Today was a light and fluttery heart day. The day started out with a conflict of excitement and sadness. Runner's chatter echoed and thrilled over their anticipation for the final destination. Cheers and whoops were heard up and down the start line with fists pumping in the air. Stephanie and I had the jitters- we were eager to start but, at the same time, hated to see it all end.
The race started out with a steep climb overlooking Vail. Stephanie and I passed a lot of roadkill getting out the gate and hitting the woodsy downhill, we both felt really good. We traversed through gorgeous meadows and forests coated with wildflowers. We waited a bit for Kyle and Matt to catch up and trotted alongside them for a bit to chat.
Stephanie celebrated her arrival to aid station #2 with a swig on Nipple John's beer. I had to tug on her to get her butt going. I was feeling so good and wanted to run!! I ran ahead of her for quite awhile until I arrived into the town of Avon. There I waited (peed and ate) off the trail in some flowers til she came around the corner with two thumbs up letting me know she was still feeling good. We ran through Avon and snapped pics of us posing with statues.
After aid station #3 we had a huge 3 miler hill with many switchbacks. It was odd to see so many runners staggered just a few feet from each other on a mountain. They looked like they were all discombobulated going in opposite directions etc. when, truly, they were just on another switchback from the next guy.
Suddenly, there was a very very large rustling off to our right and about twenty or so feet away the aspen trees and nearby bushes swayed with movement. There was defintely something very large there and a bit perterbed that we were disturbing his slumber. I stopped and stared into the thicket, trying my hardest to spot me a bear! Karl kicked in his high gear and I heard him call me crazy as he zoomed up the hill with, most likely, a PR timing. I still stood there straining to see, but to no avail. That little bugger was not going to show his face. Every once in awhile the trees would rustle and bend but they were getting farther away. My run must go on....
As I started getting closer to the finish line, I felt a mixture of emotions. I thought back to each day on the sights and experiences that made the deepest impressions on me. Things I knew I would forever take home with me and reflect back on. The kinship, the views, the food, the tent sleeping, the hospitality and great organization. I felt as if I was attending an amazing week-long camp adventure. This didn't feel like a race! Yes, there was soreness and being tired but I didn't feel like I was about to die like I did at the Coastal Challenge. I was definitely more prepared mentally and physically for this race. I remember laying in my tent in Costa Rica: febrile, trying to blank out the pain in my feet (and infected bubbling toe), beyond exhausted, and muscles screaming. I have some great memories of that race too, but that adventure was not nearly as enjoyable through and through as the TransRockies.
Here, I felt strong and confident. I felt like an athlete. I felt like an absolute wildchild. A kid with a magnificent imagination of an animal, senses hightened to extreme, loping around in "my territory": hurdling logs, ducking branches, fleet footed and panting in rhythm to my stride as my body created a wind that blew back the sweat-laiden whisps of my hair. It was an unbelievable feeling, and one that probably not too many would understand nor relate to.
I waited for Steph near the curve to the finish line and the two of us ran in together, finishing with a big hug and a sudden gush of sadness.
We collected our shirt and medal and noshed at the food tent. At that point we saw a handfull of runners cutting down the mountain, sliding on their butts completely off the trail.
"HEY no fair!!" was my first thought as I stood next to one of the volunteers. His microphone boomed and we soon learned that there was a bear sighting- a momma and two of her cubs decided to venture out onto the trail where a couple of runners almost ran right between them. The runners made a very intelligent decision to head off trail and cut through to the finish line.
Hyped back on my bear-spotting adrenaline I bugged Memphis-Joe to let me go with him to chase the bears off the trail. He chuckled at my enthusiasm and let me tag along. We climbed back up the trail for about a mile or two (thoughts that I had just completed a 21 mile run had been washed away with the notion of spotting a real live bear) hollaring out "Yo Bear!" and chatting back and forth with Houda on the radio who was searching at a different angle.Every runner we would pass we would ask for a bear location update and then head that way. After awhile the runner's sightings became slim pickings until no one had seen the furry crew at all. Feeling satisfied that the bears were off trail and heading up, we turned around and headed back down.
Back at the finish line, I caught up with Stephanie and we headed to our much dreamt about room at the Pines Lodge. Long hot showers, soft fluffy beds, and fuzzy carpet under our toes awaited us just around the corner. The room did not dissapoint. We awed at the great view as we loaded all our smelly, filty luggage into separate corners to weed through. I jumped into the shower as Stephanie called home to her hubby.
After we were both showered, we celebrated with a sushi meal and green tea. We both felt stiff but overall pretty darn good!
The hour of the ceremonial dinner finally arrived and we piled into the ballroom. The spread was decent (although not as good as the steak and mushroom night of the race) but the actual awards ceremony started so late into the night that both Stephanie and I (among many others) were so ready for it all to be over and to crawl into bed for a much needed siesta. The few glasses of wine in celebration did not help...
We chatted with our new friends and shared numbers/emails not really knowing who would stay in touch, and finally called it a night. We both collapsed into our beds feeling like we truly accomplished something great.