I should start by telling you that I've found my new all-time favorite race: The Jay Ultimate XC Challenge. The course was phenomenally difficult and 100% fun. I feel like I just got back from summer camp and I can't wait to go back next summer. Anybody willing to join me? I'm not sure if this description will encourage you or discourage you, but here goes...
My dad was there to take photos of the event and support us along the way and he was able to get some fantastic shots. The fact that the course starts with a steep uphill climb was a clear warning of what we were in for.
After about six miles (and a long stretch of brook running) we made it to the first bag drop, where we could pick up or drop off gear such as socks, shoes, clothing, and food in our drop bags. Mark and I got a bite to eat, did a quick sock change, and headed up the mountain.
It took us about 45 minutes to make it to the peak, and it was an exhausting climb. I wish I could say we ran the whole way, but much of it was brisk walking. Here we are just short of the summit.
If there's any doubt of how high or steep the climb was, this picture puts it in perspective. Yes, we were in the clouds at this point!
We grabbed some food and fluids at the top, and then started the long descent.
The descent was followed by bushwacking, insane mud, lots of brook running, a stinky swamp, and finally the refreshing river crossing we had all been looking forward to. First, Mark...
You can't tell from the pictures, but Mark beat me to the river crossing by several minutes because of a mistake on my part. I knew there was a cut off on the course, so if we didn't make a certain aid station in six hours we wouldn't be allowed to finish the race. Well, I got confused about which aid station was the cutoff and even though we had made the cutoff by a full hour and a half, I accidentally scared Mark into running extra fast to Aid Station #6 at 24 miles. I finally caught up with him at the aid station, ate a LOT of food including some amazing blueberries, and changed into fresh shoes.
On our way out of Aid Station #6 we were exhausted but still had nine miles to go!
After another LONG hill climb that seemed to last forever we made our way through some farm fields and my dad captured this nice shot of Mark and me.
At this point the heat of the day and the length of the race were really wearing us down. It was mile 28 (five miles to go) and we were taking copious amounts of water, salt tablets, and boiled potatoes dipped in salt. I know it sounds gross, but it's wonderful when you've been running for seven hours!
The most exhausting aspect of this race is that the course is relentless. It never gives up. It never gets easy. My dad captured this shot of us about two miles from the finish. You can see the high grass and weeds, but what you can't see is the knee-deep mud. Just when you wish you could catch a break, the course throws you another curve ball!
After eight and a half hours we finally made it across the finish line and Mark and I finished together.
What a great feeling of accomplishment (and relief!)...
And my poor feet! I still can't believe they carried me 33 miles...