Now I remember what I like so much about this running thing.  A few months ago, I heard, through the grapevine, about a weird, sort of invitation only trail race at Stone Mountain.  I emailed the guy who was heading it up.  We were vaguely acquainted from Continental Divide since I run the finish line there and always see everyone at least once.

Derek is an interesting character to say the least, so to say that I wasn’t sure what to expect is an understatement, but the race was great.  As I wrote earlier, I have been struggling with a sore SI joint, a sore hamstring and a general pain in the butt, which most days, seems to be improving, but only in small increments.  Running has not been as much fun as it had been.

I decided no expectations might be the best plan.

The weather on Saturday was perfect, mid-50’s at the start.  The trail was, as always, beautiful, and Derek, God bless him, had purposely set up stops along the way where we had to venture a little off the direct path but we would also get to take in the most stunning views.  He had us get out timing chips, which were actual wood chips attached to our bibs, marked by volunteers.  That way, we were absolutely guaranteed to see Stone Mountain in all its glory.

I have to say that I surprised the fool out of myself by running one of my better races in a long time.  I ran well, I felt strong, I beat some pretty good people, and I had FUN!  It was such a welcome relief.

As we were climbing the steps to the summit, one of the guys ahead of me commented on the incline.  I told him the fun part was coming.  He seemed briefly relieved and said, “Downhill, I hope?”  I told him I was just being sarcastic, but that yes, eventually, there would be a downhill.  This was a good reminder to me that already knowing the course is a really good thing.  Stone Mountain is a home away from home when it comes to running, and I’d already been out to run the course twice before.  Sometimes, it’s helpful to know what lies ahead.

Overall, I placed 4th in the women’s division and was 8th (?) overall.  And I won an awesome trophy with a handmade drool deer attached.  Again, thanks to Derek and his creative genius.

My only faux pas was at the summit.  When I rounded the corner, I saw three water jugs sitting along the fence.  If there were people around,  I was not aware.  Racing here, people.  I’m not focused on other human beings (unless they are about to pass me or I am trying to pass them) or paper cups. 

I grabbed a jug, opened it and began to drink only to hear a freaked out volunteer saying, “No, no, no, no!  There are cups,” at which time he produced the cups. 

I felt sort of bad because I just assumed we were doing it Surry Central style and drinking from a communal jug that may or may not have amoebas swimming in it– I mean, c’mon, have some guts, right?!

I apologized, passed on the cups and took off again while other folks were nice and hygenic and waited for a cup.  It should be noted that only two of those “clean” people beat me.  The message here is don’t wait for cups.

I was able to really open it up and run a lot faster on the way down (though I’m a bit beat up now– the bike may be my friend for a couple of days), and I felt really good about the race.  Every time I run one, I fall more and more in love with trail racing.  It has never been my strength, but the fun of getting to run in the woods possibly outweighs everything else.

We even got personalized bibs with our Drool Deer names on them.  Earlier in the month, I had received a cryptic email from Derek with two phrases in quotations.  I had no idea what they meant.  They must have been possible nicknames for the race.  After getting no response from me, he chose what turned out to be my favorite, “Just Cut It Off,” which sounds vaguely obscene, but he included an explanation with our packets, and I found it was actually pretty appropriate, which is sort of amazing since he really doesn’t know me that well.  The explanation for my name was “Whether it is the way she treats twisted ankles, broken limbs, or the Continental Divide finish line, she is the end of the line for all things painful!”  Awwww, thanks.

And thank you for an awesome race experience.