Trail Race Recap
Yesterday was my four mile trail race. I was really looking forward to this race for several reasons. First, it was local, in the parks where I run all of the time. I would know people, which hardly ever happens at a race for me. I’ve trained alone, and all of my first races were done without knowing a soul. Secondly, my daughter wanted to run the race too, although I knew we wouldn’t be “together” on the route; she’s faster than me. Thirdly and probably most importantly though, I felt prepared. I’ve been running regularly using Bridge to 10K for the last four weeks, so I felt like I had the stamina to tackle the race without feeling that dreaded “I might die out here” feeling.
We started out the race in a big field (as you can see above) where the kids play soccer, on the edge of the trails. The park is so beautiful this time of year and the weather was absolutely perfect: fifty degrees, chilly but not cold, and sunny. I didn’t hear the start, but realized all of a sudden that people were moving towards the start gate on the other side of the field. I didn’t realize why until later down the narrow trails where we all had to slow to a walk to cross a bridge; they had been trying to thin the herd early. I immediately fell behind a good portion of the runners, but ahead of the walkers, as is my slow pace. I made it through the first half mile feeling great, until I realized I wasn’t familiar with the route at all; the trails they were running us on weren’t quite the ones I’d trained on. About 3/4 of a mile in, there was a hill, and I could feel my energy fall fast.
Once we were at the top, I slowed my pace, but it took probably another mile (fortunately mostly flat) before I felt like I wasn’t completely winded. This put me at the water stop, where I took a lesson from my last race and stopped the five seconds it took to gulp down the water. Last time I ran trying to drink and got water all over my shirt; not good. It was at the water stop that I looked behind me and saw no one; I realized at that point that I was likely the last of the people running; I’d passed all the people who started out running but slowed to a walk.
From the halfway point, it was mostly just me. We left the flat, wide bike trail for windy, hilly, rocky, thin trails around mile 2.5. It was beautiful and picturesque, but I quickly realized that on the steeper inclines I had to stop running. I felt my ankle turn wrong at one point and realized that it just wasn’t going to be about speed at this point. Which actually worked in my favor because I was able to get a second wind of sorts, and by the time we got back to the flat part of the trail, I felt fine and broke into an easy pace.
Just after mile 3 there was another offshoot from the flat trail that took us uphill again. This, according to my RunKeeper, was the steepest elevation I’ve ever attempted to run. I felt it. It was hard going, but I ran as much as I felt I safely could. By mile 3.5 I was feeling tired again, but the woman I passed pointing me in the right direction told me that it was all downhill from there. I could feel my breathing modulate and I felt fine again. My RunKeeper was telling me I was at 50 minutes and I had wanted to come in under 55, so I steadied myself to push hard at the end.
The last quarter mile was flat and the finish timer was visible; I could see the numbers were in the 53 minute range. I ran as fast as I could towards it; something I never, ever have had the stamina to do at the end of a race. Usually I’m so tired, it’s all I can do to keep running there (more than once I’ve slowed to a walk for a bit near the end so that I would be able to break back into a run at the end). But this time, because of the walking I’d had to do in the scary parts of the trail, I had the energy to really run full out to the end, which felt AMAZING.
I finished the four miles in 53:57, which was under my goal of 55. If it hadn’t been quite so hilly I would have hoped for under 50, but I knew the trails and wanted to be realistic in my goals.
My daughter was waiting for me at the end. She’d finished in just under 49 minutes, and was hardly sweating at all. 🙂
Overall, I really liked the trail race. I liked that I didn’t need to get all wrapped up in the speed and the time, it was more about endurance, which is really where I am at mentally with running; just completing the course and feeling good about it. I felt wonderful after this one, which makes sense because I’ve been running more than four miles in my training for a few weeks now.
I’d definitely do a trail run again soon.
So this week it’ll be back to Bridge to 10K training and hoping to break the five mile mark in my Week 4 runs. 🙂