Guess what I did this weekend???
I was a very good girl and asked my coach very nicely if I could please please please do the Lovin' the Hills 6 mile trail race and because he's the best he gave me the green light to participate. So, I did my very first trail race on Saturday!
I'm not necessarily a stranger to trails but I definitely wouldn't say we're friends. Trail running goes on the same list as all of those really great athletes I "know" and am Facebook friends with and want to be able to be real friends with but I'm too intimidated to try. You know what I mean right? Anyway, I've run trails before and volunteered at many a trail race but I've never actually "raced" myself so this was going to be a fun new experience.
The site wasn't far from my house and since I'd waited to sign up for various reasons, I didn't have to get up too too early to get there in time for race day registration. I drove to Jefferson Memorial Forest and drove up and up and up and up to the start/finish line. As my car groaned up the neverending hill it occurred to me that I may have been in over my head. Then my oil change light came on and I decided my car just needed a tune up and that the hill wasn't really that bad. I parked my car and quickly realized I was surrounded by those people I totally want to be. It was a crunchy crew. Subarus and camelbacks and happy, fit people. I say this every time I'm around trail runners but they really are some of the nicest people around. I'm sure the front runners are a bit more intense but in general I find them to be a super supportive, super fun, very laid back group of people. It's awesome. I want to be one.
....back to the race. I don't know as many people in the trail circuit as I do at road races but there also aren't nearly as many participants so it's not overwhelming for me. I saw a couple of people I knew as soon as I walked into the lodge to register and pretty much always had at least one or two people in my sights who I recognized. It's been a long time since I've gone to a race totally solo so it was a little strange to be on my own. I wore my HR monitor and my Garmin which is rare but I've finally figured out how to upload data and I'm sure my coach appreciates stuff like that. I do have to admit that as cool as it is to be able to see an entire race mapped out in graphs and charts I'd still rather go without. I don't know why numbers stress me out so much.
I was staying calm and really embracing the opportunity to have a lot of fun without worrying about the numbers but I think everyone is always a little anxious at the start. I also had to make sure not to break anything.
The run started and we all stayed together for about a quarter mile until we reached the first trail head when we got onto some single track (look at me using trail terms!) and it bottlenecked pretty bad. I saw a group of women I knew and they said it was normal as we made our single file march through the trees. Then we were off again and as the trail widened I stayed right to let people go past me. Right around 1.5 miles I tripped and almost took a massive dive but saved myself and actually laughed quite a bit. One of the guys coming up behind me said "Nice save!" and another guy said "You're one of us." I giggled like a schoolgirl and decided to take much smaller steps for the rest of the way so I didn't kill my Ironman before it even started.
There were a few really wide spots and a lot of people came past me at that point. On the road it always stings me a bit when I feel like everyone is passing me because I'm a bit more competitive (in my head, not in my talent) there but out in the woods I was hoping they'd go by so I didn't slow anyone down. Before mile 2 we came up on the first steep descent and it was a whole different world. Trails are scary! Luckily it was still early so the trail was cold and hard packed but there were still some slick spots and I slowed to a crawl. Another man came past and said I was really smart for going slow. I got to the bottom and picked it up again until a creek crossing when I tiptoed so I didn't get my feet wet. *Note to self, probably time to buy trail shoes. What goes down must go up and it wasn't long before I hit the first climb. It was huge. I walked. It sucked. My HR spiked to the 180s and I was working! But in a sick way I was enjoying it. I've always liked going up more than coming down since I'm a weenie and afraid of speed and a lot of the people who were gaining on me in the flat fell off once we started going up. I hit the top and broke into a slow jog to bring my HR back down and recover and the runners behind me caught up at that point.
The trail was tough but beautiful. I always think of trails as being pretty in the summer or fall but even in winter with everything brown and bare it was so nice to just look around and take it all in. A little bit later we hit another steep downhill and I let a few people go but one woman said she was fine to stay behind me. She stayed there for a bit and we got to talking. Her name was Sarah and we did the rest of the race together which made it really fun. Turns out she'd lost over 100 pounds and was really into triathlons so naturally, we had lots to talk about. She was taller than me and was a great hiker so she hiked while I "ran" and it turned out to be about the same pace. Since we were both out for fun we stayed at a conversational pace and talked about everything except the hills when things got tough.
When we came towards the finish there were volunteers telling us which way to go. We were doing the 6 mile short course but there was also a 15 mile and 50K option. For once I finally picked the right race! We came around the bend to the finish all smiles and got a medal which I totally wasn't expecting! We went inside to get some food and I introduced her to a few more of my friends who had already finished. We hung out for a bit longer and then said our goodbyes before I headed out to the aid station my sister and our church were in charge of.
Overall the course had over 700 feet of climbing over just under 6 miles and I could really feel it in my glutes as the day went on. I spent some time at the aid station and was DYING to already be out doing the 50K (have I mentioned I'm hoping to get into ultras next year?). I had a great day and can't wait to start getting on the trails regularly. Sunday I wasn't too too sore which was a good thing because my coach had 2 minute hill repeats written for me on the bike trainer.
How do I feel today? Well...let's just say I'm glad it's a rest day.