Run and Reported on by Mandy Bundek!
I got up at 5:30 to start getting dressed, eat some breakfast, and pry the Boyfriend out of bed so we were able to leave by 6:15. We stopped on our way to Reading to pick up one of my friends so I have a little cheering section. Needless to say, the morning was starting out pretty chilly and I was having some second thoughts while the wind whipped through at the gas station. But the intrepid group pressed on and we made it to Reading, PA in plenty of time. I picked up my number and scoped out some of the course. I was surely not in DE anymore. Jagged loose rocks, steep inclines, and the cold wind were going to make for a fun run.
I lined up at the start in the back (there were 900 other runners who were much more serious than me) and I started at a good slug pace. The pack weaved around the roads before heading into the woods. When I finally made my way into the wooded area I was greeted with large incline... about 2 miles worth of steep climbing that I mustered through with some impressive power walking, using all 4 points of contact, and a stunning use of tree limbs to keep from pitching back down the trail. After reaching the top, I was greeted by a beautiful scene, Reading was below us and the clouds hung in the crisp air with so much ease. The wind was blowing a little and the gusts were chilling me a bit, convincing me to press on. After descending down the ridge, I reached a point where I could comfortably trot and did so with a lot of glee. I was settled into the back of the pack and happily chatted with some of my fellow back of the packers. The trail was a series of climbs and downhills, and the second "large" climb was actually up some steps, which added a little fun. After reaching the top, I crossed to road to the mouth of the next trail, stopping for some water and some candy. The licorice was a bit cold, but was a needed sugar boost.
I entered the start of the next set of trails and snacked while running through this portion of the race. All along the way were little signs with "inspired" poetry, some taunting us, others just funny. The trail offered many chances to climb over/under and I enjoyed the change in pace. We reached another steep incline, this one was over large flat rocks and loose dirt. It was a challenge, but offered a chance to rest from the running. After I finished the climb and a bit more time on the trail, I hit the second water stop. Here I found a fellow runner on the ground. She was in pain and was holding her ankle. She had a mild Achilles tear and raced anyway, really aggravating it. I got her foot propped up, packed it with some snow, convinced her NOT to take off the shoe and waited until the EMTs reached her. Two of the women who were running back of the pack with me waited and ran with me the rest of the way. They even walked with me as I enjoyed a frosty beverage at the Beer stand around mile 5.5. After finishing my carb-loading, we made our way through more logs, sharp rocks, and climbed up and over several rock walls. We then continued our climb up the side of a hill that was nothing but loose rocks and logs. We then came out onto the road the race had started.
We made our way around a little pond and back towards the finish. Before the finish we had one more climb to make, an almost vertical one up a hill covered in soft dirt and mud. I readied myself and went for it, making my way up the side using hands and feet and making it up the hill rather quickly. My cheering section was in full gear, yelling at me the whole way. I reached the top and waited for my running buddies who had been so nice to wait for me. Once at the top, we finally crossed the finish line. There were many goodies awaiting us at the finish and I ate my share of cookies, M&Ms, and a bagel. After I had changed and warmed up, My cheering section and I decided to head home, stopping at Ruby Tuesday's for a celebratory hamburger and fries.
I returned home a little sore and tired, but so happy I had run the race. It was a difficult race, but I had so much fun knowing that I was able to finish it. I am looking forward to attempting it again next year.
Amanda "Slug-Training for the RBC50K" Bundek