Every year I see the Tram Road Challenge signs go up in and around Palm Springs, and every year I think, “I should do that.” Then it’s always the wrong weekend, or I have something else to do, or I just don’t feel up to the commitment.
That ended last weekend. I finally tackled the (29th Annual) Tram Road Challenge – and I can’t wait to do it again.
It all started at 7am, around 193 feet above sea level. The vibe was relaxed – there was a funny MC recapping highlights from Challenges past, it was warm and crowded, and the volunteers were friendly. I was nervous – was it really one 3.7 mile, continuous hill? – but ready to get going.
The siren sounded and we were off – the MC’s caution to take the first part easy was in the back of my head – and already it was steep. The inclines were estimated at an average 12%, but I was sure I could run at least most of the race – and I was right. I gritted my teeth, leaned into the hill, and chugged up as hard as I could – stopping only to walk after mile 3, when it became a 16% incline (!).
After reaching the finish line (over 1930 feet of elevation gain later), I stood for a moment in disbelief – had I really made it? Did I do well? I was pacing a woman that I ended up passing in the last 1/4 mile, but I hadn’t really seen anyone else that might be in my age group, so I wasn’t sure how I’d finished.
Turns out, I did pretty well.
I finished in 44:05 (11:54/mile pace), which was good enough for 2nd in my age group, 11th woman overall out of over 400, and 76th person overall out of around 2000. YES!
Besides the finish, though, I was struck by the community of the race – from start to finish, the volunteers went of their way to inform and support the runners; the race was dog and stroller friendly; and I even met a running doc (Sports Injuries Specialist) that taught me the “runner’s hitch”; and sat on the bus back down with a few folks that wished me luck on my bridal shower later that day (post pending!) and were genuinely kind to me.
After years of running everything from 5K to a 1/2 Ironman, I have come to appreciate the simplicity, communal feel, and hometown vibe of a small race, as well as the intrigue of doing something completely different from what you’ve done before. I will definitely be back for the 30th annual next year – and I’m going for 1st AG, dammit!
What’s the best race you’ve participated in lately? What makes a race truly memorable for you?