Saturday, February 2, 2008

Official Trinidad to Clam Beach Run race report!

"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

That quote pretty much sums up this race. My body wanted to quit. More than once, in fact. But my mind, well, that darn thing is pretty stubborn when it wants to be. It wouldn't let me stop, despite all the pain and trepidation I felt during today's race.

I arrived in Trinidad a couple hours before the race was to start, as last year was awful trying to get a parking space. This year, there was nobody around. It was storming out (pouring rain and wind that chilled to the bone), and I was a little nervous that the race had been called off but no one told me. I found a prime parking space and then had to hit the potty.

I went back to my truck and listened to the radio as the rain got stronger. I was looking for other runners, but there was nobody. What the hell? After about 30 minutes, I finally spotted some people in running clothes, so I felt a little better. Either the race wasn't canceled, or they hadn't gotten the memo, either.

So after sitting in the truck for 1 1/2 hours, I ventured out in the storm to walk to the starting line. There were many more runners here by now, and the closer I got to the starting area, the more I saw. At that point, I was so glad I was wearing wick-away clothing and my huge rain jacket (it's very lightweight and long, which was nice). I also had a hood on the jacket and a baseball-styled hat, which helped keep the pounding rain off my face, for the most part.

At the starting area, a couple hundred people were waiting. Many of them were crammed under the steel canopy at the adjacent gas station. We cheered the runners doing the 8 3/4-mile race, who started earlier and were passing by our starting area. I met up with my acquaintance, Jeremy, and his wife Lareesa. It seems the only time I see him is at races, which is funny since we live in the same small town. We chatted for a bit and then it was time to line up!

After some brief instructions over the loudspeaker, we were counting down from 15 to one. Then we were off! We all had to run over the pad to get our timing chips started (and chips turned out to be a good thing, since I accidentally forgot Garmin at home), but there were so many of us in one area and the pad was so narrow that I wasn't able to run for a few hundred feet. Once I got past all the walkers and slower runners, I let loose! The first two miles actually felt really good. My body and mind were working together, passing other people and enjoying the beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean below.

In Mile 3, there was a ginormous hill. I mean, this thing was daunting. Almost everyone within my sight was walking. I slowed way down, but kept running. It was a struggle, to be sure. Little did I know the real struggle would be coming up within a mile.

After the hellacious hill, there was a long downhill portion. It was a great break for my legs and lungs. Then we turned a sharp right and headed down a really steep hill. Someone said "There's the river!" I knew we would have to cross the Little River at some point, but I thought it was further along in the race. We had only gone three miles at this point. I wasn't worried at first, until I saw the rope line and Coast Guard swimmers they had brought in to help us across. People could only cross three at a time, and had to hold on tight to the rope line or risk being swept away into the ocean. The recent rains had caused the river to swell and get deep and fast. And of course it was frigid. So I stood in a line of anxious runners, waiting to get to the rope line to cross. According to a nearby runner, it took us more than 10 minutes to get to the front of the line.

So I am finally up to cross the river and I am trying to stay calm. I am not a swimmer and don't like water much, particularly if it's cold. I put my right foot in and all I could think was "Holy S#*@!! THAT IS FREEZING!!" The I put my left foot in and swore in my head some more. Soon the water was up to my belly button and I felt like I couldn't breathe. It was that damn cold. I told the nearby Coast Guard guy that I am afraid of water and don't swim, and he walked with me. That turned out to be a good idea, because every step I took it felt like my legs were being knocked out from under me by the swift current. It was so scary. It felt like an eternity had passed before I reached the other bank. But I finally did and was so relieved. But now I had to run another 2 3/4 miles with numb legs.

After the river, we ran on the beach. It was more of the same: rain, wind, cold. All I could see were some bodies in front of me, the vast expanse of sand and ocean and fog in the distance. I couldn't see the finish line at all. For some reason I didn't realize we were that far away still. As I continued on, it felt like this beach run would never end. I ended up running with a girl who ran the three-mile race last year (which is also what I ran and didn't include a river crossing). We encouraged each other to the finish. We agreed that this beach portion was tedious, at best.

But we finally spotted the finish and started running a little harder. Of course, my legs were still slow to respond and everything from the waist down was soaked and frozen. She told me to smile while we crossed because maybe we'd get our picture in the paper. LOL! So we both smiled as we finished, then gave each other a high-five.

I was so glad to be done. We wandered over to a bonfire on the beach and warmed ourselves for a minute. Then we hopped aboard the bus that would take us back to Trinidad to get our cars.

I knew I didn't PR, but I didn't really care. I was just glad I finished. Pretty much everyone -- except the people who were in the lead and got to the river first -- had slow times because of the wait to get across the river. My time would have been at least 10 minutes faster had I not had the setback. I think I will do this run again next year, but now I have a better idea what to expect. And hopefully, the river won't be as high!

Official race stats:
Distance: 5.75 miles
Time: 1:17:03 (it would have been 1:07, possibly faster, if not for the river. Bah!)
Pace: 13:24 minute/mile

*163 out of 291 runners
*12 out of 22 in my age division
*75 out of 166 female runners


Becky said...

I am surprised they didn't cancel. Good job Michelle, I am REALLY proud of you for crossing that river. For everyone else, here is a link to the local newspaper about the race.

Mary Gee said...

Wow. That is amazing that you had a cross a raging freezing cold river!

Carla said...

Yes! I was in the same race, and was probably on the beach about the same time you were, also with numb legs that wouldn't respond, sideways wind and rain in my face, reflecting on what a windy and desolate place Clam Beach is, and wondering if it would ever end. The aftermath was SO fun that it wiped all the pain out of my memory though, and I can't wait for next year. My time also wasn't great, but I feel proud that I was out there. I'm proud of you too!

J~Mom said...

WOW Michelle!! That is quite a race!I am so proud of you for sticking it out, crossing that river and finishing strong! Great job!!

Sonia said...

Congrats!! That sounds like quite the experience!!!

I love the quote you put at the beginning. It is definitely mental at some point in that kind of race.

You did well chicka!

Non-Runner Nancy said...

OMG, that sounds crazy and cool and scary all wrapped up in one. We must be nuts doing stuff like this and then writing about it. :D Great job. I'm glad they had a fire for you to warm up.

Wes said...

Holy crap! I can't believe you had to cross a freezing a$$ cold river!!! O.M.G :-) Way to grit it out and get'er done. You must be so proud of yourself!!! Congrats!!!

Running Jen said...

Great job Michelle! I don't know what I would have done if I was faced with crossing a river, never thought about that before.

Congrats on finishing with great time!

Pokey said...

What is up with that ~ a RIVER??? Holy cow - you definitely showed some mental resolve on that one....way to get it done!!