I love Altamont in that sick way that climbers love hills. I love to ride it on my bike, and I love the challenge of running it as well. But that was years ago, way before I got sick. This year marked the first year since 2012 that I was able to actually run Altamont. Since Upstate Ultras announced this race in 2015, I have dreamed of doing it, but simply wasn't strong enough to take it on. But finally, I felt enough like my old running self to attempt to tackle this beast. Lauren and I ran the entire course during training and I had a fabulous run. Of course that training run consisted of stopping at the summit to rest and regroup, stopping at the turn around to rest and regroup, stopping at the summit again to rest before finally descending down the mountain. It was also about ten degrees cooler than race day. So foolish me went into this race with a wishful time in my mind that I thought I was capable of. I also had a time in my head that I thought was a bit more realistic and reasonable, but I started out the race running a pace that would get me my wishful time. Big mistake.
Climbing the mountain right out of the gate was hard. I tried to settle in, but it is hard to do this when you are climbing for the first three miles. By the time I reached the summit, I was pretty excited and tore off down the back side of the mountain like the devil was chasing me. This is where most people make a mistake; the downhills really trash your quads and then you have to turn around and run back up all those hills you just came down. I was one of those people. When I reached the CVS, my Garmin showed close to seven miles, so I knew the course would be a bit long. I tried to knock out one mile at a time, but man was it hard! When I hit the "wall," a straight up hill about a quarter of a mile long, I realized that I could actually walk faster than what I was running. So I walked. As soon as I started walking I could feel my calves and quads. They hurt! At the top of the wall, I started running again, but I could tell that today was not going to be my day. While my time was still on track, I knew I still had two more miles of climbing before I could get a break. Trying to reach the summit was tough. I was hoping I would reach the top before my watch hit two hours, and I barely made it. Relief! Now it was downhill all the way back to the finish! Hallelujah! I could make up lost time and not hurt so much!
I was so wrong.
Trying to run down the mountain was almost as bad as running up it. My quads announced they were finished; my calves agreed. I felt my left foot start dragging the ground at times and I got nervous that I might actually fall face first. Instinctively, I found myself fighting gravity by leaning back into the hills and trying to slow down, a huge no no in downhill running as this takes more energy and strength than letting gravity do the work for you. I really wanted to cry. I couldn't wait to get off the mountain! But my misery was far from over since I still had to run down a frontage road in the sun and then run an entire lap around the park before crossing the finish line. When my Garmin hit Mile 13, I was still on the frontage road. What?????!!!! How far was this half marathon anyway? Shouldn't it be 13.1? Crossing into the park, I had nothing left. Any sort of time goal I had was gone; my only thought was making it to the finish. I crossed the finish line in 2:26, and immediately looked at my watch. 13:57 miles! No wonder I thought I would never make it! I really thought for a moment that I might vomit, and my legs started to lock up. I wobbled over to a nearby bench and sat
there stunned for several minutes. My head was foggy, my stomach was heaving, and my legs were cramping. I cannot recall hurting this bad in a long time. But I had finished. I had conquered Altamont....sort of.
As if I had anything left to give at this point, I had to walk a half mile walk uphill back to my car! It is a wonder I was not hit by a car because I know I was weaving all over the road. I actually debated stopping and lying down in the grass. But I kept walking and by the time I got to my car, I actually felt somewhat better. My legs weren't feeling completely like jello, but I still felt like I might pass out. When I finally looked in my car mirror, I noticed my entire face was covered in salt. I looked like I had rolled in a salt pile. No wonder I felt so bad! I guess the heat (50 degrees is not good running temps for me) and lack of proper hydration (I had about four sips of water the entire race and no gels) took its toll. That explains why I tanked so hard coming down the mountain.
Up next, I turn to some flatter run courses before cranking up the tri training and racing some local triathlons.