Sometimes you end up doing impractical things because you get sweet talked into them by your incredibly awesome friends. With that being said, don’t ever do a race without training for it. Fortunately, I had a great time and didn’t get hurt…but as I drove west a few weeks ago for the Sky Island 25K trail race at Davis Mountains State Park, I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself in to.
After a great night’s rest filled with incredible thunderstorms (that made it sound like I shouldn’t have been sleeping in a tent), I woke up on Saturday morning with barely enough time to do my race rituals before lining up. I was convinced that I’d lost it by registering for this thing without training in the first place and was preparing myself for the fact that I was about to endure a ton of pain or quite possibly even end up hurt.
Breakfast was simple, yet delicious (breakfast tacos are the food of champions). Honestly, I NEVER eat breakfast before any race, but since the start wasn’t until 9am I decided I’d better eat up. After eating, I grabbed all the things I needed and headed to packet pickup. Yes, I still needed to go to packet pickup and the race started in 20 minutes. No need to rush and act prepared since I didn’t feel prepared at all.
When I got to packet pickup, they had the awards for the top 3 males and females displayed. I stood there and thought to myself, “Wow…what a great cheeseboard award! I sure wish I was racing today because I’d love to take that home with me.”
After getting my timing chip and bib bracelet (so much better than regular bib numbers!) from packet pick up, I went to meet up wth some of my friends before the race began. As we were standing around, I kept reminding myself to stay cool, “Keep calm dude, relax…you’re not even racing.” I started to feel a lot of the nervous energy around me, which usually takes a toll on me and can literally drain me for the race before I even take my first step. Not this time! Instead, I just kept it real, focused on my breath, and remained calm.
I heard the 2 minute warning from the race director and the crowd started to line up. Again, cool cucumber me didn’t care where I was lined up at because it really didn’t matter. My longest run prior was 8 miles and I had just returned from a 2 week long trip and didn’t get to do my usual training. There’s no way I wouldn’t finish, but had my mind made up that I was going to be smart and pace myself.
I have no idea if there was a bell, horn, or a gun that went off, but the herd took off so I knew it was go time.
Let’s chat course, shall we? It was a 2 loop course that was up and down throughout. The first two miles were definitely up, up, up and then eventually the up and down part began as we explored further into the park. My whole goal was to feel out the first loop, and then stay steady on the second.
As the runners started to spread out, I was left with a few runners as company for the rest of my first lap. I was having a great time and was vaguely starting to be reminding of why I love trail racing. The community in the trail world are some of the most absolutely amazing people you could meet…so friendly and genuine.
Any who, so back to the race. As I started my second loop, I ended up running the majority of it alone. It is such a neat feeling…you get to really know you and see what only you are capable of. I continued through the course, reminding myself of how much I love the sun and that I can tolerate any heat. Let’s get real…the course was fully exposed and the late 9am start in the desert means it will definitely be hot at some point during the race.
I remained calm and made it to my last rest stop. I was about to stop and consume about 2 oranges worth of orange slices, but then the volunteers told me I was the 3rd female in the 25K. Ex-squeeze me???
I asked them again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating (hot!!) and they reassured me. So, I quickly grabbed just a few orange slices because now it was go time!!
Of course, as I was running and shoveling orange slices in my mouth, my little friend self doubt came to join me. “You aren’t winning shit Ashtyn…you haven’t trained. Kiss the cool cheeseboard goodbye.”
No ma’am self doubt, no ma’am. Not winning this time! I literally had only 1.5 miles left. So, I hung out with my other friend the strategizer, “Ok Ashtyn, just don’t let another girl pass. Stay steady, breathe, and break. Go team!”
I kept looking at my watch. Since I now knew the course, I knew the time to kick it into high gear was coming up. I was so excited! “Woo hoo n shit!!!” I said in my head as I hauled tushy over the finish line.
The race director congratulated me, gave me my awesome medal and kick ass trucker hat and told me she was pretty sure I was the 3rd place female. I started to get all giddy inside. The award ceremony came, and they were right – I got 3rd overall female, a sweet new cheeseboard as an award, and was off for a little more exploring before the 6+ hour drive back to Austin.
As I got to reflect on my weekend, I really appreciated the entire experience I had. It was such a beautiful place, I got to meet some great new folks, and I got to test my capabilities. Although it was one of the most unreasonable things I have done in quite some time, it was also one of the most unforgettable.
Oh, and dear cheeseboard…I <3 you.