Saturday was my 30th birthday. I’ve never been a big birthday celebrator, but I wanted to do something special this year. I’m not exactly the partying/go-to-Vegas type, so a weekend of outdoor adventures was much more my style.
My birthday weekend kicked off Friday night with the Chase the Moon 12-hour relay. A group of blogger friends and I did the race last year (recap here), and three of us, along with two new team members, returned this year to try to defend our title as champions of the five-person relay.Though winning would be a nice bonus, my main goal was to run 30 miles over the course of the race, because running enough miles to equal your age is a totally normal way to celebrate.
I’ll post a full race recap once the official race pictures are available, but here’s the Cliff Notes version: we thought we won but took second, due to some miscommunication and a teammate getting lost;
I ran my 30 miles;
and the course was beautiful, especially at sunrise!
Even though we didn’t win like we thought we did, running 30 miles and hanging out all night with four awesome women was a pretty darn fantastic way to kick off my 30s… especially because Mary bought me cupcakes. I had cupcakes and pancakes for my birthday breakfast. Hashtag noregrets.
To continue the weekend of me-celebrating, Jordan and I originally planned to head straight from the race to the mountains for a night of camping, Earlier in the week, though, I found out that my bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding was in, so I had to schedule a fitting for Saturday afternoon. Instead of heading right to the high country, we went to my brother’s house to borrow his shower and then ran a few errands.
By mid-afternoon, still running on zero hours of sleep, I was getting a little (ok, a lot) loopy, but a 30-minute catnap as we drove to the mountains left me feeling remarkably more alert. We camped just outside Golden Gate Canyon State Park, which was beautiful. Campfire + camp stove cooking = perfect birthday dinner.
Naturally, the refreshing effect of my car nap wore off fairly quickly, so we crashed pretty early. A quickly-deflating air mattress had never felt so good.
We hadn’t planned much for Sunday, as I wasn’t sure how tired and sore I’d be after running 30 miles. To my pleasant surprise, I wasn’t very sore at all, probably because I’d taken my sweet time and run slow and easy each lap and had breaks in between. We were both pretty sleepy, though (Jordan had crashed in the back of the car Friday night while I ran), and we lingered over our coffee at camp, so we didn’t get a very early start on our hike, but we were okay with it.
Once we’d packed up camp, we drove back into the park and went for a five-mile hike (Horseshoe Trail to Mule Deer Trail to Black Bear Trail and back to Horseshoe. I definitely recommend this loop if you go to Golden Gate Canyon). Enjoy this photo dump from the hike.
Not long after we took those pictures, some sinister clouds started moving in, so we picked up the pace a bit and didn’t stop for more pictures on the way back to the car. Our timing was perfect: we had just enough time to get off the trail and eat our PBJs before the rain started. Win.
The best birthday weekend ever ended with a drive back to Denver, where we returned that deflating air mattress and stopped at my best friend’s house to meet her new baby, then headed back home.
If the first weekend of it is any indication, 30 is going to be a pretty darn good year.
This post is a little wordy. For a quick review of the race itself, scroll to the bottom.
A few months ago, via Twitter, Logan started trying to convince Amy and me to run this crazy, all-night trail relay called Chase the Moon. Though the thought of running trails at night scared me, I decided that it’s good to do scary things sometimes, so I agreed to it… especially after we assured one another that none of us were, in fact, serial killers (none of us had met in person at that point). And so, Team Cereal Killers was born. Later, we managed to talk Aimee and Brooke into joining the team, so we moved into the five-person division.
Last Friday night, Team Cereal Killers met for the first time, ready to take on Chase the Moon. Logan, Brooke, Amy, me and Aimee. And our cereals, of course.
The race started at 7 p.m., so Jordan and I left home around 3:30, planning to meet the team between 5:30 and 6. As we drove, rain started pouring down. As it rained harder and harder, I got more and more nervous. I never run in the rain… because it hardly ever rains here, and when it does, it passes quickly. This storm was a typical quick-mover, thank goodness, so by the time we all met up, put up Amy’s and Brooke’s tents, and took a group photo, the rain had slowed to sporadic spits. By race time, it wasn’t raining at all. It was, however, humid (to me. Logan, who lives in D.C., thought it felt delightful).
I was our team’s first runner, so at 7:00, I lined up at the start to listen to instructions and the National Anthem. And just like that, we were off! I started WAY too far back, which meant I spent the first mile or so weaving, which is never good (but which I always do, somehow). Eventually, the crowd thinned, and I settled into a comfortable pace. My plan was to run nice and easy, at long run pace, since I was counting my two loops as my usual long run.
And then I hit the first aid station at mile 3.7, and they told me I was the first woman through. That’s when Competitive Cassie came out. I didn’t care that there were still over 11 hours in the race. I was first right now, and I was gonna stay first through the first loop. And this is why I can never do a race as a training run: I am mildly crazy.
I picked up the pace a little (the long downhill stretches helped). Since it was still daylight, I also got to enjoy some gorgeous views of the sun setting on the foothills and the city below. No, I did not take a picture. I was WINNING, remember? Before I knew it, I was back at the start, where I handed off the baton to Aimee, and she took off.
I changed out of my sweaty clothes, said goodbye to Jordan, and spent the next several hours hanging out at our little camp and getting to know my awesome teammates. Aimee was back before we knew it, finishing her lap in the dark. We realized, as she passed us unrecognized, that identifying our teammates in the dark was nearly impossible. The next few runners on our team came in shouting, “Cereal Killers!” so we’d be ready. In hindsight, that’s probably not a great thing to shout as you come in off a dark trail in the middle of the night…
Aimee handed off to Logan, who handed off to Amy, who passed the baton to Brooke. I have no pictures of this, because it was dark. All the pictures I attempted looked like nothing. When Brooke got back at around 3:30, it was my turn again, so off I went. I knew my second lap would be much slower than the first because of the whole darkness thing, so I told myself to just take it easy. My Garmin beeped at mile 1: 8:35. Not too bad, I thought.
Then, at mile 1.3, I tripped over a big nothing and fell flat on my face. Awesome. I broke the skin on my knee and filled my water bottle cap with mud, but I wasn’t hurt. I assumed that was the universe telling me to not get cocky, so I slowed down considerably and paid closer attention to my feet. Thankfully, I had no further incidents, and I actually enjoyed running in the dark. It was quiet and peaceful (but there were other runners out there, so I felt safe), and the full moon and city lights below made for some pretty sights (on the rare occasion that I looked up post-fall).
I finished my loop in the slowest time I’ve ever run ten miles, and my team told me that unless I wanted to run again, we were done. The race directors (and website) had originally said they’d cut the loop down to 10k between 5:30 and 6. Since none of my teammates were up for another 10 miles, they had asked the race directors when the loop would be cut down, planning to wait and run the 10k loop. They were informed that the course wasn’t being cut down after all. Since all of us are training for other races and none of us were dumb enough to risk pushing too hard on another 10-mile loop and getting injured, we called it quits after 61.8 miles and 10 hours.
Somehow, even quitting early, we managed to win the women’s five-person division (there were only two other teams in our division), so all of us except Aimee stayed for the awards (she had an hour’s drive home and needed to get there before the lack of sleep caught up with her). The medals glow in the dark. So do the race shirts. That’s pretty nifty.
In a nutshell…
Like any race, this one had pros and cons, but I think the pros far outweighed the cons. Here’s a quick summary of my opinions on both:
The course. It was a pretty course, not at all technical (a major bonus for a night run), and very well-marked. Orange paint, ribbons, signs, and glow sticks marked the way, and anywhere you could possibly get lost, a volunteer was stationed to keep you on the right course. I have the worst sense of direction in the history of directions, and even I had no trouble staying on course. Also, it was cool to look back and see all the little lights from headlamps bobbing along below.
The volunteers. These people were amazing. They stayed up all night, too, but I never even saw one yawn. They were peppy, encouraging, and ready to help with anything.
The support. Water, Gatorade, and snacks were plentiful — more helpful for the solo runners, I’m sure, but nice for us relayers, too!
The solo runners. Seeing people of all ages and sizes running for 12 solid hours was inspiring. The solo race winner (a woman) ran over 70 miles in the 12-hour race. She is amazing.
There were a couple of negatives, but any inaugural race is bound to have some hiccups. I’m sure the race directors will work them out for next year.
The washing-machine style loops. Odd-numbered loops were run one direction, and even-numbered loops the opposite. I understand why they did it this way, but it got a little confusing in the wee hours, and I really didn’t like scooting over as I met people in the dark. I was afraid of a twisted ankle. This is not a deal-breaker, though, especially since that’s just my opinion and I’m sure some people liked it.
The last-minute distance change. This will be a really easy fix for next year — either they’ll do the cutdown to 10k, or they won’t advertise that they will. It just threw us off because everyone was on training plans and had certain mileage planned, and it was frustrating to have those plans foiled. Again, not a deal-breaker, at least not for me.
Would I do this race again? Maybe. I definitely prefer daytime running — I loved seeing the scenery on my first loop and didn’t love the undivided attention on the trail in front of me on the second. BUT… next year, the race is July 31-August 1. August 1 is my birthday. That means that if I ran three loops, I’d turn 30 while running 30 miles. And that might be too cool to pass up.
Would you do or have you done an all-night run or relay?
Want to be on my team next year and ring in my 30th with me?
Wow, I can’t believe Week 6 of marathon training has already come and gone. And I can’t believe that race day is two months from TODAY. Time is flying!
Here’s how last week’s training looked:
Monday: AM: 12.1 miles with 8 at goal pace. Goal pace was still hard, but it went a ton better than the last GP run I attempted, so that was encouraging. PM: About an hour of full-body strength training
Tuesday: AM: 9 miles easy PM: 30 or so minutes of core, stretching, and foam rolling Just planking. And sweating.
Wednesday: AM: Downhill cruise intervals. I did a 2-ish mile warm-up outside, then hit the incline trainer at the gym for 10x1000m with 200m recoveries, then cooled down outside. 10.5 miles total
PM: Another short core/stretching/rolling session
Thursday: AM: 8.2 easy miles over the river at sunrise with a billion birdies (that’s what the black spots are, not dirt on my phone) PM: 45 minutes of full-body strength, in my basement this time because I could not get myself motivated to hit the gym.
Friday: AM: 5 miles, slow and easy, just to loosen up before that night’s Chase the Moon relay
PM: Lap 1 at Chase the Moon, 10.3 milesI started too far back. This is my “Get out the way” face.
Saturday: AM: And I do mean “A.M.” I started running at 3:30 or so and did my second 10.3-mile lap. I was really tempted to do another lap but decided that was stupid, since my stomach was upset and I’d run 25.6 miles in less than 24 hours Team Cereal Killers: Logan, Brooke, Amy, me, and Aimee. I promise I will write a recap soon; I’m waiting to get the official race pictures. But Amy’s is up, so you can read hers!
Sunday: Rest. J and I took a nice long walk, which felt incredible on my tight legs, but otherwise, I just chilled. And it was glorious.
Totals: 65.4 miles, some strength/stretch/etc., too little sleep
This week is a recovery week. I have one tough workout and a 18-20 miler scheduled. The rest are slow, easy, and shorter-than-usual runs.
How was your training week? What’s next on your calendar?