Ever have a block of your life move by so fast you look up one day and what feels like 2 days is actually two weeks? Yeah… It’s been like that.
Preparation for two big conferences (10 session topics, 2 of which were Pre-Conference sessions) over the last two weeks, plus smelling blood on this stupid kitchen remodel has pretty much consumed me. Trying to wrap it all around a decent workout or two along the way was even more of a challenge. I took two suitcases to conference. One for clothes, one for workout stuff. And I had to wash clothes half way through…!
Oh… and for some stupid reason I thought it would be a good idea to do my first trail race the Sunday after the smoke cleared, although I had only run “trails” twice in preparation. I.Am.A.Genius.
I had managed a few good runs the week of conference, but no trails. I just didn’t have time to try to find them, even though I know the lake is loaded with them. You kind of take what you can get sometimes… Anyway, on to the race report.
Rock Bridge Revenge 7 Mile Trail Race
After briefly considering running the 25k version of this race, I gave in to the fact that I am in no kind of shape to do that kind of nonsense and just took the short option. I figured it would be a good, small introduction to trail races since it is something I am interested in.
Race day started off beautiful. Temperature at the start was in the 50’s under blue skies and light winds. It eventually heated up into the 80’s for the 50k, but I was home licking my wounds by then. The trail was dry and in good condition.
Speaking of the trail, Rock Bridge State Park is beautiful. A great series of single track trails, deciduous forest, creek crossings, hills to scramble up and down, you get the picture. And the park was just starting to show it’s fall color which made the run even more beautiful. There are some sections that are pretty rough, rock strewn and root bound, but nothing horrible. You are running the whole time, not scrambling or clawing up/down hills. This made the venue a perfect place for a first timer.
We lined up at exactly 8:00am and, after some final words from the race director (thanks Jeff!), and a sad but comical comment from a competitor warning us all that the trail was rough and rutted in spots (… umm … it’s a TRAIL. It’s kinda SUPPOSED TO BE… idnit?), the whistle blew and we were off.
The race started around a circle drive one time, just to give the fast runners a little space to spread out. I started out at a shuffle and just stuck to the middle of the pack as usual. The route then dived into the trail and that was the last we saw of civilization for about 5 miles.
Several things became apparent to me. First, I was running tense because I was worried about footing. My breathing was labored even though I was running much slower than usual. Second, trail running is WAY more intense than road running. Concentrating on competitors, pace and EVERY FOOT PLACEMENT takes way more brain power than I have been accustomed to using. There were not many places where you could relax even for a second and I felt this in the first part of the race.
As I settled in I heard the guys behind me say they were running about an 8 minute pace, which I knew was way too fast for me. But at the same time on a single track trail there really isn’t a good place to pass. You HAVE to ask to pass or hope that the person in front of you is aware enough of their pace and yours that they will let you by if they sense you closing on them. I did just that and stepped off the trail to let them by. I also felt another group coming but thought I could hang with them since I knew most of them.
Then as I was rounding a sharp switchback I twisted my left ankle. …crap.
Not bad, and after a couple of hobbling steps to check it I started running again, but it got inside my head. I slowed down and got really paranoid. Leaves on the trail began to look like rocks and I stopped running and started avoiding everything. I also had new shoes on and had failed to adjust them properly so the heel box was very loose. I started worrying about this as every time I hit something just slightly off center I could feel my heel slide across the shoe.
Then I twisted my left ankle… AGAIN! …double crap.
This time was much worse. I stepped off the side and let the group behind me go by. I tried to keep up with them for a while but had to let them go because it just hurt too much. I dialed way back and took it easy through a part of the trail that had short, steep, rocky ups and downs.
Then I twisted my RIGHT ankle. *sigh*
By the way, this was all in the first three miles.
Again, not bad, and it actually balanced out my limp nicely so I just kept pushing. We hit a flat section that was pretty smooth and I tried to pick up the pace. I caught up to one of the runners who had pulled away on ankle twist #2. Apparently Rock Bridge had bitten her as well so we limped along together for a while, then she finally let me go.
I’m not sure if it was just because I had paid my dues or if I just started running smarter, but after I crossed the creek, things seemed to get better. My ankles hurt but I guess the swelling tightened my shoes up enough that they didn’t slip anymore… 😉
At about mile 5 the first of the 25/50K guys caught and passed me. He was flying and looked like he was floating over the trail. I wondered what that must feel like, to be that confident that you can just blast through stuff that was making me run like a little girl. Amazing.
I was getting tired and I knew it. But I also knew the trail from the aid station to the finish pretty well. I caught a couple of 7 milers just past the aid station who had turned the wrong way and were lost. I showed them the trail and they thanked me by dropping me AGAIN. Too funny. They could have at least pulled me up a hill or two…
The last mile I ran alone. It was quiet (except for my wheezing) and beautiful. I can definitely see why people do this. I could hear the cowbell in the distance signifying someone cheering for a finisher and that picked me up a little bit. The finish is all uphill but I managed to hobble quickly to the cowbell call and crossed the finish line in 1:04.00 (9:08 pace). I have no idea if this is good or bad, but given the way the race went I guess I’ll take it.
I do like trail running a lot. Everyone says that the turned ankles will become less frequent with practice and all in all I am fine. I was able to take one day off and then go back to running again with only a minor limp until I warmed up. I have gone out twice since on my mountain bike and will go today and run the trail for the first time since the race. I am definitely looking forward to it. I do like the woods!