The Instant Classic Trail Race Recap

I almost wish I had been able to take notes along the way on Saturday; my memories were already graying out by the finish of the race. There were so many details along the way that I wanted to remember and even as I raced, I knew I would forget them by the end.

So let’s talk about the race itself. Do you love huge crowds cheering you on along the route? Do you love fast, flat straightaways? Do you love meeting and greeting at a big expo, the pre-race spaghetti dinner, getting freebies and a technical race shirt? Do you love tons of festivities, post-race beer, bands, and awesome swag?

If so, I suggest you go run another race.

Instant Classic was the antithesis of all the “big races” that are out there. It is relaxed, casual, calm, and cool. The MC called out the names of everyone celebrating a birthday on Saturday. She let Grace talk into the microphone (Grace being one of two little ones on site at the start) and made me instantly famous as “Grace’s Mom.” It was so fun and informal that there was no possible way to be nervous. I absolutely loved that aspect of the race.

I arrived in good time, around 7:30, unrushed and calm. Grace came along for the drop off, which wasn’t the plan, but it did work out nicely.
Hand in Hand
I warmed up very little, just jogging around a bit, some stretching, butt kicks, and whatnot. It was cool but not uncomfortable. I gave Grace my jacket I wore in and chilled out. I really did feel good, not jittery, not nervous, not worried, just happy to see the day finally arrive.

I took a GU Rocktane (wow, those really are vile, but I think it was effective) just before the marathon kicked off at 7:45. It was cool sending those guys off with a little cheer. The half marathon kicked off at 8am, and we were sent out in waves of 50, two minutes apart, and there were a total of 5 waves.
As I mentioned, Grace got to help the MC send us off. For the rest of the race, people would see me on the course and say “Hey Grace’s Mom!”
At 19 minutes on the clock, my wave set out. I was all smiles at the go. That’s because I had no idea what was to come. But before I begin my tale, I give you a gratuitous Cutie Shot:
Blue Eyes
Right at the start, it was perfectly flat, then we turned left and climbed the first of many insane hills to come. The route was excellently marked, if you like knowing that you have come .16th of a mile of the route at the top of the first hill. Don’t get me wrong; I was deeply grateful for the very well marked route, but it was amusing in the beginning to see distances noted like .07, .16, and .38 into the course.

There was no crowding or bunching, we all had plenty of space to move and find our way. We sort of zigged and zagged our way through the parking lot near the park pool for a while, and eventually went off road.

The Instant Classic is a trail race. Period. The only pavement we ran on was around the parking lot and road near the start and finish. The rest of it was on graveled fire roads and then trailed through the woods. I don’t remember a lot about the first mile or two. I chatted with other runners a little, but eventually put my headphones in and got down to business.

The closer we were to Beaver Lake, the harder the route was, which would figure. There were roots to watch out for but generally, the trails themselves were very easy to navigate. There were water stops every 2-3 miles and they were very well stocked, and the volunteers were absolutely wonderful. The first stop was right before the 3 mile mark and I stuck to water only as was my plan. I remember Mile 3 went into some of the best and most fun up and downhill trails we had, and Miles 3 and 4 were the most scenic of the whole route (which is quite pretty in general). For a while, I sort of tippy toed downhill with some other ladies I was sticking close to, but after a while, on a particularly steep downhill, I felt really good and was tired of tippy toeing. I wished the two ladies I had been following for 3 miles well and went balls to the wall straight downhill, praying I didn’t faceplant before the bottom. I took my first GU shortly thereafter.

Mile 4 had us RIGHT next to Beaver Lake. Right as I passed the Mile 4 sign, serendipitously, the song Four Seconds started on my MP3 player. Also about that time, we saw the first course photographer. I waved and was grinning because I felt good and the timing of the song made me smile.

For all that, trouble was brewing in the back of my mind. I was already feeling a little tired because the hills were more intense than I ever expected, and I knew I would be in trouble later on. I didn’t want to worry about how I would feel in 6 miles, so I mostly ignored it, but I knew already this was probably not going to be my day for a 2:30 goal.

It was just before Mile 5 that we came back to where we had started; the top of the Figure Eight that was our course was done. I got water and took a second GU; these were too close together, but those first miles had been pretty intense, and I don’t regret the extra gel. We crossed the largest bridge on the course and headed east. My memories of this section is a blur of pine trees, wider fire roads, and watching for the white signs with blue arrows to avoid getting lost. This section wasn’t as severely hilly, but it did have a gentle uphill slope for a long time. I remember a very nice gentle downhill for a long while at Mile 7.

I was getting fatigued now; I wasn’t hurting, but I was tired. I was now running with a group of 3 guys in their orange IC t-shirts on. They would pull ahead, and then slow, and then I would pull ahead, and this went on for a few miles. Beyond them were two ladies who had been in my wave wearing white shirts and full length black tights. I had been behind them the entire race, but I felt okay as long as I could keep them in sight.

Mile 9 blinked by. I don’t know what happened. I remember being so incredibly happy to see the water stop there because it had been almost 3 miles since the last one, so I took my 3rd gel since the start, and took on 2 waters this time. After that, I have no idea what happened to that particular mile. It was the last one I felt okay for. I screwed up the math in my head and got the idea that I only had 3 miles to go; maybe that helped make the mile pass swiftly.

It was Mile 10 where things started to fly apart at the seams. That was when I realized I had miscounted and duh, NOW I had 3 miles to go, but it was about 2:07 on my watch, and there was physically NO WAY for me to make that 2:30 goal now. I had known this more or less for a while, but this was when I genuinely acknowledged that fact. I wasn’t upset or demoralized by that fact, but at this point, I was in a lot of pain and it was hard to face that I had 3 more miles to go, and they weren’t going to get any easier.

Miles 10 and 11 were…bad. No getting around it. I was in a very dark place mentally. I had lost sight of White T-Shirt Ladies, and the Orange Trio of guys had broken up. Two took off and the third one was clearly struggling with a bad calf cramp and was far behind me. I was starkly and utterly alone, but I found that to be a blessing. I remember little of the route itself, but it was generally a long, slow uphill incline.

I came back to myself at the Mile 12 water stop. My brain got better, my attitude got better, and that was good, even if the rest of me was a ball of pain. I took my fourth gel, the one I packed only because a) it was the last one in the box, and b) it was a “in case of emergency, break glass” kind of thing. Well, it was an emergency, to my mind. I stopped longer at the 12 mile water stop than at any other. I took two waters and my gel. I said “Please tell me it is all downhill from here; and just lie to me if it isn’t.” One volunteer said she did think it was all downhill but another shook his head and gave me a look that said “trouble ahead.”

Mile 12 technically IS downhill. By heading back towards the lake, the whole landscape is descending towards the low point of the park. Lovely, yes? Yes, we lost elevation, but that last mile was so severely up and down with hills, it didn’t feel much like a downhill at all. Up and down, very steep hills, very steep downhills (to me). It was easily the most brutal mile of the race, even if it wasn’t any worse than those trails near the beginning of the race, just because I was worn out. That being said, I started seeing people again. I caught up to a woman I hadn’t seen before. I caught up to White T-Shirt Ladies.

We got to the bottom of a hill, hopped over a small stream, and headed up another big hill. Right in time, I looked up to see a second course photographer. Unlike Mile 4, I couldn’t wave. It might look like I am smiling, but that is the look of the once prideful being both startled and in pain at the same time.

There wasn’t much race left. I had closed to right behind the White T-Shirt Ladies, and once we crossed the bridge, I could see the finish. I dug down deep for whatever was left in the tank and from somewhere I found the ability to pick up the pace, just a little, and I actually passed those two ladies.
I believe they cheered me on as I passed, but I honestly don’t know.

That was when I spotted my family and my friend Christine over by the swings. I got very emotional when I saw them; particularly Christine whose attendance was a complete surprise.

I was nearly doubled over between the pain and the emotional surge, so I looked away and didn’t think about them again until after I crossed the finish line.

The MC was talking to me, the volunteer handing out medals spoke to me, but I couldn’t hear anything. It was very weird. I got a bottle of water, but I couldn’t really swallow much. I *needed* to get off my legs.
Christine and Grace reached me first. I crouched down even though I knew that was a bad idea, but I couldn’t resist the compulsion. Then, and I don’t even remember doing it, I just laid flat out.
Grace was highly amused by this. She brought me the “props” I bought a few days ago and got me looking decent for photos.
Feeling Better
After only a few minutes, I started feeling better. Smiles were back. Because I laid flat out on the ground, Grace had to do it too.
Little Parrot
I stretched, rested, drank my water and the Nuun Byram had brought me, and in a few minutes I stood back up.
Okay, so standing up hurt.
Team Kimmie
On Thursday night, Byram and Grace had gone out and gotten green t-shirts and iron on letters, and Mom, Byram, and Grace each had a “Team Kimmie” t-shirt. What an amazing man I married.

I spent about 10 minutes recovering, and went over to the food tent where they were serving typical post-race fare (bagels, bananas, and what not) and also, BBQ sandwiches. Um. No, I did not eat a BBQ sandwich. In fact, though I grabbed a quartered bagel, it was several hours before I was ready to eat it. We walked back to the van, up the first monster hill of the race, and waved and cheered to the 26.2 mile people who passed us along the way. A skinny Caramel Macchiato from S’bux was awaiting me in the van. And that was that. The race was over.

It was burned into my memory that I crossed the finish line at 3:06, and that was devastating at the time. Then I remembered to subtract 19 minutes from that. That would make my time about 2:47 (which I just verified on the Commonwealth Timing website; 2:47:30 to be exact). My goal had been 2:30, but I had allowed in my head for “anything between 2:30 and 2:45” (being my exact words some time ago) given that it was a trail race. I go between feeling thrilled with what I accomplished and a bit blue. It might just be post-race blues. No matter what, I am so glad I did this. I am so glad I chose this race. I am so glad I got to see the sights on the trails, enjoy the quiet of the woods, and I really want to do this race again next year.

My thanks to Team Kimmie who made it possible for me to train and do this. My thanks to the staff and organizers of The Instant Classic Trail Race for including a half distance and for the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and yet still very well organized event.

And thanks for following along the way with me.


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