I arrived at the venue (the Reading Liederkranz) a little later than I wanted to, but still with plenty of time. Pulling into the parking lot, I spotted a tall, well-built man with a monkey on his back--yeah, a literal monkey hanging on his back. Normally this would cause a puzzled look and a questioning attitude as to why someone would dress so silly at a race event; however that was merely one of my friends, and it instead required me to roll down my window and yell at him. (That is the best way I know how to treat my friends when I see them.) For this was no ordinary man, this was the MF Honey Badger, Brandon Martin, himself.
I quickly parked the car and found my way into the building to look for the registration table, but I first found The Crew hanging out doing Crew things--Luke was throwing massages around like they were hotcakes, getting everyone ready and warmed up; Shayne was celebrating her birthday and decided to start it by supporting The Crew with warrior princess chants; and Colleen was graciously accepting to hold anything and everything she could fit in her bag for the sake of the masses. I think it's awesome that they made it out just to cheer us on.
Then it was race time and, while heading out to the start line, I learned that the Honey Badger was not the only one who liked to have a unique appearance. I walked and talked to a man wearing a very short pair of shorts (they might have even been underwear) dressed with a Thor/Viking kind-of-look--very stylish if I may say so. I then opened into a faster warm-up jog wondering if I would get stuck behind him on a hill climb at some point in this race. I quickly discarded my imagination into the nearby stream and started to get focused on what was coming: 7 miles of hills, spills, and running.
At the start line, The Crew met up again to take some sweet pictures pre-race and then we got ready to give it the business. Ron Horn came on the bullhorn and started to describe the race in the best vague, evil way he could, only promising that we would hate him a half-mile in because there would be a giant snow bank to climb. Before I knew it, it was time to race and I realized that when he said go, I wasn't prepared...
I felt like I was caught with my pants down when he started the race. I had my headphones in one hand, sunglasses in the other, and gloves on. I watched as the pack leaders took off like bats out-of-hell and I wanted to do the same, but I didn't have my headphones in, Strava started, or music playing! As everyone started chasing the finish line, I was stuck at a slow trot fumbling around getting my phone and music squared away. As we reached the bottom of the hill, we came upon a bend to the right that started into the trails. I finally got secured at that point, hit play on some All That Remains, and it was game time.
I made up for lost ground and entered a comfortable sprint through a wide flat section of the trail, but quickly found myself faced with what Ron was so proud of putting in our way. It was a steep snow embankment that was exactly that--not a trail at all. Everyone fanned out and found their own way to the top where there was a parking lot, but before you could get access to this parking lot, you had to climb up over all the remaining snow from the blizzard that was so elegantly placed there by a plow truck. A nice cherry-on-top of the mountain, I thought. I made it over to see The Crew cheering me on and a smug look on Ron's face because he knew he had taken everyone out of their comfort zone. I, however, felt alive.
The next liquid stop was at 4.2 miles. I use the term liquid because I'm not all too sure this could be called a water stop. I saw vodka, beer, and there might have been something else, but it was the last thing I wanted in my body. The lactic acid was having a good old time and didn't want any visitors at the moment. In hindsight, I regret not throwing a beer back, because at what race do they offer you libations as a complimentary notion for running? Not too many--haha!
After the libation express, I found my stride. This was a very technical trail that required caution on my part at a few places to make sure I didn't break anything. I felt like the next part was fairly safe and I opened it up, finding a very comfortable race pace. There was a nasty hill climb waiting for me after what felt like a few good miles of comfortable running. I slowed down pretty hard coming up the final hill climb and my body let me know it wasn't happy.
Once at the top of the trail, I found myself on a road and, for the first time in the race, I actually knew where I was which, in turn, mean that the race was coming to an end. I tried downshifting and finding a faster gear, knowing that the finish line and a cold beer were waiting for me, but my body had other plans. I was hit with a nasty side stitch cramp in my abdomen that crept up on me slowly and painfully. It was manageable until I broke the treeline into the park where we started, which was a shame because I had started to make up a lot of ground and found myself passing people until the cramps started setting in.
As I ran through the park, I was unable to run straight up and down and I could see a few people ahead of me, but I wasn't going to catch them. I was passed right before the final small hill climb before the finish line. The guy who passed me honestly didn't want to--he was very encouraging and tried to motivate me to move faster--but my body wasn't having it.
Nevertheless, I trotted across the finish line at 1:06:33, only 1:33 short of my goal time, and 7th in the 0-29 males. Overall, I was satisfied with my performance. I then grabbed our cooler with beer and joined the cheering squad, welcoming everyone across the finish line with a high-five, verbal cheering, and a cold beer!
We had a great turnout of friends for this event and I was excited to see everyone there spilling sweat on the mountain! Thanks for a wonderful day Crew; and what a damn good way to start Super Bowl Sunday!
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