Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hillbilly Half: Second Stop in the Sportiva Mountain Cup

My level of anxiety was considerably less going into this race than for the Moab Red Hot three weeks ago. For one, no extensive traveling was involved. Flying to a race comes with its own repertoire of worries: carry-on versus check in, lost luggage preparation, liquids in baggies, delays, germs…the list goes on. No, for this race, just a 2 ½ hour drive south the day before. Can’t decide what to pack? Bring everything. No problem.

I also had the opportunity to check out the course two weeks ago. Knowing the course prior to a race always relieves a significant amount of nerves for me.  And, to be honest, I was so worked up over the Moab Red Hot that I was still too tired to be that emotionally strained.

Don’t worry; I was plenty nervous the morning of the race. The Hillbilly Half is a tour of Capitol Forest, just outside of Olympia, WA. Runners, volunteers and support crews gathered at the Rock Candy Mountain Trail-head in mild weather conditions. The Mountain Marathon took off at 8:00 a.m. and the Hillbilly Half thirty minutes after. During my warm up it started to rain a little, then a lot.

Into the woods. Photo from race volunteers.
We took off, climbing up and down a gravel service road for the first mile and a half before disappearing into the woods. Within the first half mile, I was alone. A group of La Sportiva men took off ahead and I had dropped everyone behind. Being alone in a race is always a tough spot. You have to be careful to not become complacent and lulled into a pace that you only think is ‘fast.’ You must constantly check in and monitor your effort. Luckily just before 4 miles I started to catch up to the marathoners and their encouragement pushed me onward. That is, until I came up to one woman.

The encounter was on a single-track trail with a foot deep of mud water on one side. I approached the woman and said “coming by!” I don’t know if she heard me, but she didn't budge. I came up on her, put my hand lightly on her shoulder and said excuse me with no hostility at all. Her response was shocking, completely baffling and made me question humanity. She dropped a couple F-bombs in conjunction with some name calling. I told her there was a race going on (which I thought was obvious?). Apparently she was f***ing jogging and I disturbed her peace and tranquility. Maybe she just started and her endorphins had not kicked in yet. Whatever the case, she scared the crap out of me and I ran the next mile in disbelief of what just happened. I was scared she was going to get me disqualified, spread rumors about what an awful human being I was or trap me into a dark corner after the race.

I came to the turnaround which opened back up on to a service road. Within seconds of the 180 degree turn, I saw that there was a woman right on my heels. I immediately ditched the idea of having a GU and took off for the 6.5 mile sprint down the mountain. Then as fate would have it, the crazy woman was coming up the road. As I passed, she called me the worst name in the history of vulgar language. I am too embarrassed to even insinuate what it was. Just think about the worst name you could call somebody and then kick it up a notch. I couldn't believe the hostility of this woman. It was a definite ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’ moment. I never got angry. I think I was too stunned and hurt. For a moment I felt tears well up into my eyes, but shook it off because I had a race on my hands for crying out loud.

In the heat of the chase.
I ran as hard and as fast as I could. Terrified of another traumatizing encounter, I apologized profusely for getting in the way of runners coming up the mountain and thanked those who stepped out of my way. When I popped back out on the service road for the final mile and half descent, I knew the 2nd place was right on my heels. Unfortunately, I didn't have the speed or the strength to hold her off. Sigh. Well done, Paige!

Regardless of the psycho woman and getting passed with a mile to go, I am happy with my performance. I was only 2 minutes off Megan Kimmel’s course record and I just felt good. Now I have a solid 6 weeks of training before my next race; plenty of time to get in quality miles, become stronger and faster and hopefully be able to hold off my competitors in the last mile.

Stereotypical Pacific Northwest weather continued to rear its ugly head after the race. The wind was blowing sideways, tents were being blown over and everything and everybody was soaked. But that didn't stop all of the wonderful volunteers from feeding us deliciously warm food and cheering in the finishers. Thank you!

I ran to the car and changed into a completely different outfit hoping to disguise myself from the profane spewing monster should she show up at the finish line.

A big thank you to Guerilla Running and race directors, Rachael Jamison and Craig Dickson, for staying calm, cool and collected in the midst of chaos. (See their FB page for stories of flying bullets, confused logging trucks and a stolen car chase.)

Thank you to everyone at La Sportiva, Ian and Everett for all of your support. Congratulations to all of the fine performances by the La Sportiva ambassadors; way to represent!

Thank you to Seven Hills Running Shop for helping to sponsor the race and for the $50 gift certificate- awesome!

Thank you to all of my other sponsors: Trail Butter, Terrain Gym and Align Chiropractic


  1. Maria, it is really too bad to hear how one sour person really affected your race experience. I was really impressed in general with how most all of the other runners were very encouraging and did their best to move out of the way when I was going back down the trail. How the jogger acted had nothing to do with you and was a reflection on herself and not you.

    1. Thank you, Bret, I appreciate that. Congratulations to you on the win! That was a smokin' fast time for the conditions we had-- very impressive! Best of luck to you the rest of the year.

  2. This was exciting to read, I felt like I was touring the trails with you, upset with you, wet with you haha. That day was awful weather-wise. Yesterday I did a long run with Lydia & Kyle & I was trying to cross the street to get to their apartment, but I saw a bus a few hundred feet ahead & thought I'd give the bus driver the respect of not having to break check a j-jogger. I stopped & he guns it in his city bus, then he points to his head insinuating, "Way to use your noggin..." And I kind of just wanted to punch the bus. This is nothing like your sourpuss jogger, but oftentimes I find there's this disconnect between the "real world" and "us," upon which everyone thinks we're off kilter & that they're in the right and the best know-how. I don't much care for this. Not a lot of people abide to trail etiquette & I'll never wrap my head around it, but to think, they just don't understand the culture...I don't consider myself a mean person necessarily, but if I were in that race, I would have tripped someone out for you. And I always will.