For the last several weeks leading up to this race, I knew I wouldn't be in the same condition I was last year, so my expectations were realistic concerning my performance. I tried to make myself feel better about this by planning to run this as any other long run—take it easy and just enjoy my time out there. However, there is a nagging little competitive side to me that always takes over when the horn/whistle blows. After the first set of hills, I managed to pass a couple of folks. And then a couple more.
Unfortunately, in front of me was a man new to trail racing, and I watched as he began to get smaller and smaller in the distance. That always plays with me mentally because when I can’t see anyone in front of me, I don’t have the same motivation to keep pushing.
Fortunately, however, I had a new buddy (Buddy K) on my heels. We ran most of the race together and chatted the entire time. It’s funny—her presence (and the fact that we were talking and that she was terrified of getting lost) kept me from pushing too hard and tiring myself out, but also made me push a little harder in some aspects because I knew she was right behind me.
The trails were muddy and wet, which is what made today’s run more fun to me. Throughout the run, I gave Buddy K some tips to do well—my most important piece of advice being, “Commit—commit to the puddles, commit to the mud, commit to the creek crossings. Just commit.” Too often, trail runners go out and try to go around a puddle, or tip-toe across a creek. If it’s feasible and the rest of the trail is dry, fine. Go for it. But when the trails are a sludge fest, what’s the point in avoiding bigger mud puddles when there’s mud everywhere anyway? It’s trail running—get wet, get dirty, have fun! (Besides, going around puddles instead of through them widens the trails and deteriorates the surrounding area.)
I was totally spent throughout mile 3, but knowing the trail system so well, I knew what was ahead and I just tried to keep pushing with what little energy I had left. I informed Buddy K that it was time to kick it into gear! I picked up the pace a bit and just focused on finishing as fast as I could. I peeked behind me at a turn and saw that Buddy K had fallen behind a little bit. I felt bad for going on, but I knew she wouldn't get lost because the trails were well marked. There were some mountain bikers out, and a few people to navigate around, but it was fun to pick up the pace and get to the finish—finally.
My splits for this race (don’t laugh, just be proud of me for getting out there!):
Mile 1: 14:04
Mile 2: 13:38
Mile 3: 14:13
Mile 4: 14:15
Mile 5: 11:50
Finish was 1:08--a whopping 10 minutes slower than last year’s finish. This race lit a fire under me to never run so slowly again. (Unless I have no choice.) Speedwork and hill repeats begin next week.
Crossing the finish, I was happy to see friendly faces still there! These races always make me so happy because no matter how long it takes you to finish, you never feel lame. There is always someone genuinely encouraging you, and there’s always food available. They always execute these races well and really make it a fun experience all around. I was fortunate to get a $10 gift certificate to Blue Mile, as well. Just a great day with a great bunch of people!