I didn’t decide to race at Highland sky until the Tuesday before. Injury and strep throat had kept me from training for over a month, meaning that since April 21st I’d run a total of 38 miles, with 30 of those occurring before May 13th. But, I’d been looking forward to this race and to staying with my friend Jen Cochran so I decided I’d run, just being sure to start out slow, and hopefully make the aid station cutoffs.
Race day started out a little cool, but I wasn’t worried as I knew if the weather was anything like the day before it would be hot enough fairly soon. The first part of the course was on a paved road and I started off at what I thought was a fairly conservative pace, only to discover I was actually a lot closer to the front than I intended. Turning off the road and heading up the mountain, I caught up to David Horton and Sarah Johnston and stayed with them until aid station 3. Oddly enough the pace didn’t seem too hard and aside from some super prickly nettles things were going all right. However, I knew this course was hard so didn’t get too confident. I felt fine up until the first hard downhill, where my lack of training reared itself with a vengance!!! Ouch! My quads were pretty much shot after that, in fact at some points my legs were actually shaking and that was on flat ground!! I also started drinking a bit too much Perpetuem, I made the mistake of thinking that if I drank more than I needed now, I would have some in reserve for later….not so! Instead I ended up with some stomach cramping issues and at aid station 3, David and Sarah headed on without me.
I got to aid station 4 – roughly the halfway mark in 4:30, so thought that even if I walked the rest of the way (which I came pretty close to doing) I’d still finish without missing the cut-offs. I slathered on the sunscreen from my drop bag and left the Perpetuem behind (probably not a good idea). I wished I had 2 water bottles as I found in the heat, I was running out of water between aid stations. The next 7 miles were on this gravel road, that went up and down and up and down. Two pit stops later, and walking all of the uphills I made it into aid station 6. By this time my stomach had settled down and was actually growling! I was so hungry. I got some food, had my bottle filled with water and ice and was off. The sign said next aid station 5.8 miles (or something close to that). Well, it must have been all of a mile later that I ran out of water and had to walk (although I think my legs would have forced me into a walk before to long anyways) and several people started passing me by.
After hobbling my away across the grass and shakily making my way across the boulders (it’s hard jumping the gaps when your legs are already shaking from tiredness!) I made it into aid station 7. This was a very popular aid station as when I got there, there were about 5 people just hanging out taking a break. I wanted to join them, but knew if I did that I’d never get my legs moving again. Instead I stuffed my face with just about one of everything they had at the table (all except the meat items) and headed off.
The next stretch included an uphill that I didn’t mind, and a really steep downhill that hurt my legs even more, it seemed like forever until I made it out of the woods and met the police officer telling us it was only a quarter of a mile to the next aid station. That was the longest quarter mile I’ve ever run!!! (at least it felt like it). Most of the remaining miles were on paved road or grass, with a small trail section just before the finish. I had a lot of energy left, but my feet and legs just didn’t have the miles in them, so I forced myself into a run/walk between hydro poles. Again several people flew! (or so it felt) past me. Finally I saw the pool behind the resort and knew that I was close to the finish. 9:26:49!
Highlights of the race were of course the unbelievably beautiful views you got running on top of the mountain after aid station 6, the rocky sections – I loved how challenging it was, the friendliness of everyone running, the great aid station volunteers, and the guy with the camera at aid station 4 who I recruited to help me put on sunscreen! (I’m not sure how much he appreciated it!!)
Wildlife seen on the course – 2 deer on the gravel road, a rabbit, 2 snakes – one alive and one dead, chipmunks, birds and thousands of multi-coloured butterflies. I heard two guys saying they had seen a bear!, but I never saw one at all.
It was a great race and I’m glad I decided to run in despite my lack of training. Sunday and Monday I could barely hobble my legs were so sore, but by Tuesday I was feeling almost back to normal, aside from the massive blister I now have on my heel.