I LOVE running trails!!! I had been looking forward to this race weekend for a while. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how it was all going to go, but that is why I was so stoked. Road races are easy to plan for, you can have a race plan all laid out. Trails offer so much unknown, especially when you have never ran a particular trail before. I only had one goal – Run Happy!
Trail races seem to have a much more laid back feel to them. People are kind of mellow. I didn’t have any nervousness whatsoever. Warmed up a bit by running the last half mile or so of the course and chatted with some of my friends who were also running. Lined up according to pace, which was tough for me. On the road, I’d line up with the 7:30s for a 5 miler. Trails? I went with the 9s, knowing that if I averaged somewhere between a 9-10 min/mi pace I’d be thrilled.
Having looked a bit at the elevation, I knew that the beginning of the course had lots of climbing and then we leveled off for a bit before one more BIG climb. Then it would be downhill to the finish. My strategy – Take it easy on the uphills, walk them if they are steep, run “hard” on the flatter sections and be very careful on the steep downhills letting gravity do most of the work. I had no idea if this strategy would pay off, but you don’t know unless you try.
Gun goes off and instead of the sprinting that normally occurs, we just run “hard.” I look around to find someone to latch onto, who seems to be running where I’d like. I wanted to position myself right because I didn’t want to “get stuck” once we reached the single track trail. Pinckney State Rec Area is beautiful, but mostly my eyes were glued to the ground. The first climb was TOUGH. I was taking it comfortably hard for a bit, but slowed as did the others around me. I tried not to look up ahead but rather concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other.
Soon, we had started back down a bit before hitting the flatter section. This is where I decided to take my fall. My foot stumbled upon a root, which caused me to stumble forward. While trying to regain my balance, my foot got stuck under said root and down I went. Of course, I pop back up, look around and convinced no one saw took off on my way.
About a mile later, as we are entering into the biggest, steepest climb of the course I was slowing down. My lungs were burning, my heart pumping and I was barely moving at a 9 min/mi pace! 🙂 This was TOUGH! As did most in front of me, we slowed to a brisk walk. A guy asks me if I was okay from my fall! Doh! Guess someone did see me! I just laughed and said, “yeah, it’s this hill that is gonna kill me.”
Finally, we reach the top and then it is mainly downhill to the finish. The last mile seemed to last an eternity. I was experiencing some major fears on the downhills. I kept imagining someone falling, rolling and me becoming a human bowling pin. This fear made me rush those downhills. It was so hard to determine how close the heavy breathing was behind you, but I certainly didn’t want to get bowled over, nor was I going to turn to look and become the human bowling ball!
Having ran the last 1/2 mile of the course, I knew that once I hit the wooden bridge I should be able to pick up the pace a bit. After the bridge, the course opens up to the grassy area, about 1/4 mile or a little less from the finish line. When I hit the clearing, I planned to give it all I had left in the tank. A woman about 20 ft in front of me had planned on the same. She took off and I tried with all I had left to catch her. I never caught her, but I did pass at least 3 people on the home stretch, finishing in 45:50, average pace 9:10 min/mi.
I stumbled over to grab a water and walk out the feeling that I was going to fall over or puke my guts out. I was SO happy! I had ran almost a minute and a half faster than I had ran on any of my trail runs on a MUCH tougher course. I met up with a couple friends who had both owned the course, especially B taking 3rd overall female and 1st in her age group in her first ever trail race and 2nd ever trail run. She’s a natural! We grabbed some snacks and waited for the awards.
As it turns out, I was 6th in my AG. . . missing out on a mug by one measely place. Oh, well. . . still a great day!