And this was the year.
I had trained pretty well for this marathon. I had done four 20 milers, three of which were on the trails. I had also done an 18 and a 17 miler on the trails. I had done some races on trails. I was feeling comfortable.
I had no idea what I was in for.
This race was so hard. For the majority of the race I wasn't even sure we were actually running on trails. I think we were just traipsing through the forest. There were roots and rocks and mud and river crossings. Within the first mile and a half I had already fallen once. I had forgotten to start my watch. My food and hydration were already off. I had planned on running with Megan and Bridget and within the first mile they were gone. I was not having fun. Dave told me after the race that he could tell I was not having fun.
But after 10 miles things started to get better. I had been trailing a girl that was going a little too slow for my liking and I was able to get around her finally. I was by myself and feeling comfortable for the first time. I was gaining time and was feeling better about getting this done.
Around 13 miles was another rest stop. I took a bathroom break and found Megan. Yay! I had someone to run with. Although the path was not big enough for us to run side by side, she ran in front of me and we were still able to talk. We were able to hunt blazes together and keep each other going. The course was relentless - full of steep climbs and descents. It was good to have to someone there to keep me company and to keep the spirits high.
At the 18 mile rest stop we found Bridget. She had rolled her ankle badly, the ankle she broke earlier this year, and needed to drop out. Too bad. She was in the top 5 when it happened. My stomach was a little indifferent at this time so I took some Coke at the rest stop. It was the best tasting thing ever and certainly helped settle the stomach.
Mile 21 was our last rest stop before the finish. Megan and I had been catching quite a few people at this point and this rest stop was no different. I was amazed how long people spent at the stops. I mean, we were all carrying our own supplies, why do you need to stop so long? Anyway, we got out of there quickly and it was a long 5 miles to the finish. We had been told that the last part of the race was really tough and that was no lie. The climbs may not have been any different than the rest of the race but because you had already done 21 miles, they were tough. We mostly hiked the hills and I got to the point where I was using my hands on my knees to push my legs up the hills. I took two more falls in those last 5 miles and Megan took one really bad spill. By the end I was toast and Megan got ahead of me. Finally we broke out of the forest and onto paved road and it was only about 1/4 mile to the finish.