A few weekends ago I did the Reaper 30K at Salt Lick, KY. The course is part of Daniel Boone National Forrest. I signed up for this race last year not ready to make the leap from 25K to 50K. It was also really cheap. I liked the description of “part road and part trail”. I did all this before I decided to take on a marathon this past spring in hopes that I would have the mental stamina for a 50K. The 30K became part of my training plan for my upcoming 50K.
I decided to stay in Lexington with my sister in law at the last minute. When I went to bed I kept waking up thinking it was time to get up. When I finally fell asleep, my alarm went off. I was tired from getting ready to wake up. I meant to wake at 5am and got up at 5:50. I ate 2 hardboiled eggs and had an espresso. I made it out the. door at 6:30. The GPS said I would make it to the campground at 8:07am. As a runner, I prioritized a bowel movement at home rather than uncomfortable insides for the duration of the race. I had to go through lots of traffic lights downtown Lexington before I got to I-64. I was driving towards a spectacular sunrise. I told myself I would be running soon enough. I focused on the drive as it was part of the race journey.
When I got to the campground the runners were off. I had to stop and wait for them to pass. The last minute change in the emails said it would be a “beach start”. I made a wrong turn following signs for the “beach”. I was glad to see where they started so I could find the starting line. While I waited for them to pass, I shed my fleece and hat, which was one small thing I could do to get ready. I saw my MRTT friends Amy and Tammy run by. I also saw Bob, a friend I made during the Horse Capital marathon, run by, which is always a good sign for me.
It wasn’t a very big race so I found parking easily. I put on my compression socks and shoes. I went with my Brooks Cascadia anticipating climbs similar to the Rough Trail. I strapped on my hydration pack and headed to the start. Since I was late, they didn’t want to give me my bib without first consulting with someone. They gave me my bib and agreed to give me my shirt afterwards. She was kind enough to put my keys in my hydration pack. Her only instruction was that I start through the chute so my time is official, even though it was 12 minutes later than everyone else. Then I was off. I started on the road that I saw all the other runners just a few minutes prior. I stopped on the side of the road to pee. After an hour and a half in the car and that espresso, I couldn’t wait until I got on the trail.
The trailhead was inconspicuous and could be missed had it not been marked with pink flags. On the trail, being late was a distant memory. I was on a mission to catch Tammy and Amy, if that was even possible. The thought of running a 30K without them was lonely. Those first few miles were up a mountain. There were many switch backs on a dirt before I caught up to the sweepers. They asked me if I was the last racer. Then asked me to go ahead of them. I ran a little while longer until I caught a set of walkers who also asked me to go ahead of them. They commented that I was actually breathing hard. I was heartened that I wouldn’t finish last.
There were many downed trees on this trail, I had to go through, over and under a lot of logs. There were signs with the reaper that read “you didn’t think this would be easy did you lol” and it wasn’t. But it was early in the race and I thought, not today man in the mask devoid of color. I pressed on until I came upon a road and found more people walking. At that point I decided since I had trained mostly on road that this road and any flat would be runnable despite my legs being in shock from that ascent/descent. I told myself if I jogged these, I could walk the steeper sections.