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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

From the draft folder: (Whiny) Recap: Cross Cut 15K

This post has been in my drafts folder for two months. Whoops. My most recent (steep) trail run was a completely different experience (all thanks to a better attitude), but I'm sharing this post because at the time I was really annoyed with trail running and it's kind of amusing. 

Alex and I ran the 15k. Kate ran the 25k.

The Cross Cut 15k took place on Saturday, July 21 at 7:00am. There were two distances: 25k & 15k.

Grumble, Grumble
I ran a half marathon the weekend before and my legs didn't recover as fast a normal. Maybe because we had a friend in town and I spent the week hiking. My legs were still a little sore on Friday and my reoccurring knee pain had returned.

I'll be perfectly honest: I did not want to run this race. I signed up months ago at the request of an acquaintance who said we'd train together. We played phone tag and never ran. Two weeks before race day she sent a weird text like, "I need to start training haha Did you sign up?" Did I sign up!?! I said I did in March! Ack. Come race day she was no where to be found. If Alex wasn't signed up I would have bailed, too!

The Plan: DNF
I planned to run the first uphill and drop at the aid station if my knee was bothering me. I said, "if my knee was bothering me" but in my mind I'd already decided to drop. Why not? I didn't feel like doing it and I've never DNF'd. There's gotta be a first time! Not a great attitude, huh?

This is the only race photo I'm in. grumblegrumble
The "Race" 
(FYI: This is a really long recap because it felt like a really long race.)

We set off just after 7:00am and began the (ridiculous) first climb. I ran/hiked until the slope became too steep and decided not to exert too much energy. We were climbing up the ski hill access roads with the 25k-ers until just after a mile when the 15k split off to climb an actual ski hill.

It was single track/narrow dirt path up the hill. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I'd hiked some of it a few weeks before when I ran the Bridger ridge line, so I knew what to expect. The first climb lasted til 1.7 and I hated every moment. I huffed and puffed loudly, got passed by a bunch of "good job"-ers, and stopped to "take a photo" (aka catch my breath and question my decisions).

Not even close to the worst part.

My knee hurt, but it wasn't terrible. Regardless, I planned on dropping as soon as I saw the aid station. In the back of my mind I remembered the aid stations were 3-4 miles apart. Ugh. Could I wait that long? Could I just turn around and walk back to the start? My bad attitude increased...

Once we finished that first killer climb I was able to run for almost a half mile, then it was back to run/hike for another half mile. The faster 25k folks rejoined us in this section, so I stepped off to the side of the trail to let them pass. I wasn't wild about that, if I'm honest. Any time the 25k course joined the 15k course it was always the faster runners. I got out of their way, but it kind of messed up my rhythm. But at this time I was planning to drop, so who cared?

The mile between 2.5 to 3.5 was gorgeous. The wildflowers were beautiful thanks to the late June rains. I enjoyed this section because I was able to run most of it! I was in a pack of runners and followed their lead. It felt like a nice, normal trail run vs. the typical Bozeman "let's race up the side of this mountain." The aid station appeared around mile 3.5 and because I'd had so much fun –and, let's be honest: because it was only a mom and her two kids manning the aid station so how would I get down??– I grabbed some M&Ms, took a break, then decided to run until aid station 2.

I was able to keep up my momentum and ran most of the way between aid stations 1 and 2. There were a few short climbs, but it was mostly downhill. I felt like I was banking time and could maybe finish under 2:15. My knee hurt on the downhills, but I knew I could finish the race if I had to. I wasn't really having very much fun, but the real depressing moments were yet to come. Yay!

Just after mile 5 I stopped at aid station 2 and chatted with a volunteer about my knee and she asked if I was going to be ok. That last downhill section was relatively pleasant, so I decided to keep going. I should have stopped. Ok not really. BUT, UGH.

We turned a corner after the aid station and started climbing this ridiculous hill. Unlike the first 1.5 mile/1000ft climb, this was 3.5 miles long. Obviously not as steep, but I could only run short sections, so it was a SLOW hike up. I didn't think my mile times were that bad, and at first I passed other 15k runners, but eventually they caught back up as I ran out of gas. On a positive note, I had some decent mantras going: "nice and easy" "don't look up, just climb."

I remember when I thought 600ft was a lot of gain in a trail race. HAHA 

But there were also times in this race–before the climb– where I muttered, "I hate this." and "Bozeman is dumb." I don't really think those things but I missed the days of normal trail races where you can actually run the whole thing. I'm sure if I was in a better mood and well rested I probably could have finished under 2:20, but the final 4 miles of this race pushed me down and knocked me out.

Anyway.... we were climbing. Forever. I knew the course was long, but when we circled back to aid station 1 I realized we had to retrace our steps until the final downhill turn and I wanted to quit. But I'd made it this far, so I couldn't drop. I grabbed some more M&Ms and trudged on. I say trudged because the 25k runners were back with us and–surprise–they were all really fast and wanted to pass. I stepped aside to wait and lost time. I looked at my watch at mile 8 and saw 1:55. I knew we had at least 2 miles to go in this long 15k. I figured 2:20 was still within reach.

Haha. Nope

On the way to the finish. View almost made it worth it.
I felt like the mile between 8 and 9 would never end. I knew we were looking for volunteers to send us downhill towards the ski lodge. The final hill was qualified as a "quad burner." I kept looking downhill to my left and I couldn't even see the lodge. Were there really only 2 miles left?!?!

"The downhill's close.... right?!"
Finally, I got to the downhill. It was, in fact, super steep and I couldn't really run it. Guess what? After a steady race of remaining upright I finally bit it. I totally fell two tenths of a mile down the hill and twisted my left ankle. It hurt a lot, but because I've twisted my ankle several times in the past year I knew it would be fine in a minute or two. I stopped and shook it out while at least 5 people passed me. Ughhhhh. I was so over the race at that point.

Luckily the last half mile was pretty runnable, but as I watched my footing on the final chute (still rocky) some 15k girl sprinted pass me. Whatever.

Post Race
I finished and hung out with my friend Jason who'd come to watch. I couldn't find Alex anywhere and after an hour (!) I was kind of freaking out, but he finally appeared. Turns out, he was in a lead group and the volunteers routed them the wrong way at mile 2! So instead of starting on the course loop, they sent them down the final hill. He descended the hill and crossed the finish in 45 minutes, only to be told it was wrong. The group climbed back up the hill and completed the course. First off, that is bonkers and I totally would have stopped. Second, it added at least 2+ miles to his race and an extra (steep) 1,200ft climb. His longest run coming into this was 9 miles. Poor guy was spent! Luckily, he was comped a free future race for the mix up.

Also happy to be done. 

Stats and Thoughts
Well, on the plus side: I finished and didn't drop out. But now I'm bummed I didn't finish under 2:20. I wasn't very tired and had fun socializing after, but my legs were shot for the next few days

Time: 2:32
Overall: 92/125 (yikes)
Age Group: 21/27

My GPS said we ran 10.4 miles (14:35 pace). I guess the 25k is short (~14.5 miles) and their climbs/descents are a little less steep, but I don't know if it's "easier." While I was running I never wanted to run it again, but now I'm kind of mad I didn't do better. Not sure if that's enough motivation to do it again knowing that most Julys are super hot/dry and the wildflowers probably won't be out...

And now, months later and post-Rut, I kind of want to do it again because it was good Rut prep. Ugh. My stupid runner's memory. 

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