Life’s a hilly bitch //^\\ Lithia Loop Marathon review

I just want to start out by saying I’ve had a crazy month since my last race review. In fact, if I wasn’t so darn exhausted from finishing the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon yesterday, I’d be screaming and/or crying right now.

Real quick rundown:

The camper I bought a few months ago, with intent to live out of, started falling apart. Like, the entire structure was just decaying.

I had to sell it for a couple thousand dollars less than what I paid, but was honestly relieved just to see it go. Far worse than the financial loss, I had to let go of my hopes and dreams while watching my home crumble into decrepitude before my eyes.

While I was trying to figure out whether I should fix or sell the damn thing, I interacted with a LOT of sketchy characters who were trying to rip me off. Even the dude I finally sold it to creeped me out so much that I had to carry a canister of bear spray to go deliver it to him.

If you want the full story, we can grab a coffee/beer/coffee stout ice cream float sometime.

I’m grateful to have friends and family to help me out during this difficult time, but the whole situation has me feeling like…

Pretty damn depressed
Pretty damn depressed. Hug me.

So, if you’re wondering where I’ve been- I’ve totally withdrawn until I figure something out.

Thanks for understanding.

BUT throughout my 20ish year journey through the peaks and valleys of manic-depression, I’ve learned that running is a much more pleasant, healthy and socially acceptable way to work through the angst than many things I’ve tried before.

Originally, I registered for Lithia Loop because the timing was perfect, just over one month after Headwaters 50k, and I’ve wanted to run this race for the past two years. But as race day approached, I started freaking out.

Two nights before the marathon, I jolted awake in the middle of the night, panicked and convinced that I had to get up and run RIGHT AWAY!

I looked at my cell phone- it was 1:41 a.m. WTF? I was having a running nightmare.

I dreamed that I showed up so late to the race, that the first finishers were already starting to come in. That’s pretty damn late.

From talking to other runners, I knew Lithia Loop was a tough race course, but that’s not enough to give me a stress dream about it. I think my mind was just channeling all the chaos and insecurity into something tangible.

And really, distance running is an excellent metaphor for pushing through depression. If you can muster up the energy to fake a smile and convince everyone that you’re okay when all you want to do is crawl back into bed…. you’re already an endurance athlete.

Anyway, I started feeling better when I learned my friend Lee Ann registered for the race and offered to give me a ride the next day.

Me and Lee Ann at the starting line
Me and Lee Ann at the Lithia Loop Marathon starting line. Don’t you love my clever Dirtbag Runners hat?? Make running dirty again!

But my insecurities resurfaced when I got into the truck and we started chatting about how challenging the race was going to be.

“Shit,” I said, after sharing a bit about how crappy I’d been feeling, “this might be my first DNF.”

Oh, well. It had to happen some time.

But we arrived at Lithia Park early enough to get a decent parking spot, pick up my bib and make at least three trips to the bathroom.

.:: I always eat really spicy hot sauce the night before a big race to make sure my guts are all cleared out while I run::.

Works like a charm.

The weather was perfect and the fall colors were like POW! In your face!

Autumn in all her fiery glory!

The race volunteers and runners were mega friendly, and I was feeling great. It was the first time in a few weeks that I’d gotten out of bed before the sun came up, and I was instantly reminded why that’s always a great thing to do.

Running though the hills, sucking down crisp mountain air in an absolutely gorgeous park while surrounded by a pack full of other crazy motherfuckers doing the exact same thing was exactly what I needed.

It was, literally, the best medicine.

Thank you mother nature, the pacific northwest and the running community for always being there. Much love.

So yeah, the race was really hard. Take a look at the elevation profile here. It’s basically up, up, UPPPP hill and then down, down DOWN!

This was only my second official, timed marathon, and my first trail marathon. I’ve done challenging 25 mile training runs in the mountains, and three 50k’s, but the only other marathon I’ve run was Napa Valley in 2010. My time for that one was 4:43:16, so I hoped to beat that time.

I deliberately didn’t wear my Garmin watch because I thought it might be easier for me to really listen to my body without it. I’m not sure if this worked.

I finished the marathon in 5:08:10. I don’t know how I feel about my time, I’m honestly stoked just to have finished at all.

I was slow as molasses moving up that heavy ascent over the first 8 miles. Uphills are my weakness, and this race greeted me with a punch in the face. But it was really pretty, and the  roads were easy on the feet.

As I climbed, I remember thinking to myself, “this race is going to hurt my Ultrasignup rank.”

And it did.

Always competitive.

When I finally got to the top, I caught up with a bunch of people who passed me earlier, and found a nice lady to chat with for a few miles.

Somewhere between miles 19 and 20, I kicked the dirt road and ate some shit. I broke the fall with my hands, and thought the tiny scrapes and stinging sensation on my palms was the extent of my damage.

But then, I got to the next aid station, and someone asked if I wanted to clean my knee.

My what?

I skinned my knee!
I skinned my knee!

Oh, well. I couldn’t feel it, so it didn’t exist.

“Ummmmmmm….” was all I could say to the aid station volunteers. (My brain stops working after 18 miles.) “It’ll be fine.”

I just kept going, pretending nothing was going on down there.

This was also the point in the race where things started to go downhill, literally. Normally, downhill is my jam. I love it! But this race took us down the narrow, windy Caterpillar and Bandersnatch trails, which have switchbacks every 13 feet.

I learned fast that I can only destroy a downhill when I don’t need to slow to a near halt and turn my body 180 degrees every five seconds. Okay, I’m exaggerating about the frequency of the switchbacks. Dem shits got on mah NERVES.

Creeping awareness of my knee booboo, and general fatigue, were also setting in. I was ready to finish.

I finished pretty strong, happy to be done running and ready for the beer and burritos promised by the race director several hours earlier.

Lithia Loop was the first race I’ve ever run where volunteers handed out long stem roses at the finish line! How fucking sweet is that? I love it!

Thank you, volunteers <3

Along with delicious, homemade burritos and vegetable soup, we all got to take home this swag:

Cute t-shirt, baby growler, water bottle and wooden medal. I was stoked to get bib #27 because 7 and 9 are my lucky numbers, and 7 + 2 is 9 ;)
Cute t-shirt, baby growler, water bottle and wooden medal. I was stoked to get bib #27 because 7 and 9 are my lucky numbers, and 7 + 2 is 9 ;)

All in all, a really fun race, beautiful day and AWESOME crowd! While I was stuffing my face with burrito, Lee Ann introduced me to some other rad trail ladies, each with their own badass stories to share.

A lot of people don’t *get* running, especially long distances. But I’m telling you, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BETTER than getting your ass out of bed before the crack of dawn, spending the morning outside, working hard to finish something challenging, and then relaxing with a crew of friends over some well-earned burritos and beers.

That’s what I’m talking about.

Today, my legs hurt more than they did the day after the 50k. I feel more like I did when I climbed Mt. Shasta. It hurts to sit on the toilet.

My life is still up in the air, but it’s not bothering me so much anymore. I’ll figure it out.

Thanks for listening.

5 thoughts on “Life’s a hilly bitch //^\\ Lithia Loop Marathon review

  1. ‘If you can muster up the energy to fake a smile and convince everyone that you’re okay when all you want to do is crawl back into bed…. you’re already an endurance athlete.’ Love this.
    Endurance is the key to everything in life,I can tell ya! Up and downs – yep, that’s the road we all have to run, but not everyone can stay the course. That takes guts and you’ve got plenty.

    1. One of the things I love so much about trail running is that, usually, quitting isn’t an option. I get myself out into the mountains, and have no choice but to finish the run. So many other things in life are much easier to drop out of, but running helps me by constantly proving to myself that I have the strength to keep moving forward regardless of what the demons of self doubt might say. Thanks for your feedback, as always :)

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