Feeling stupid (still!) and glad I am alive this week. All that follows is the result of one crazy conversation a few months ago:
Deb: “They aren’t having the twenty valley half marathon this year, they are doing four races instead. Should still be really fun with the wine and food and all.”
Me: “Eh. Most races have wine or beer and food, plus I really should worry about my marathon training.”
Deb: “If you complete the 20 valley challenge you would get 3 medals…”
Me: “oooooo…….. okay! You know I can’t resist a pretty shiny medal. Let’s do it.”
Oh the fools we are.
So in the week leading up to it there was much packing and unpacking. I wanted to be ready for this wild weekend. Only the prepared survive and all that. The Twenty Valley Challenge takes place over two days outside of St. Catharine’s in Canada (Ontario). Day one is a 5K or 10K, day two is a 3K or Half marathon (13.1 miles or 21.1km). The gold challenge that gets you the three medals is the 10K + Half Marathon combo. You get the gold challenge medal and the finishers medals from the two races. So that is what I was in for. 10K on Saturday and Half on Sunday.
DAY ONE – Saturday
Saturday I spent most of the day finishing my packing and pacing nervously around the house. I was in serious nervous procrastination mode. I finally took off at about 3pm for the hour drive and the 6pm start time. I got there in about an hour and got all my stuff together. I found Deb and Bryan who were running too and we cruised around the tables until it was time to get ready. Not many tables to visit but the wine offerings looked delicious. The challenge was part of what they were calling the “Run, Wine, and Dine Weekend”. So there was wine and food for after the races.
Race time was approaching and they sent the 5Kers off with a bang. Lining up in the sun I was dying. It was unbelievably hot and humid. I was really nervous and boiling in my tank top. Not a good sign. The race started and off we went, UP A HILL! The first 400 meters took us up an incline that was not very kind. Anyway, chugging along and taking in water I was definitely feeling some of the heat. Around mile 2 we entered the grape fields. Well, the lack of rain was apparent in the dusty fields. We trampled over the uneven trail raising dust clouds that reeked havoc on my asthmatic lungs. The turn around had to be soon because people were coming back at us, generating even more dust. Out of the fields and into tunnels under the QEW is where we found the turn around. Dark and wet the tunnel held a cave troll guarding a cone that was the turn around point. Upon defeating the troll and stealing his cookies (not really) I dashed back out into the grape fields. Several unshady stretches and limited water-stops later, I was faced with a downhill slope towards the last turn. I stopped and waited for Deb and we ran it in hard together.
Deb was facing heat trouble and I felt awful too. We promptly jumped in lake ontario to cool off. It may have been the best swim of my life. We headed back to the stage to listen to awards and the band play. We even stopped to get changed out of the wet racewear.
There was only 300 or so people in the 10K so we figured we might have a shot at an award (i.e. she would have a shot since my age has speed demons for sure). Well, in my age group there were only two names announced for 1st and 2nd so I walked to the stage and was told there was no third person in the 20-24 bracket. I told him I was 22 and that if there was only two other people then I guess my slow butt came in Third! The woman presented me with my 3rd place medal and congratulated me. To say I was happy was the understatement of the year.
We headed home soon after that since we couldn’t drink the wine (bad idea before the next race). I drove home with a huge smile and my first age group award. [I did find out later that there were other people in my age group, but they placed overall and don’t double awards]. After all, I made my age group, tomorrow couldn’t be too bad right? I might even do it again since there was only 130something people in the half.
DAY TWO – Sunday
Sunday I was oddly not nervous. Not at all like the nervousness I was having on Saturday. I guess I was still on my age group high. I just resigned myself to a hot, humid, and slow half marathon. I honestly had no time goals in mind, because I was just focused on surviving. By the time I reached the race area around 7am (it was a 8am start) the heat was cruising up to 90 and the humidity was out of control. I was chugging water and nuun like I was dehydrated. I packed extra endurotabs in my race pouch and made sure my bottle was full and had nuun already in it.
The race started again with the hill. This time I slow jogged and Deb walked it. I hadn’t even gone a mile and I was dying. Back through the fields and the dust and the cave – I felt hot, but not dead. After the cave and coming out of the vineyards on the other side we started onto the streets. Well, I don’t know who designed this course but they were not prepared for the heat. It was hot asphalt with no shade for the remaining 10 miles of course. The one area of decent shade involved a three hill grouping that made me want to die. The hills went up and down at very steep angles. Then to make it worse, the turn around was right on the other side, so you had to do the three hills again! Then climb another incline. After the shaded inclines it was back to flat black asphalt with beating sun. No clouds, no cover, no nothing. My shins had been acting up from the day before so i was wearing my compression sleeves before the race. It felt that my calves were on fire and it just travelled up my body in waves. I honestly kept thinking my shoes were going to melt to the ground. I was alternating walking/race walking/ and running as fast as I could. I tried to run as fast as I could across the open areas so I could stay out of the sun. My legs just wouldn’t hold me. I lost Deb before the hills of doom to a nature call and figured that it was possible [after 2 more miles] she wouldn’t catch up. Approaching the last two miles I faced a horrible decision. My legs were toasted and my heart and lungs were both sore. Some elephant had sat on my chest and wouldn’t move. I came to the last water stop and had a choice: get in their vehicle and DNF or start running until the end. There was no hope. If I stopped to walk I would for sure fall down. I raced myself down as fast as I could, passing Susan whom I had become acquainted with in the delirious heat a few times (also a crazy gold challenge participant), desperately trying to reach the finish line. I felt like I would explode but at a dead sprint I crossed just 23 seconds over 3 hours – the course time limit. I death gripped my two medals and collapsed onto the bench. I guzzled and then stumbled to a tree to wait for Deb to cross. She came several minutes later with Barry who was also having trouble with the challenge.
Some food and one near barf session later I was thinking clearly again. Something along the lines of “I am such a moron” and “I NEVER want to do this again”. So as we sipped our mimosas and wine and talked about other races I just felt glad it was over. I was happy to go home and nap in A/C. Not to mention showing off and taking off my 4 medals, them suckers were heavy!
Top Left - 10K Finisher Medal
Top Right - Half Marathon Finisher Medal
Bottom Left - Twenty Valley Double Challenge gold medal
Bottom Right - 10K Third Place Age Group bronze medal
I went home, had my celebration pizza and “beers”, and promptly slammed my knee into my dad’s truck hitch whilst catching my dog. I told you I was an idiot!
Other Recaps of this crazy race: