Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Priest Lake Half Marathon

There exist only a handful of races that grant you a challenging course, scenery to enjoy, a barbecue for post-race empty bellies, and a refreshing lake to jump in after a run well done. Ken Eldore and his phenomenal team of volunteers have provided all of this through one of several events I had the opportunity to attend this year. Last year I raced the Triathlon held the last weekend of August, and this year I ran the half marathon put on the second to last weekend of September. What an experience! 

The race begins right at Hills Resort, a cute little place with a great view out to Priest lake. I remember making this our destination as a kid when we spent the better part of a weekend camping just about a mile west at Luby Bay campground. We'd walk along the trail that borders the shoreline, picking huckleberries as we went. Once at Hills, we'd saunter into the small gift shop for an ice cream cone. 

On this day, however, dad and I had a few miles to cover. Because I'm training for a marathon, "the plan" had me running 16 miles, which meant Maci and me headed out for a quick 3-mile warm up before the race officially began. We made it back in time for me to refuel and meet up with the parents. Maci hung back with mom, and dad and me toed the start line (well, we placed ourselves in the middle of the pack) in preparation for a long run. 

We ran a quick out-and-back 5k on the same gravel road we'd be running on during our last 5 miles of the race. It served as a great warm up (for me, a second warm up) for the long 1.5-mile uphill into the woods. I watched my pace quickly slow from 8:15s to 9:30s. If I had not had to watch my footing so closely, I would have noticed we'd climbed up high enough to overlook a beautiful part of the lake. Once at the top, however, that much-anticipated aid station took much of my attention away from scenery. 

My Timex watch was set to beep at me every 30 minutes so I could down a GU gel. I used every aid station for water and a chance to catch up to dad. He does a great job of beating me up every stupid hill, so it came as no surprise when he scaled that 1.5-mile hill like it was a bump in the road. It wasn't until mile 5 that I caught up with him sipping water at the aid station. From there, we flew down the other side of the "mountain" at a clip far faster than I would have liked considering the big rocks and loose footing that served to warn me of the potential for twisting an ankle. 

The aid station at mile 8 appeared sooner than I had anticipated, and dad and I continued our run back to Hills on a relatively flat, if not slightly downhill, gravel road. Quite honestly, I felt great. Yet dad's right calf began to cramp up. For me, it's hard to witness a guy I've always considered pretty stoic to suddenly be slowed by a muscle cramp. He yelped with surprise and pain each time it spasmed. His gait changed from that of a fluid runner to one that more closely resembled a man walking on pins and needles. 

We slowed our pace. He consumed another gel. All to no avail. I advised him to walk a short distance, but dad made it quite clear he would not resort to walking. He motioned me forward, so I ran the last two miles to the finish without him. I heard Maci before I saw her, as her howls of protest that mom would not let her pummel me resonated above the crowd. When I spotted mom, I couldn't help but notice my pup. When she wags her tail, her entire body wiggles. I can't help but smile at her enthusiasm, wishing I could have shared my race experience with her, too. 

Dad crossed the finish line in just a couple minutes after me. He guzzled the Coke I put into his hands and chomped on the pretzels I offered. We quickly made our way down to the shore, changed into our bathing suits, and waded out into the water. We quickly wished we'd brought our wetsuits, too. Despite the brisk water temperatures, I relished the fact that I'd finally made it out to Priest Lake after a long, busy summer of training and racing. 

Congratulations to other Tri-Fusion teammates who raced: Matt Beard and Emily Williams, Merissa Duncan, and Matt Siegel (who, after he finished running the marathon, proposed to his now-fiancé, Ashley Earls.)

Enjoying ourselves after the race...the right way. 

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