Race Report: Shadow of the Giants

Of course I would follow up a race in which I played it smart and everything went right, aka Quicksilver 100K, with a race where I did everything wrong and was, well, estupit.

This is Farin being cocky: I did a 100K and got third overall female, I did a half marathon the next weekend and got second overall female, so if I sign up for this 50K last minute I might get first overall female… right?

I debated registering for Shadow of the Giants, but when I went to check the registration there were only 3 spots left. I impulsively took one of those remaining spots. I didn’t have anyone to watch my kids during the race, but those details could be figured out later.

Thankfully, fellow Wascally “The Princess” offered to go up the Green Meadows with her 5-year-old daughter and turn the race into a play date. (Thank you, again!!!)

Training was minimal, but I figured I hadn’t lost that much fitness, with the previous two races and my regular 6-ish-mile runs with my group.

This is where things got estupit. I asked to borrow a new Nathan vest from another fellow Wascally so that I could try it out. I loved the pocket design and it was so light and soft, I thought it would be the end to my hydration pack chafing dilemma.

Then I decided to eat something I had only had on one other occasion (and not right before a race), the night before the race: tempeh. Ginger-curry tempeh salad with green apple, grapes, cashews and sweet potatoes from Green Chef, to be exact. My stomach has been fine with my plant-based diet, so I figured tofu’s cousin would be fine, too.

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The morning of the race I had to wake my kids up at 4:50 a.m. to get on the road by 5 to make the 75-minute drive. It was early, and the race started at 7 a.m., so I figured coffee was a good idea. Never mind that I NEVER drink coffee before a race.

I also brought along an energy gel I’ve never tried before.

Estupiter and estupiter…

Parking is limited, but I arrived early-ish to get a good spot. But the person directing traffic pointed up a hill instead of down the hill, where I had parked last year. I was confused but assumed that all of the parking had been taken and I was SOL… the kids and I would have to make the trek down. I parked my little bitty Ford Focus in a treacherous area where my tires were slipping and I had zero clearance underneath my car. (Yeah, something is probably damaged under there.) My son complained as we made the long walk down to the start/finish area, lugging our picnic blanket, chairs, snacks and toys. I was irritated to find SO MUCH PARKING along the road. We got settled in and, sure enough, I was asked to move my car because it was “blocking the road.” How could it be blocking the road when, clearly, three vehicles had gone around it and parked in front of me? Ah well. Thanks to help from Team Instinct teammate Mark, my little car and I made our way down the hill to a much better parking spot.

(I include this in my Race Report so that next year I remember to go straight down the hill.)

By this time I was flustered, didn’t have any of my stuff ready, still had my pants and jacket on, and hadn’t visited the toilets. And I had 6 minutes left until the start.

I dashed to the restroom, where I realized that my stomach was NOT OKAY. I don’t know if it was the coffee, the previous night’s tempeh, or both, but I knew I was in for a rough race.

I stripped down to my shorts and singlet, grabbed my borrowed hydration vest and headed toward the front pack of the starting line. Then I dashed back to my kids’ picnic spot to grab my phone and headphones, 1 minute before race start. I had planned to listen to downloaded podcasts throughout the race, expecting to be lonely.

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Quick pre-race selfie with Mark!

With a countdown start, a mob of us made our way down the road from Green Meadows outdoor school/camp and then up the fire road where my car had been precariously parked before I moved it. On the way up the road, a box of caffeine-laced chocolate balls popped out of my vest. I had to turn around and run like a salmon against the current to retrieve it. This vest was losing points with me, already.

Climbing the first two miles wasn’t terrible, but no matter how much I tightened the vest, it wasn’t sitting correctly on me. This is what I get for trying something new on race day!

The next two miles involved lots of downhill to the first aid station (an out-and-back).

In a move that could never, ever in a million years be replicated, I ran behind Mark Dorman on a downhill and his shoe kicked up a tiny pebble directly into the back of my throat. Miraculously the rock didn’t hit my teeth, my eye or any other part that could’ve hurt or caused a lot of damage. Nope, instead it went straight into my mouth (I was breathing really hard) and my gag reflex stopped me from swallowing it. I coughed and the piece of gravel came rolling down my tongue into my hand. I had to sprint to catch up to Mark to let him know that he had inadvertently almost killed me. Ha!

The vest was TERRIBLE on the descent. It bounced so much that it tore up the skin on my collarbone within minutes. I couldn’t ditch it soon enough. I left it with a 38-weeks-pregnant woman who was manning (womanning?) the aid station and assured me that she would be at the finish area “sometime.” (Thank you!!! My borrowed pack, including my new Samsung Galaxy S8 and $140 headphones made it to the finish line and back into my hands. Ultrarunners/volunteers are the BEST!)

I carried a gel, a packet of maple almond butter and the box of caffeine chocolate balls in one hand and my Ultimate Direction body bottle in the other hand. Dammit, why hadn’t I just carried a handheld in the first place? Estupit.

At that point I was in third place and it took me several miles to catch up to second-place Katie Burns. In the meantime I dropped that stupid box of chocolate once and had to go back and pick it up. Why, oh why, didn’t I move those chocolates into a baggie instead of that dumb box??

I ate the chocolate and the gel within minutes of each other, just so that I wouldn’t have to hold them anymore past the next aid station.

Runners were becoming more spread out, which was a good thing, because all of the downhill was jostling my digestive system. I’m not ashamed to admit I was farting — loudly — as I ran. I had to look around to see if anyone had heard. If they did, I couldn’t see any indication on their face. Maybe they were just embarrassed for me.

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I caught up to first-place Nicole McManus around Mile 10-ish, I believe, shortly before the water crossing. Last year I remember the water coming up to my knees, soaking my calf compression sleeves and allowing them to keep me cool for a few miles. This year, as Nicole and I came crashing through the water together, I was in up to my hips and I think she slipped and fell in a little farther. Hooray for a wet year!

I lost Nicole around Mile 14. I slowed down to fart, honestly. And then my right hamstring got extremely tight. With a shorter stride, I just couldn’t catch up with her again.

The second half of the race was spent trying to go as fast as I possibly could without injuring my hamstring. I ran very carefully and was disappointed to see my pace getting slower and slower as my watch dinged each mile.

My only consolation was that the course is BEAUTIFUL. I pictured my kids enjoying their time with their friends and exploring in the woods. I couldn’t wait to get back to the finish area!

Yup, definitely having fun!

My goofballs!

I knew the podium probably wouldn’t happen, so I had to come up with a new goal. Obviously today wasn’t my day, being all Farty McGee and with my tendonitis flaring up. I decided to just try to cut as much time off of last year’s finish time (5:12) as I could. To be more ambitious, I’d go for sub-5-hours.

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Coming up to the touristy part…

Last year I loved the little touristy Shadow of the Giants hike, which is about a mile or so. There’s an aid station just outside of it that you hit twice. This year, I wished the tourists had stayed home. There were too many around to let one rip, and it really hurts to hold in farts. That mile felt SO LOOOOONG.

I don’t particularly enjoy the two-or-three-mile stretch that comes after it, either. We pass by the Calvin Crest Christian Retreat camp area on a stretch of fire road. It’s hot and boring and flat. I had ditched my phone and headphones with the vest, so I had to entertain myself with songs (or at least, one to two lines of songs) that kept repeating in my head. I was so ready for this race to be OVER!

During that stretch, the podium slipped away from me as Michele Van Ornum passed by. She tried to rally for me to push with her, but I didn’t have it in me. She warned me that the next girl was right behind her, so I tried to stay on pace and put distance between us. Elizabeth Ochoa finally caught me at the last aid station, three miles from the finish. So we meet again, fifth place! I came in 5th female last year, so I guess we’ll make it a tradition.

The last 3 miles seemed to take forever. Although they were downhill, I was favoring my right leg due to my tight hamstring and couldn’t fly the way I usually do on descents. It was exciting to hear the crowd and a bell ringing as I got within earshot of the finish area.

Sprinting through the last stretch of single-track through some trees — hopping over a few that had fallen across the trail — I crossed the concrete bridge and rounded onto the asphalt near the volleyball court. My son saw me and waved his little bottle of Gatorade. “Mom! I got this Gatorade!”

Then my daughter came out of nowhere and said, “I’m running in with you, Mom!” and she sprinted to the finish line by my side. Thanks to Juanito capturing that moment on camera, I’ll remember the race with joy.

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I didn’t break 5 hours (missed it by 30 seconds), but I did PR on the course. And I had stopped farting, thank goodness.

A volunteer gave me an ice cold towel to cool down with, Coach Brad popped an open grapefruit Sculpin into my hand, and I ate two bowls worth of vegan soup from the cafeteria. My kiddos told me all about their adventures while we waited for Big Baz’s post-race “magic” raffle, and then they took off again to go play with their friends while I enjoyed my beer, the awards ceremony and the company of all of the other awesome ultrarunners.

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I had done everything wrong, race-wise, but being in such a supportive running community made the day turn out right.

Results: Here.

Strava: Here.

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Added to my collection of wood from Elevation Culture!

Behind-the-scenes: The kiddos apparently had their own fun. (Photo credit: my 7-year-old daughter)

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2 thoughts on “Race Report: Shadow of the Giants

  1. Tempeh gives me gas too, LOL. This was great, congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

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