I participated in the Nisene Mark Half Marathon trail race. Last year I did the 5k version and managed to win 1st in my age group. The Forest of Nisene Marks in Aptos, Ca is so beautiful with Redwoods galore that of course I had to return to run the Half Mary.
This has to be one of the best races I have ever participated in. While the trails are absolutely gorgeous and the event well organized, this is not the reason. Typically a day in June in California is sunny, and hot. This day was clearly not typical as it was pouring rain non-stop through the entire event. I mentioned this was a trail run right? Eight miles of it is at least. Not only was this race physically demanding, but mentally challenging as well.
At the start line the race director made the announcements before the gun shot off. He was very vivacious and had a great announcer type of voice as he said “No one expected these weather conditions in June. It’s very steep and slippery out there on the trails – This is not the day to PR people! Be cautious and run safe!”
He also mentioned that the marathon course had changed, and the marathoners were to do a loop. I can’t even manage doing the course twice, and a big hug goes out to those awesome runners who did manage to run the trails twice. A huge accomplishment indeed and I bow down to you!!
|Pre race Group shot of us in the rain - Even though it doesn't look like it - It really was pouring!|
After the RD informed us of the conditions, I made up my mind to not race. Trails are not my strongest strength, as I am pretty slow, and the hill climbs always seem to kick my arse. However, I do love running them. I like the challenge and the beauty of it all. So inspiring. I told my friend Shannon who was also running the half, that I would run with her. She gave me the look of "yeah, right, sure." She knows that I am very competitive. As the gun went off, I was successful with my plan, but not even a mile into it I started to speed up.
|Some runners squeezed under the tents before the race.|
|While others brought umbrellas.|
The course starts on three miles of paved and dirt fire road. I felt a bit off with my breathing, and decided to slow down. I am already drenched at this point, and it was only the beginning. I hit the trails after a quick Gatorade guzzle at a water station and was ready to go. Everything looked lush, green, and well, just gorgeous really. However, there was plenty of mud. At first I tried to avoid the mud and the deep puddles, but after awhile it was everywhere, and I gave up on the detours. Lot’s of ‘quick mud’ to fall knee deep in. I won’t lie, running in mud is quite a challenging task, but a lot of fun. There were a few nerve racking times where I was running on steep edges downhill. To fall would mean a broken bone to say the least. Talk about an adeline rush! Lot’s of steep hill climbs slowed my pace down considerably. Shannon who is stronger with hills managed to pass me, but I didn’t mind. I was having the time of my life.
Running on these trails in the pouring rain just felt right. I can’t explain it really. There were no problems, no regrets, no misfortunes. It was just me, looking at my feet focused on not falling and finishing. And when I did manage to look up – I saw like minded people running in crazy weather among redwood trees, ferns, and poison oak, stumbling and sliding every stride of the way – And it was beautiful really. I know I might sound a bit cheesy in my description but this race was definitely one of those runs that I will never forget.
While running uphill is my weakness, running downhill is Shannon’s, and I was able to catch up with her at mile eight. We slowed to a walk to catch-up, gel, and enjoy the moment. A girl around our age also caught up with us and we all chatted like old friends. I never caught her name so I will refer to her as the "Cool Chick." Cool Chick was from the East Coast and shocked at the weather conditions as she had always heard such positive things about the weather in California.
Miles eight to eleven seemed to fly by as it was us girls stomping through the muddy lagoons. My Garmin was not pleased as it went into spastic mode and continued as such until I crossed the finish line. The last couple of miles back on the fire road, I managed to pass a lot of runners. I passed one girl who was very friendly. She looked at me with eye’s of hope and fear and said, “I don’t want to do this again.” She was running the marathon no doubt and I said as many encouraging words to her as I could in passing. I hope she did the second loop, I really do! Like I said before – I give much respect to those that completed the marathon in such conditions for I am not certain I could.
|Showing off our muddy legs after the race|
The clock read 2:16:20 when I finished. My spastic Garmin read 2:17:28 with a mileage of 14.26. While I have no PR’s to brag of, and no battle wounds to show, I was happy. This race changed me in ways I am not able to describe. It was an amazing experience and I will leave you with that.
|I took this picture last month Forest of Nisene Marks on a clear day! I apologize for not taking any pictures in the pouring rain. It was hard enough trying to run in it.|