We came. We ran. We conquered. And it was a doozy.
The course started uphill. It was a fairly large climb, leveled off for a few minutes, and then uphill again. I had never run at night. The movement of thousands of headlamps was quite a spectacle to behold. All of us lined up, slowly ascending a sandy hill, like rush hour for an army of fireflies marching up.
The dust was unbearable. I’m not talking about a little sand here or there spraying up. This was real dust swirling from the runners ahead, behind, and next to us stomping in the sand, unearthing the lightest of all molecules.
By the light of my headlamp, I saw dirt and dust ever-present in the air. Although, I had not started coughing as some of my fellow runners had, it was impossible not to see how bad the dust was moving, and we were undoubtedly inhaling most of it.
But we carried on. The first sip of water came for me around mile four. It was delightful. I had pulled up my buff all the way over my nose and mouth trying to filter some of the dust from going straight into my lungs.
My eyes still burned and watered. My nose leaked incessantly behind the buff. I had no idea how far I had run until I heard someone called out, “you’re halfway there.”
Great. Half is good.
Then, several volunteers yelled, “it’s all downhill from here.”
A wave of relief washed over me. Downhill is really good.
But they were lying. All of them.
I couldn’t understand why. We never did anything to them. Why would they blatantly lie to a group of exhausted, choked out runners fumbling through deep sand in the dark? Because they were evil.
Not more than a couple of minutes after those shouts, we were climbing again. The elevation map told the story. Although it looked like runners should be coming down, in fact, they’re actually climbing first before a big drop, which gave the illusion of “all down hill from here.” Bastards.
Around mile 12, there was a wonderful downhill slope, which I bombed throwing caution to the wind, sinking each foot into the deep, ankle-straining sand, and letting gravity to the work. After that glorious forty-five seconds, it was uphill again.
There was also a short section, under a mile, of pavement somewhere in the middle, but other than that, the rest of the course was done in foot- and soul-sucking sand.
After completing the race, I received a medal.
A medal that depicted a fucking paved road and some sunlight. And a dude at the bottom, which is annoying. His silhouette looked more like a detective running to catch a perp than a racer.
But I digress. This medal is should be illegal. Friends, do not be lured by its false promises.
For anyone interested in taking on the Vacation Races JT half, check the reviews of the race. It was hard last year so they changed the course. It was still hard this year.
Now, if you’re in it for a tough race, say mostly uphill in ankle-deep sand, go for it. You will feel like a badass when it is over. But if you’re looking to do a fun race, keep looking.