1. I can verify that it was indeed a large trail race, with an awesome contingent of runners from central PA and beyond (who must have formed the largest conga line east of the Mississippi once the race hit a single-track bottleneck).
2. I can also verify it was crazy, at one point ascending a 40% climb called S.O.B., that indeed made me both sob and curse the climb's bitchy parents. (Strava race summary here: http://www.strava.com/activities/134537808/overview)
3. The verdict is out, however, on "bone-crusher." Addie was my warm-up buddy, and she would both sob and curse SOBs if a perfectly good bone went to waste.
|She beats me in strides. And ties me in pre-race bathroom breaks.|
A gigantic thanks to all of the folks at Hyner. Your down-home niceness, badassness, and joy gave me the comfort to use the word "folks," which is saying something, considering I have lived in a city for 9 years and I'm not a cartoon pig. Also, a humongous thanks to Integrity Sports, an amazing company that made it possible for me to race away from home. We have a bunch more exciting race plans coming up--you'll be hearing a lot more from them :)
Pre-Race:The last few months have been really amazing, with some exciting developments. Most importantly, in less than 2 months, I am going to be moving, for good, to Palo Alto, California. Holy poop, there are enough commas in that last sentence to make an all-comma basketball team. They would handily beat the New York Knicks.
So Addie and her mom are both going to be California girls! Megan is the classy, Beach Boys-version, while Addie will probably be the trashy, Katy Perry-version. Sun-kissed fur, so hot, she'll melt your popsicle? Only time will tell.
|From a farm in NC advertising free pups to sunny CA. The American Dream, puppy version, prominently features poo.|
In other exciting news, I am incredibly fortunate to be a member of Megan's team now, New Balance Silicon Valley! We did 2 races together in NB gear--the Mount Tam Wild Boar Half Marathon and the Mile Run Trail Challenge, and both went really well (Mile Run was recapped by Running Times' awesome Justin Mock). Also, we are officially getting married on top of a Colorado mountain in August. Holy crap I am lucky to have her. Also, lots of sacred poo references in these last few paragraphs.
At Mile Run, we met Jeff and Bob from Integrity Sports, the race directors of that race and luminaries of the PA running scene. Afterward, we told them that they were the best RDs ever, and the race was amazing, which started a conversation. One thing led to another, and now we have an extremely cool partnership forming. Megan and I will have our first race as New Balance Silicon Valley/Integrity Sports runners at the Don't Fence Me In 30k in Helena, Montana on May 10! My general plan is to chase the La Sportiva Mountain Cup this summer, and to ride Megan's coattails at some other national races :)
|At Mile Run, the race followed a creek into a pool. We're going swimming!|
Work is also going amazingly. I am so fortunate to work with some of the best, most inspiring people in the world. Perhaps most importantly, though, they do not judge when, everyday after my lunch break, I smell vaguely of pee.
Side story: one day, I returned from my lunch run covered in sweat and looking like a zombie, when I saw my supervisor. He is a great runner, and is always excited to talk about training. As we are shooting the shit about the day's run, we get to the office side door, which is locked. I reach into my jacket to grab my keys, which are in a breast pocket that runs parallel with the zipper. Of course, I totally whiff on the pocket and grab the main zipper, so when I unzip to get the keys, I inadvertently rip my jacket off, immediately sprinting around the corner to correct my mistake out of sight.
From his perspective: normal conversation with employee. Employee suddenly reaches up and disrobes, exposing his nipples and belly button. Employee runs to bathroom covering self.
His response: "Sometimes you've gotta let it breathe."
Like I said, I work with incredible people.
|Puppy ears on Easter.|
Anyway, Integrity Sports brought me up to Hyner, a race with a rich history of epicness and a cast of characters that would also not bat an eyelash at spontaneous disrobing. Mom, dad, Addie, and I traveled to the race site, where I warmed up with the pup and tried to avoid looking up at the first climb, which looked to be in the stratosphere.
Best starting line sign: "It goes up 5,000 feet, and down 5,010 feet. It's a downhill race. Like Boston."
Race:With the prestige of Hyner, a bunch of fast guys and gals showed up ready to run. The first mile was on roads, and myself and 2 others went through in 5:10. The 2nd mile was rolling cliff-side single-track, and I tried to put in a few accelerations to open up a small gap before the first climb. At mile 2, a sign said "Humble Hill" with the caption "Abandon all pride ye who enter here." Dante's Inferno reference = shit was about to get real.
It went up. Straight the heck up. After 600 feet elevation in 0.4 miles, it leveled out for a tenth or two before hitting the iconic Hyner View climb. The next section was out of the trees, 0.55 miles and 800 feet of elevation gain. I felt surprisingly nimble, and emerged to the overlook (called the best view in PA!) with a few minute gap. About 100 spectators lined the course, and it felt like a Tour de France summit, just without the spectator in a Devil costume and the competitors with bacne.
|The race started on that road down there.|
Then it went down. Straight the heck down. 1.4 miles and 1300 feet later, my ears had popped a few times from the elevation change and my legs were officially mush from the descent. Holy poop I might not be able to walk until Thursday after that downhill.
With such quality runners chasing (a couple 14:30 5k'ers and a Solomon sponsored athlete), I was running scared over the next few miles, which traversed a rocky creek bed. The first creek crossing, I daintily scurried over a log to avoid getting wet. The second creek crossing, I did the same. The 10th creek crossing, I used rocks and did a two-step across. Then, a volunteer/mountain man brought me to my senses:
"If you're going to cross like that, you might as well curtsy afterward."
Touche, bearded person. Touche.
So on the 11th through 60th stream crossing (it seriously crossed the stream that many times), I clomped through the water like an angry hippopotamus. DAVID SPLASH.
|I'm a few pounds from race weight.|
After climbing for 500 feet in the rocky stream-bed, it turned up for 800 feet over the next mile. When I hit the next aid station, my feet were soaked and I probably smelled like a YMCA locker-room. I proceeded to accidentally dump Gatorade on my head instead of water. So at that point, it was mile 9 and I was a smelly mess with mushy legs. Less bacne than the Tour de France though. Little victories.
After a 1.4 mile, 1200 foot descent, the final big climb began. I didn't eat or drink during the race (other than the mix of Gatorade and sweat that trickled into my mouth from my forehead), and I felt surprisingly limber on the uphill. The next 0.8 miles climbed 1000 feet, with the final 200 yards up the infamous SOB. I have never seen anything like that climb in a race, and I slowly ascended hand over foot.
I flopped onto the summit like a beached whale, gasping for breath. The screaming volunteers motivated me to wiggle my flippers and get back to my feet. "You're amazing!" the boy scout troop screamed as they dumped water on my back. "Scraddlepopaghaghaahagd I love you," I responded, before continuing on down the rocky road ahead.
|At this point, going down a rocky road was as good as the ice cream. Which is in the top 5 things in the entire world.|
The rest of the race was full of downhills that were beautiful and rugged. They were the Bradley Cooper of downhills. A volunteer with a walkie talkie told me the gap to the next runner was 15 minutes, and I kissed them passionately. Or maybe I just dreamed I did that. Either way, I wanted to, even if I spared them the beached whale looking, gatorade/pee smelling tongue.
I crossed the finish to lots of cameras flashing, and one extremely happy puppy. Addie sprinted to me, jumped on my chest, and started licking my face, just as my calf started cramping. Those finish line pictures will probably be the best representation of our relationship.
Afterward, I hung around with the amazing racers, volunteers, and community of the area. The Hyner 25k earned its reputation as an incredible race, and I am so lucky to have been able to race it representing Integrity Sports and New Balance Silicon Valley.
You guys are awesome! Thanks so much for reading, and for everything over the years. I owe you all a ton, for everything :)
P.S. More details to come, but if you got this far, I wanted you to know about my next running-related endeavor! Over the coming months, I am going to start Some Work, All Play (SWAP!) coaching. SWAP! will aim to train a small group of athletes/adventurers to be the best they can be, exercising joyously and recognizing that while most everyone has bigger things in life (like work and family), it is still amazing and life-affirming to accomplish your goals, whatever those goals are. SWAP! will provide training plans and support for life's adventures, at almost no cost (because who am I to charge for this stuff). If you are even a little bit interested, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Thanks for being amazing everyone :)