Wow. What a race.
This was my second year in a row at Uwharrie, and it is incredible how much stronger I am and how my trail running has improved in one year. Actually I can’t comprehend exactly how I bested last year’s time by over 30 minutes.
I’m currently on run streak day 252, Uwharrie was day 251 and today was a surprisingly not painful 20 minute recovery run. I have never run so consistently in my life. Rain, shine, early morning, later in the evening, I have not missed a day of running at least one mile since last May. I run when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m overwhelmed, or feeling whimsical. I run alone, with friends, mostly on trails but sometimes on roads.
Yesterday I ran through mud, creeks, roots, logs, leaves, rocks, gravel, up hills, and down hills.
I call this course “unrelenting” because it constantly changes terrain or incline on you. The first five miles flew by and miles 5-8 felt the hardest as my body started to feel the grind of the constant uphill/downhill changes. I almost had a horrible fall but was able to grab a tree to stop me. I remembered the course enough from last year to not get off course and to remember the tricky spots between the mile 8 and mile 11 aid stations. (I also re-read my race report from last year the night before the race to remind me of the particulars!) At mile 11 my friend/roommate/cheerleader/driver Reikan was there to update me on how our friend Janna was doing (she was signed up for the 40 but planning to just run the 20 since they wouldn’t let her change distances.) Conditions were fairly similar to last year’s race, (wet and muddy, temperature in the 20’s to start but warming up to above 50 by the finish,) so at this point I gave him some of my extra clothing before heading out.
The aid stations, and the volunteers, were just as incredible as last year and they were stocked with fantastic oatmeal raisin cookies and salty snacks like corn chips and potato chips to keep me fueled in perfect trail race style. I grabbed a quarter of a pb&j and a half a cookie to go at mile 14, knowing I’d need the extra fuel to get through the next three miles which are the hardest on the course. Around this time I saw the leaders of the 40 mile race coming back on the same trail. Somewhere between mile 15 and 16 is the longest hill on the course, and it’s a doozy, not run-able for most mortal trail runners. I kept a pretty good hiking pace and used the climb to stretch out my calves. About the time I crested the hill I heard a familiar voice calling my name and looked up to see my friend Rob from the Asheville tri club! He was doing the 40 miler so we crossed paths ever so briefly but it was enough to put an extra pep in my stride!
I saw more 40 mile runners over the next miles, a few that I recognized from other races, and everyone did a great job of encouraging one another. At the mile 17 aid station I downed some electrolyte drink, grabbed some salty chips, and set out for the last 3 miles with the knowledge that they would be much easier than the 3 I had just completed! I encouraged a fellow runner on the way, it was her first time and I assured her the last 3 miles were less brutal. I got into a nice groove and possibly picked up speed. The bagpipers around mile 19 were another nice boost! After what felt like no time at all I heard the announcer and music from the 20 mile finish line. I switched my watch from the time of day to the chronograph function where I had the timer going. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I glanced down at it.
As I got to the colorful flags marking the course I looked up to see my friends at the finish and I waved at them beaming! My watch had me at 4 hours and 20 minutes- 31 minutes faster than last year. That is an average of 1 and a half minutes per mile faster. Insane. I was the 19th female finisher and 4th in the 20-29 year old age group. While this isn’t a huge race, it does sell out and brings in quite a few good runners from across the state.
In other words I’m unbelievably happy with how much I have improved as a trail runner. And I’m incredibly excited for my next race in a few weeks – the Black Mountain Marathon.