At the beginning of the year, I set some race goals for 2015. So far, I’ve been avoiding racing. I’ve been struggling with shin splints (even more frustrating because this is the first time they’ve bothered me in 20 years) and motivation. The opportunity to take a bib in a trail race came up, so obviously, I took the chance. I should mention here that the last time I participated in a trail race was in high school cross country, and I hadn’t been running for a week because of my shins. I don’t know why I said I would do it, but I did, on Thursday for a Saturday race. Needless to say, I did not properly prepare for the experience. But I took it for what it was, an experience. An opportunity to test my baseline on something like this. I didn’t know what to expect. I promised myself that I would listen to my body, slow for pain, push through discomfort, and focus on form. So I pack the family up, wake them super early to make the trek to Clarksville, MD and get ready to go.
First things first, we are not off to a good start. I try to feed Badger right when he woke up, but he wouldn’t eat. So I take him for a short walk around the block. He does his business and we go back home. Now he scarfs down his food and we’re ready to go. We typically play “jump in the car Badger,” (this is where a 4 door car would have been a better choice). After a few minutes we realize we’re not getting anywhere so Ian picks him up and puts him in. Right as we’re about to pull out, we realize he’s been sick and is now trying to eat the by-product of his sickness. Stop, clean, make sure the doggy is feeling okay, and finally we’re off!
Forty-five minutes later, we arrive at Little Bennett Regional Park. I have never done a trail run, and especially not one that is organized by a small, local group. I can’t believe that how few people are in attendance. I’m glad that the crowd is not overwhelming (especially since husband and doggy will be alone for about an hour). I fill out the liability form, get my shirt, and make use of the porta-potty (a few times, I’m getting nervous now). I do a small warm up, mostly a dynamic stretch routine that I pulled from The Run Experience, tell my man that my goal is to finish under an hour, and make my way to the pre-run brief.
Standing in the small crowd, the organizer explains the course, cautions us to watch for slippery mud (from the rain yesterday through early that morning), and then tells us the course is actually over 10.5 kilometers. Hmmmm. At 8 AM sharp, he releases us for the run.
We’re off! It looks more like a chase than a race. The race begins with a wide dirt road, a short out and back before we head into the woods on a single lane track. I take off at an unsustainable pace. I want to make sure I’m in front of the slower folks before the trail narrows.
Trail running, at race pace, sandwiched between strangers is quite an experience! You don’t know what is really happening in front of you because you can’t see the trail more than one or two strides in front of you, and you don’t want to slow down or change abruptly because you don’t know the people behind you by a stride or two. Then, the person in front of you takes off and now you are behind someone going substantially slower. You must pass. Look at the trail, look ahead, and plan your move. “On your left!” And quickly move ahead, making sure there is room to dart back to the trail from the shoulder without cutting off the dude you just overtook. Eventually, after about 1.5 miles, the crowd thins. Unfortunately for me, my shoe comes untied and I have to drop from the pack. I try my best to catch up, but I’m not in race condition (and am sore from strength training Friday) so my sustained increased pace gives me 2 massive side cramps. Oops. Slow it down and focus on my breath.
Aside: I’ve been working on Budd Coates’ running on air method. So I was at a 52 when my shoe came untied, ramped up to a 32 to catch up, which forced me to a 51 to recover.
Here I came upon the first aide station. WATER! YES! Shortly after the 10k splits away from the 5k. After this, I can comfortably keep my pace, despite being passed two more times. I watch my breath and think about my core. A few more miles and we begin to climb again. Here, I start taking off the pack that dropped me, one by one. They are spread pretty thin and passing is easier on the wider trail. I push on the climb and open up and let gravity do its work on the descent. My polar M400 beeps for 6 miles and I return my focus to my breath. “Breath. Watch the trail. You can do this.” My mantra repeats in my head, over and over, “Almost there!” From behind, someone comments on my watch. Then we continue to talk about work. He recommends I give up my office job for serving. I give a fake laugh (really? why would I ever serve tables?!?) and then continue to focus on my form and finishing without tripping. The final obstacle (last .25mi of the course) requires traversing a 10m wide, 18in deep creek. Well, I guess my feet are getting nice and wet. A few more switch backs and I can see the runners corral. This is the que to open my stride and finish strong. I’m pushing at a 2-1-1 breath, finish! I finally cross the finish line at 1:01:34, second in my (and the bib I’m running as) age group! My watch tells me the course was actually 6.75 miles, so I’m proud of my time.
Overall, the experience was great. The run was fun, the people were nice & polite, easy for even an introvert like me to small talk with. I would have signed up for the next race in the series, but I’m traveling that day. I look forward to pushing myself in a trail race again.
Check out the event photos from Swim, Bike, Run Photography: http://swimbikerunphoto.zenfolio.com/blue_crab_bolt_little_bennett_2015_gallery