The gun goes off, and I immediately fall into stride with a friend. We share an adventure as we gab about life and running tales, the miles click off with ease. The trails are beautiful and technical, yet I float across the rocks and appreciate the views. We pick up the pace in the closing miles but it feels effortless. We cross the finish line together, having shared the perfect run.
It's a dream, and I'm fortunate enough that it's come true a few times. This Saturday, I once again had that near-perfect race experience at the North Face Endurance Challenge - Northeast Regionals. Being only two weeks out from Massanutten 100, I opted for the Bear Mountain 50k race and hoped it would restore my confidence after my disastrous Bull Run Run.
(Early miles along the course)
(Kristina and I, mastering the art of synchronized running)
As the miles ticked off, I was amazed at how comfortable I felt with the pace. Kristina's an incredibly talented runner, and I kept wondering if eventually I wouldn't be able to hang with her as she would effortlessly drift off ahead of me - selfishly, I wanted to enjoy her company as long as I could without slowing her down.
(Kristina and I, taking things way too seriously)
We had some great fun along the way - sharing miles with some of the 50k men along the way. It was probably annoying to them that Kristina and I were gabbing like we were at a coffee house, but I hope we provided a bit of entertainment with our crazy stories. We also enjoyed a few 'fans' along the way - some of the racers near us had support crew out there, so we would see them at each aid station. One was taking photos of us the whole way so we felt like we were being stalked by the press. Another cheered super loud through the woods 'Yay, First and second women' the first time we saw her - I corrected her that we were 'CO-female leaders'...so the rest of the time she cheered 'Yay, top women!'.
(Kristina and I, enjoying some sweet trails)
In the last 10 miles, we simultaneously hit our stride, as we ran over the sections that have crushed my spirit in previous years. How easy the climb up Timp Pass can seem if you've properly paced your effort on the day! We passed a few of the 50k men as we worked our way up the field over the last few climbs and down the last rocky decent (which, again, was a flowing river this year). I could feel that the pace was heating up over the closing miles but it felt great to stretch out my stride and run strong so late in the race. I think we were both just so excited to be feeling good after 27 miles and to be sharing the company of a friend, so we leaned into the downhills and flew.
(Kristina and I, finishing together for the win)
(Female Champions, post-race)
Kristina talks about our run here: http://www.farnorthendurance.com/kristina-folick-welts-on-defending-her-title-at-the-cayuga-trails-50/ and here: http://dangergirldh.com/?p=13714.