I’ve only completed a few races so far, so I thought I’d go back and write reviews of each of them. I think it’s important to reflect on races–what went well, what didn’t, and where the opportunities lie.
I got peer pressured into the Trail Run Challenge by my friend Christina. I had been running about 3 weeks and was planning a visit to see her in Charlotte, NC, and we were trying to find a good weekend that worked for both of us.
Christina: “You should come the weekend I’m doing the Trail Run Challenge 10k!”
Me: “…but I’ve only ever ran 2 miles! Can we do the 5k?”
Christina: “No. I hate 5ks. You’ll be fine, your training plan has your doing a total of 7 that weekend anyways. It’ll be fun. Easy breezy!!”
Reluctantly, I registered and then about 20 minutes later, panic set in. Race day was only 3 weeks away. I had three weeks to increase my mileage. After the panic subsided, I got my butt into gear, really pushing hard in my running.
At this point, I was still doing a lot of runs on the treadmill. I remember the night I decided I was going to do 4 miles for the first time. Kim was with me, and she had just started working out, too. Running was really hard for both of us. I told her that I was going to to do 4 miles, but I’d need her encouragement to push me through. We did 3 miles together, and she walked next to me during the last mile. With about 1/4 mile left, I really started to lose steam, and without saying a word, Kim started running with me, next to me, even though she was tired. It was so motivating and I’ll never forget it–thank you, Kim!!
Flash forward to the night before the race. I took a half day off of work and drove up to Charlotte (about 3.5 hours from Atlanta) and arrived just in time for dinner. However, the forecast for the next morning was 61 degrees and raining. Remember that this is August in the south, and I had only been training in above room temperature weather! I was worried about being cold, so Christina and I went to Dick’s and got matching shirts. “We’ll be twinsies!!”
The next day, we arrived at the US National Whitewater Center to a pretty small group. As we’re stretching, a woman next to us starts chatting us up. She asks if this is our first trail run, and when I tell her it’s my first race, ever, her eyes got really wide. She turns to Christina–“you brought her to this race for her first race??!!”
Christina starts looking around, and notices all the special shoes and gear people are wearing.
“Shit. Jess, I’m a little nervous. These people look really serious.”
“I thought you said this was going to be ‘easy breezy’?! What have we gotten ourselves into?”
“I don’t know!! I’ve never run a trail race before!!”
Well, it was too late to turn around then, so we lined up…towards the back. We planned on doing 2/1 run/walk intervals. When I say we were in the back, I mean, the only person behind us was the sweeper. However, the sweeper was actually a marathon coach who applauded us on our intervals and our “plan” for the race. (Little did he know, we were totally winging it…). He was really encouraging, told us we were doing great, and insisted that within a couple miles, we’d be passing folks who went out too quickly.
Here we are starting out.
Sure enough, we started passing people. The trail was beautiful, and the trees sheltered us from the rain. Occasionally, we’d pop out of the forest for a bit and the breeze felt amazing. I only wish I had thought to take a picture!
I was feeling good, though we were running faster than I normally did. I started feeling a little gassed around the halfway point, and right around mile 4 I started feeling light-headed and queasy. I really was wondering at this point if I could finish, but Christina wouldn’t let me quit (thank you, Christina!) We walked for about a quarter of a mile and Christina gave me a couple of Shot Blox (which was my first experience with the little addictive suckers) and I was fine, so we continued. She was so patient and encouraging, exactly what I needed!
We finished in a little over an hour (1:16:11) and I was so, so glad to be done. I think you can see it on my face here as we’re crossing the finish line…
…and here after I cooled down and realized I just ran 6 miles, my longest ever!
I may or may not have over-eaten later that day…
Bacon Burger on Steroids at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Charlotte, NC. And a beer.
As far as the race goes, I really don’t have any other trail runs to compare it to. In general though, I really liked the run. The course was beautiful, but the trails were narrow (single file) and hilly in some spots. Also, since it had been raining, there were some pretty bad slick spots, though the organizers did a great job of letting us know when they were ahead. I had never ran on a trail before, and I liked how mentally engaging it was. You had to constantly look ahead and try to dodge all the tree roots, etc. At one point, as we’re leaping through the woods, Christina exclaims:
“I feel like a f*cking gazelle!”
And that quote basically sums up our run at the Trail Run Challenge. We’ll be back again this year!