The mystique of the Sunmart Trail Race has been captivating since I started running in Austin back in 2000. My Austin Fit Marathon Coaches would speak of this “50k Trail Race” where you receive more goodies than a six-year-old on Christmas morning. They spoke of the rest stop food that includes Oreos, Vanilla Wafers, gumdrops, M&Ms, bananas, boiled potatoes, salt and other sweet enticements, giving me a Hansel and Gretel-esque vision of this event. They also spoke of the friendly and compassionate trail racing culture.
I ran my first Sunmart 50K in 2007, as a virtual trail running novice. I showed up in my regular running shoes with my four gels and proceeded to run my way to 8th overall female and 2nd in my age group. Most importantly, I had a legitimate blast. Wait. How is this possible? How can you have fun in an ultra-marathon and still finish with a respectable time? Trail running isn’t necessarily a race. It’s an experience; and Sunmart is the epitome of this experience.
Needless to say, I’ve been excited for a while to come back to Sunmart for round two. Like last year, I had done no specific trail training. I had, however, spent 2008 training for and completing my first Full Ironman in April and training hard all summer to run a Marathon PR in October at Marine Corps. My body and mind were slightly fatigued from the intensity of the year and Sunmart provided the cure…and a great way to finish a monumental year as an average Joe (or Jane) athlete.
With my race shirt ready, we headed for our ritual sushi/vino pre-race dinner
I had been singing the Sunmart praises for months and was happy to see some other training partners from Austin sign up to join on the journey. I’m sure they grew weary of my, “I know it’s over 31 miles, but it’s so FUN” endorsements. Well, that and the, “the food and schwag are awesome!”
In case you got lost on the way
Race morning this year was the antithesis of 2007. Last year was hot and humid. This year, the air was a dry, crisp 30 degrees. Chilly, no doubt, but perfect for a long morning of running in a gorgeous state park. If there’s one way to describe the scene, I’d say “casual.” The kitchen crew cooks up biscuits, gravy, bacon, kolaches, eggs, hot cider, hot cocoa and coffee. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we were all at a family picnic instead of a race! Athletes weren’t necessarily chugging their last sips of Gatorade or choking down the last bit of their bagel. They were sitting in the warm heated tent (thank you!) drinking OJ, eating some biscuits and gravy and chatting about whether it was a shorts or a tights day.
With new friend and fellow blogger Kathleen from Houston!
I was greeted at the Finish Line by my now-hobbling friend Amy and a multitude of congratulations from the volunteers. I picked up my wonderful Finisher’s jacket and chugged some chocolate milk (Nascar-style). I was still beaming when they had the Sunmart awards ceremony and I was able to pick up my Age Group trophy and $100 prize money.