In August 2016, I decided to reward myself with a shorter distance race. I had been struggling with my health for over 2 years and finally got a diagnosis, treatment and was on the mend. Being a newbie to Truckee, I had (and still have) a big giant bucket list of races and adventures I’d like to experience. Not knowing it was a slightly challenging course, I signed up for the Emerald Bay Trail Run as my back-in-the-saddle race. I was super excited to do this 7-miler, and knew I wasn’t in great running shape but enjoyed it anyway. My then 6-year-old son Jack cried angrily the entire hour leading up to the start of the race. He had just weeks before done a fundraiser at school and completed six miles at the school “track” so he was desperate to convince me he could race with me. When I completed the race last year, he was so angry with me that I promised him he could do it next year. Thankfully, he changed his mood and we moved on. Or so I thought.
As soon as summer 2017 approached us, my now 7-year-old son began to randomly ask when the “trail race” will be. I was initially shocked that he remembered, but even more surprised that he still wanted to run 7 miles! I continued to appease him by telling him it’s in September and that we’ll sign up as it gets closer. The summer progressed quickly (insert sad face here) and before we knew it, we were in the week before the race. After a family pow-wow, my husband and Jack both decided to do the race with me. I was so excited! I knew my 10 year old daughter was going to regret not doing the race but I didn’t want to force or push my love for running on her so I left it alone.
The night before the race, favorite son and I made our overnight oats, set out our outfits and he chose his flavor of gel (why do kids think they’re delicious?) He charged up my old Garmin Forerunner and laid out his clothes and his “fastest” shoes. Husband, of course, waited until 13 minutes until we needed to leave to get all of his gear ready.
Driving to the start at Eagle Point was mostly me excitedly chattering and my husband and son patiently listening. Once we parked, walked down to the starting line at the campground and had a last potty stop, Jack kindly asked me to stop talking to him. I realized he was getting pretty nervous and it reminded me when I couldn’t even think of talking minutes before the start of the Donner Lake Triathlon. Okay son, I get it.
We lined up at the start, the horn blew and we were off! Dozens of fellow runners joined us as we made our first half mile, climbing almost 250 feet in just a matter of minutes. Husband and I agreed that we’d have Jack walk the uphills and let him run the flat and downhills. I was stoked to teach him about fueling, listening to your body, keeping a steady pace, and of course how amazing it feels to charge through the finish line.
We cruised through the first several miles without a hiccup, shocked that Jack was holding a 9:30 pace! I had a tiny bit of race envy about others (ahem, Mone’) that were truly racing this course. Then I gave myself a little pinch of reality…I was running a trail race with my two most favorite boys of all time!
I looked at my watch and saw we were just at 2.5 miles as we began our trek around the gorgeous Emerald Bay. Jack got to experience his first aid station and I was just excited to get some amazing pictures. We ran through Sugar Pine Pine Campground (where Jack and I conspired to make Husband camp next year), and began several more moderate climbs throughout DL Bliss State Park. Although the trail was mostly single track, there were some pretty awesome rock-steps, log bridges and we even ran over AND under a waterfall! Yes, we’re still dealing with snow melt in our mountains! Words don’t do these views justice, they are absolutely breathtaking.
It wasn’t until mile 5 that Jack began to lose steam. We all took a good 15 minutes to walk the course, take some big gulps of water and jack enjoyed (huh?) his caramel Gu. We didn’t want him to spontaneously combust but we were also confident that he could complete and even thrive on this run. There were two specific times when Jack asked if he could just sit on “that log over there” or just rest for a minute. I knew if we let him stop, it would be even more difficult to get him going again. One of my favorite part of racing is the little boost of confidence and morale a runner gets when he’s cheered during a race. Almost every person we passed on the trail or runner that passed us gave Jack a cheer, high 5 or was just plain in awe of his tiny little body doing something so amazing. Once his gel kicked in, we were back to an easy pace and I couldn’t wait to show him what was to come. I remembered from last year that the photographer was camped out at the top of a pretty steep cliff, and beyond that was the coolest section of the trail…
We approached the photographer as expected and all three ran past him. I quickly shouted “WAIT! Let’s jump!” And so we did!
Yep, I was totally geeked out. And the coolest part of the race was upon us. We reached the single track, in the most literal sense of the word, and snaked through the last mile of the course. The cliff has such a vertical drop that there is a chain “railing” to keep people from falling off the edge! Through rocks, wedging under enormous boulders and jumping off large granite steps, Jack finished his race in true parkour (sp?) fashion. Up one final climb out of DL Bliss, we saw that the dirt trail quickly turned to sand, which meant we were just feet away from the finish line! And so our own cheering-on for our little guy began. He continued to melt and ask when we were “there.” We reached the parking lot to Lester Beach and I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of emotion. I told Jack to look up, there’s the finish! Little Man turned on his turbo jets, Husband and I looked at each other and did all we could to hold back the waterworks. As we crossed the finish line as a team, Jack beamed. More than his ability to run, his desire to race, we were most proud of this amazing opportunity to do this run TOGETHER. My cup was full.
We hung out at the finish on Lester Beach with our friends and family for drinks (hello, Lagunitas), snacks and the awards ceremony. You guessed it, Jack won second place in his age group and was the youngest runner to race. We missed our girl and told her so when we got home, which convinced her to join us next year. We are so in for 2018.