Trails of the Unexpected

Sunday dawned cool and damp with the promise of rain that made us think that the trail race we were signed up for might turn into a mud-race, but the rains held off and the weather was actually really good for running (cool, but not cold and a little cloudy).
We signed in, got our numbers and chips and mulled around the starting area checking out the other racers.  My first thought was:  There aren’t a lot of people here.  I’m used to seeing the bigger charity events with hundreds of runners – here there were maybe 100, if that.  My second thought was: wow, everyone here (but me) seems pretty damn fit and had that sinewy “I run all the time for fun” look.  Thoughts of coming in last filled my head.  The other thing I noticed was that the race was 3.3 miles (5.3 km) – hey, I thought I only had to go 5k!
Some other thoughts:

1. At the horn, everyone starts shuffling forward.  The trail’s not very wide, so maybe it’s a good thing there aren’t that many people running.
2. Pre-teen girl talking incessantly with her dad right behind us making me lament the banning of iPods.  Pipe down pre-teen girl!
3. REALLY glad it’s not raining because the trail is narrow and essentially two tire ruts with compacted grass and thistles (good for ankles!).  It’s also really steep here (steeper than I thought it would be) so much that you’re almost holding yourself back from going down too fast. The inverse relationship of steep-down to steep-back-up hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
4. Man oh man is the Black Mountain Regional Park ever gorgeous!  Smiles all-around.
5. Pre-teen girl and dad drop back.  Only sound is my increasing wheezing.  Realize THIS hill is about the same as the one I’ve practiced on and I’m in deep deep trouble for the end of this run.
6. Another decline ends in a water station and inter-runner conversation has switched to “Running on this trail is a LOT harder than I thought it would be”.  I remember enough to know that’s the end of any gravitational assistance.  Is that the taste of despair?
7. Where are you, John Stamos?
8. Oh look, those people up ahead are walking.  Let’s catch them.  We do and then are tired enough that we walk a bit.  You know, so as to not embarrass those people we just passed too much.
9. I wouldn’t so much as call this stage “running” as more like trudging.  I’m scowling at the thought of those extra 0.2 miles.
10. Are you frakking kidding me?  Look up ahead. Everyone is walking.  Everyone, that is, with the exception of the elite 15K (longer, sister race that started 30 minutes earlier) runners who begin to pass us.  I admire and hate them simultaneously.
11. Gauge the how far can I run versus how far until the finish line?
12. Pancakes!
In general, I wasn’t too happy with the stopping and starting at the end, but watching it happen to nearly everyone made it somehow better in that misery-loves-company sort of way.  The runs I’d done (and the hills in them) weren’t nearly enough for this sort of trail and THAT sort of finish (the difficulty of which was completely unexpected), so it provides some more motivation.  The chip-times aren’t posted yet, but my guess from the big clock posted near the finish was somewhere in the 35-37s – if I had to guess the splits had to be 10+, 12+, 15 (!?!?).  Now, I’m curious to try a “normal” road 5K to compare to this trail run.

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27 thoughts on “Trails of the Unexpected

  1. Congratulations on your first race of many!!! When we lived in SD Rob loved the Dirt Dog Races… that was all mud from what I could tell from his clothes after the races. Maybe you can try them next!

  2. Believe me — Rob went through my mind when those elite guys were trucking up that hill — and so I hated him a little even though he wasn't even there… ;)

  3. Awesome! Congrats! Trail running is harder, but so much more scenic. Of course, that rationale only works at the beginning of the course when fatigue hasn't set in. I'm thinking about doing a race once I'm back to running regularly (which won't be until May anyhow), and certainly pancakes will definitely be my end of race motivation :)

  4. Congratulations! This sounds like fun. Trail running cannot be anything like a regular road race. There is no shame in walking. You finished and it sounds like you made good time with the terrain.

  5. Awesome job! Congratulations! I hope you enjoyed the pancakes. ;)Good luck on your next race. I'm sure you'll easily beat your time next time.

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