and gross.
They had a lot of port-o-pots that were only semi-nasty and I made use of them before the race. I drank a lot more before the race than I usually do so I could stay hydrated. Normally my strategy is to not fill my bladder before-hand. As since there were no other port-o-pots on the course it became a long 10 miles and bit awkward when I starting coughing on some water.
The start and finish of the race were in two separate areas. The start line was a bit disorganized but I just joined a crowd and went with the flow. Since I had no goals for time it didn't matter to me how slow they started. I was found by another Running Mama from an online community I chat in and it was nice to chat with someone before the race.
Also before the race, as I was posting on Facebook about my questionable choice of running this race, I listened in to a conversation between this guy and his grandsons. He warned them that if he passed them they were going slow and that he was going to be running 12 mm. I figured I probably shouldn't let him pass me either. But the grandsons cracked me up - typical high schoolers that run in anything as evidenced by the shoe below.
The race started right on time and headed down the main drag of town and out into the countryside. The weather was pretty nice at the beginning but more humid than I originally thought it would be. The sun was mostly obscured by some clouds but I knew it wouldn't last long. About a mile into the race the road dipped down and I was able to get a good shot of the crowd in front of me. I normally don't take my camera with me on a race but since it didn't matter if I stopped to take pics I brought my new BlackBerry with me to take some pics to share and remembered the experience.
After the second mile the hills got worse. From miles 2-5 it was just up and down and up and down and up and down (you get the point). I found the cow crossing sign amusing. It was close to here that a local had out his water house and dosed anyone that wanted it. Blessed townsfolk!
But then came mile 4. I knew that at mile 4.5 there was one BIG hill. And here it was. I had chatted with another girl who was also looking for it and suddenly I could see some people above us and thought, "crap they weren't lying about the hill." I didn't get a good picture of the hill that truly showed its incline so I drew this picture as an accurate portrayal:
*Notice the Running Angel floating off to heaven.
I got to mile 5 right at 1 hour. I started off with 1 mile= 10:50, 2 mile= 22:00, 3 mile= 34:??, 4 mile=46:??. So you can see that hill in mile four really ruined my splits. :) But I wasn't even going to attempt any jogging up that hill. It was rotten enough to walk it. After mile 5 most of the road was flat but it was far less shady. There were some stretches that the sun just beat down on you. At this point all clouds had gone away.
But then another Blessed Townsfolk! He had some kind of farm equipment with a spray. I took off my iPod and went under that thing twice. I was just going to do it once but it felt so good that I quickly turned around and went right back under it. It raised all our spirits for a while. But in mile 7 I lost my 12 mm splits again and had to accept the fact that I would be over 2 hours. I had gotten to the point where I occasionally felt a chill (which I figured was a bad sign on such a hot day) so I wasn't pushing myself at all. I had brought 3 6 oz bottles with me (2 with Nuun tablets and one plain water) and I took cups at every water station (miles 2, 4, 6, 8, & 9). I also had GU Chomps to help with energy and I'm very glad I took them. My stomach handled them much better than the Jelly Sport Beans and they were easier to eat while I ran.
At mile 7.5 we turned onto a new road and suddenly there was shade again (Praise Jesus) but there were also some hills too (#$%@). I forwarded to my favorite songs and picked up the pace on mile 9. I passed a gal that wanted us to run together. I was fine with that but she couldn't keep up so I let her go. And then there was the finish line.
They totally screwed up my name but I'm used to that. And I prepped myself to prop one foot up on the stool to get my timing chip off. I remember the first race I did I almost fell over when I put my foot up there.
I was happy to be this close to 2 hours (2:01:02). I haven't looked at official results yet but I'm sure it will be about the same. I was about a minute behind the gun time every time I passed a course clock. It certaintly wasn't my best race ever but I really enjoyed not having any pressure on trying to finish at a certain time. I could enjoy the course and didn't feel like death at any point of the run. So upon reflection I think I should have at least one race each year that I do just to enjoy it and have fun.
Right after I crossed the finish line I went to get my t-shirt. They handed them out before the race but I didn't want to hike back up to my car or carry it with me. After getting my shirt I waited in line for food. It was some good grub though I didn't see any RC Cola's. I ate my food, used the ports one more time, and then started back towards my car.
It was at that point that I looked up and saw big dark clouds forming and thought, "Really? Now it gets dark and cloudy? Thanks for nothing weather."