Trail runners are clearly a special group of folks. The Scenic City Trail Half Marathon I ran today was by far the toughest running event in which I've participated. And that includes 26.2 on the hilly Country Music Marathon course in 80degree temps. I am PROUD of my 2:27:58 finish. I worked SO hard for it.
To say I was UNPREPARED is an understatement. My trail shoes didn't work out, so I had to run in my regular road shoes. I had run several six-milers on a very flat, mostly gravel trail. It has no tree roots, no boulders, no large, sharp rocks. And I thought that made me ready to take on 13.1 on a real trail? Apparently I'm very naive. Or just stupid.
This race was so TOUGH. I ran more hills in this race than I've run this month! (Or last month.) I told my husband the race felt like 75% was uphill, 20% was steep downhill, and maybe 5% was flat. Or 0%. (Update: I wrote this prior to posting the elevation picture.) It was so technical---I ran over roots, rocks, across boulders, in sand, over a fallen tree, through 2 streams. I tripped at least 5 times, rolled each ankle 2-3 times, and left the course bleeding from my right shoulder from a fall against a tree.
Trail running is SERIOUS business. I was completely unprepared in my road shoes. The steep downhills were so scary with no traction. There was loose dirt and leaves and rock everywhere. Traction would have been a good thing.
I was happy endurance-wise. I powered up a lot of hills when others were walking. I mean A LOT of hills. But I just didn't have the technical knowledge to know how to safely run the downhills or the experience on this type of mixed terrain. It took a laser-like focus on the ground about 2 feet in front of me. I couldn't look up, to the side or anywhere except where my foot was going to fall next.
It was all single-file, so I got used to having conversations with unknown folks behind me whom I could not see.
Breathing was tough--could be the elevation or all those darn hills. Some were so steep that everyone dropped down to a walk. Since we were single file, I had no choice at times. Other times, I'd just say, "On your left" and try to pass them without hurting myself.
I will say that I spent 90% of the race in FEAR that I was going to seriously injure myself. I am running a full marathon in 3 weeks and the whole race I was thinking that this was a really risky move. (The folks who wrote the race website downplayed the technicalness of the course in a major way. It was NOTHING like I expected.) I think with the right shoes and training I might have had fun and embraced this trail run.
It was a crazy, challenging, but strangely fullfulling day. Fun? I can't say I was smiling and having a blast, but I did talk to some really nice people along the way. Trail folks just seemed friendlier than road race folks. Almost no one had music.
At the end, the last .25 was back on pavement. Pavement never felt so good!!!
I pushed myself in the last 3 miles because I so wanted to be finished! My right ankle especially was hurting more from the downhills than the up. The first 8 miles seemed mostly uphill, but miles 9 and 10 were primarily downhill. Those two miles were brutal. Our GPS watches weren't working, so we were all kind of running blindly. I was SURPRISED and happy to see under 2:30 on the finish line clock.
Now my husband wants us to do it together next year. Hmmmm..... I think I will be up for the challenge. It is GOOD to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while.