Happy New Year!
I, of course, started off the year the same way I ended it. Running! What else would I do?
Yesterday’s race was a late 10am start so you could party the night before and still make it to the race. Partying for me meant falling asleep in the last few minutes of the late football game and my buddy waking me up at 11:58 telling me it was super important that I was awake. So I watched the ball drop and went to bed. We are hardcore here.
One of my friends told me about this trail race last year so I did it and had a blast so decided to do it again. I like that there is a 10k option. I’m not as interested in 5ks right now and I love that it’s on trails. A group of friends decided to do it this year. We met at the packet pickup bright and early …probably way too early. Packet pickup was super easy. My bib had a timing chip that I’ve never used before. It was weird because it had foam and was much thicker than other chips.
Last year the race fee included a cotton t-shirt which I was not very excited about. I might have worn it once but it doesn’t fit well, isn’t super soft, and has made it to the bottom of my t-shirt pile. This year I was really excited to see they were giving us technical shirts. And I liked the simple design of it.
The packet pickup is in a nearby parking lot because the race site has limited parking. After staying warm in our cars for a bit we walked over to the race site. We hung out there until the start and ended up seeing other people that we know. There were not many people so we didn’t go to the start line until about 5 minutes before the race. I noticed that the start was in a different location than last year and we were heading in the opposite direction. They also separated the 10k and 5k start even though it was the same course (2 loops for the 10k). The 10k started first. There were two of us doing the 10k while our other two friends were doing the 5k. There was a very short section of road and then we were headed to the dirt. As we started, it fully hit me that we were doing it in the opposite direction and I kept trying to reverse the course in my mind so I would know what was coming up.
We started with a downhill and pretty quickly hit a rocky section.
I think I took the hard way through the rocks but it was fun anyway. Because there were so few people running, the race shook out quickly and I had my own space. At times it felt like I was running alone and I was ok with that. After the downhill, there was a low section with some mud and a few little log bridges.
And then the most beautiful section of the course – a trail lined with pine tree. That was my favorite part last year too. It is flat and absolutely beautiful. The next section is relatively flat and has a few twists and turns. I was running fast and wondering if I would ever hit a hill so that I could walk. I finally hit some small hills and took a few short breaks. And then the last mile was pretty much uphill to get back to the area where we had started. It wasn’t steep though and most of it was runable. There was a “creek crossing” that I remembered from last year. This year there was not any water and gravel had been added making it not notable. If I hadn’t remembered everyone freaking out last year about getting their shoes wet it wouldn’t have stood out at all this year.
I made my way through the final turns and could see the finish line and the turn for the second lap. I went through the area as fast as I could and started my second lap. The good news was I really confident that I had not been lapped. I was running pretty fast and was pretty sure the winner would not have been fast enough to pass me.
After the first lap I knew I had set myself up pretty well for a PR. I knew if I could hang on it would be a big PR. I also knew I had run fast, maybe too fast and I was going to have trouble sustaining that pace. I had to balance all of those thoughts swirling in my head. I kept moving as fast as I could through the downhill section.
I saw my buddy at one of the bridges and got a little boost from seeing him. I don’t think I even said anything to him. He knows things are usually going well when I’m not talking. If I’ve already blown a race then I will be chatty when I run by.
I was following two women at the time and I was mostly annoyed that it was hard for him to get a picture of me by myself on the bridge. Right after that section one woman fell. I would throw away a PR for someone who needed help but despite screaming that she hit her head she looked ok. She also had a friend with her. I decided to pass them and keep moving. I was planning to let a race organizer know if I didn’t see them running again. Great decision because despite the screaming she was up and running again and they passed me. I followed them for a bit until she fell again and then I decided to keep them behind me. My second lap was much slower but I was keeping my total time in mind and making sure I was maintaining enough speed for a PR.
My buddy appeared out of no where in a rocky, hilly section somewhere in my final mile.
As I passed he said see you in 10-15 minutes. I told him it better not take me that long. He quickly explained that he had to walk the course and I was definitely going to beat him to the finish line. I hiked a portion of a hill with him right behind me but then when I started running again I quickly got ahead of him. I was struggling to keep running but I kept moving.
As I made my way through the final turns I tried to speed up as much as I could but I didn’t have much left. Seeing the finish line gave me a little boost. Right after I crossed I pretty much dropped to the ground. My friends that had done the 5k ran over to see if I was ok. I told them that I was fine but had run a big PR….and didn’t even have the brain power to calculate it yet. After a couple minutes I realized it was an 8 minute PR! More than a minute per mile faster!! I was super excited. I grabbed some snacks while we waited for our other friend to finish the 10k. We ended up walking back and running the last half mile with her. It was fun and we found a bunch of people along the way to cheer for her.
I’m hoping this PR is a sign of good things to come this year. 2016 had some really, really great moments and some of the worst moments of my life. I’d like to focus on the great stuff and build on that.
My biggest running goal for 2017 is to have fun. I won’t complain if some PRs happen along the way but enjoying it is more important to me right now.
- First Ultra!
- 1022.4 miles – highest mileage ever!
- 12 races
- 3 road — (2) 5ks, (1) 10k
- 8 trail — (2) 10k, (5) 10 mile, (1) 50k
- 1 biathlon — kayak + road run
- 1 distance PR
- 50k PR (well, first and only)
- 1 trail 10k PR
- 1 trail 10 miler PR
- First time I’ve completed an entire series (Fall Backyard Burn)
- New pairs of socks – at least 10
- 1 unsupported half marathon on December 24th
Last week I ran my first goal race of the fall – the Fall Backyard Burn at Lake Fairfax. It was number 1 in a series of 4. I ran the 10 miler.
This summer was weird and my training wasn’t quite what I had hoped. I’m happy to still be able to race 10 milers though.
I woke up early even though with a 9:00 start time I could have slept a bit later. Things just felt off. I didn’t have a lot of race excitement in me. We arrived early and got excellent parking. There was only two people in line ahead of me at packet pickup and the first was in the process of receiving her bib and shirt when I walked up. I noticed she held up the shirt and gave a weird look to the volunteer …I couldn’t hear what the racer said but no doubt it was about the shirt being tiny because the volunteer said they are the “sexy cut.” Luckily I knew what brand the shirts are because they are offensively small. I ordered two sizes larger than I typically wear. After that conversation I was quickly handed my bib and shirt. I headed back to my car to hang out since it was chilly outside and I had over an hour to wait.
After sitting around for a bit it was time to head to the start line. Due to construction in the park the start line was moved. The race started with a loop through the parking line before heading up the fire road. It was weird but made up for the lost distance by not being able to start in the normal place and allowed runners to find their spots.
Right after the run around the parking lot I power hiked up the fire road. The hill is steep enough to not bother running it. I was actually passing people that were running. I wanted to tell them how much energy they were wasting.
After the fire road we hit the single track trails which were more fun. There was a backup at the first stream crossing because people didn’t want to get their feet wet. I didn’t care about wet feet so I ran through when I could actually get there. I was blocked by a lot of people. There was a short section of trail before the second stream crossing which had the same problem. I actually heard a guy saying he would just stop his watch….um, it’s a race. The clock doesn’t stop when people don’t want to get their feet wet. There is a nice section of single track after that second stream crossing and I fell into a reasonable pace. I was following a woman who was keeping a nice pace for me…she ran the little hills and I walked them and stayed right on her heels.
We kept chugging along and ran past the soccer fields. Then it was a wider section of trail but it’s very eroded so it’s easier to run on one side making it almost like single track. That took me to the downhill section where I fell in May. This time I picked it apart much better and didn’t fall. I ran through some of my favorite sections next – they are trails where I normally start and no matter which way I run I end up running those trails so I’m very familiar with them.
I kept feeling like my socks were really tight and that my fight were going to lose circulation, die, and have to be amputated. I’m not sure why I felt this way but I couldn’t shake it. When I tried to run fast it felt worse.
I made my way to the lake and up the big hill and then down the other side.
As I came around the lake I saw my buddy and all I could say was that my socks were too tight. He gave me a confused look and said oh no. I finished the trip around the lake and headed into the final mile of the first lap.
I tried to pick up the pace in the that final mile. I had not been lapped by the 10 miler winner and I really wanted to keep it that way. As I ran across a road I confirmed with a volunteer that I had not been lapped ….no one super fast passed me but I was still nervous that I had somehow missed it.
When I could see the finish line I just kept running to head into the second lap and as the volunteer pointed me down the hill toward lap 2 I threw my arms up and yelled “I did not get lapped!” I was thrilled. Now I just had to run the second half of the race.
After the first lap I was on track for a decent time…unfortunately I was also super tired and knew my training was not great. I retraced my steps but was much more alone. The racers doing the 5 miler were finished and I was near the end of the 10 milers. It was nice because I didn’t have to fight anyone at the stream crossings and I could enjoy some quiet miles. There were some chatty women behind me for a while and that was annoying but eventually I got ahead. I was convinced they had cut the course but really they had just fallen behind.
When I got to the lake again I could see that my buddy was on the far side.
As I started coming around I heard people cheering for me…I was wondering who was there because I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew. And it wasn’t! Just a random family that had asked my buddy for my name so that they could cheer. That was really nice.
As I made my way through the final mile I kept an eye on my watch….it said I was running a faster pace than the race in May.
When I got to the finish my watch said the race was slightly longer so even though my pace was faster my overall time was about 45 seconds slower. I’m good with that. It means I didn’t lose much over the summer when my life was turned down side up and my training was terrible.
I’m looking forward to the next 3 races in the series. They are courses I haven’t run. The next is a park that I know quite well but the two in November will introduce me to new trails.
Life has been hard lately. Harder than normal. And honestly I haven’t been dealing with it very well for the past couple of months. But I’m ready to change that. I’ve still been running even through the hard days.
Looking back I’m sure I had a grand plan for the summer. I always have a plan. But someone reached in my brain and stole that plan and turned my life downside up. I thought I was going to go to DTP (distance training program) on Saturdays and run with friends. I thought I was going to run trails on Sundays. I was going to float along with reasonable mileage in the beginning and then I was going to nail down a solid training plan for my upcoming trail races. Some of that happened….some of the time. And then things just starting changing and I was only reacting to whatever emergency was in front of me that day.
DTP just hasn’t been meeting my hopes and dreams this session so I’ve spent more time on trails. Trails make me happy and my big goal races are trail races anyway so I guess that worked out. I’m 4 weeks away from my first 10 miler of the series and I never really made a solid plan….like the kind that is written down and perfectly followed. But I have been trying to increase my mileage.
Yesterday I decided to actually make an appearance at DTP. I knew I wouldn’t have anyone to run with though so I planned to just run the horse trail. I wanted to do 10 miles. My run started off quite well. The big goal I have for my races is to have enough endurance to run the runable sections….the flats and the downhills. I don’t want to walk because I’m too tired. I want to push through anything that I should be able to run efficiently. The large uphills on trails are not runable for me. I can power hike them faster than I can run them and I feel much better when I get to the top if I’ve hiked them instead of trying to run them. So I plan to walk the hills. But inbetween the hills I want to be running. With this goal in mind I’ve been trying to do this on training runs. I did this very well for the first 5 miles yesterday.
For fuel I was carrying a zipper bag of dried apricots. Normally I put one to two servings in a bag and put them in the pockets of my skirt. Yesterday when dumping them into the bag I dumped too many so I put them in my hydration vest pocket. At 3 miles I pulled the bag out and somehow dropped one apricot, freaked out for 1/10th of a second and then realized I had way more than I needed so I ate one or two, stopped freaking out, and put the bag back in my vest. At the 5 miles I was pretty hungry. I realized I had eaten dinner early on Friday and not had anything after dinner and before my run I only had a small spoonful of peanut butter instead of the bigger one that I have gotten used to eating. So I pulled out my bag….which I thought I had zippered closed….um, nope….apparently it was not closed. Most of my apricots went flying all around me. I looked down and they were everywhere…..and I was standing in gravel. Tiny gravel….lots of it. And the apricots were sticky. Yeah….that was not cool. I picked one up to see if I could deal with it. But I really couldn’t. They were covered in gravel. I just looked down at them and thought this is the story of my life lately.
Now, of course there was other fuel in my pack. But I didn’t want that fuel. I was so mad at myself for dropping the fuel that I wanted. I ate the two that I had managed to keep in the bag and turned around to head back. I thought I could get over it. But I couldn’t. I was bummed out and I started the walking thing. The thing where I walk when I’m not on a hill. I should never start that. If I do it once or twice I think it’s ok and I keep doing it. So I was significantly slower on the second half of the run.
But I did 10 miles! And geez it was only gravel on apricots! It could have been much worse.
And the really good news…my super white new shoes aren’t so white anymore. This makes me happy. Dirt on my shoes is earned.
I love holiday races despite not loving most holidays. 4th of July is a holiday that I love though. I’m not expected to be anywhere and my buddy and I can spend the day doing whatever we want. For quite a few years now we have started the day with a 5k. This year it was the =PR= Firecracker 5k. We’ve done this one a few times and it’s always well organized and I typically have friends running it.
I insisted on getting up early and heading over even though parking is relatively easy and we had already picked up our race packets. I wanted to warm up. I’m learning that this really helps for short races. I agreed to meet my buddy at 7:30 so he could sleep in the car while I warmed up. I did a short warm up of 1.5 miles and then met my buddy and found my friends as they arrived. People were mostly standing around talking but I tried to keep moving and ran a few strides before we headed over to the start line.
The start line was pretty packed but we started near the front based on the paces we intended to run.
After a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem we were off. The start was reasonably fast. I had to make sure that I didn’t get carried away. I wanted to run hard though. I wanted to take a shot at my PR even though I knew I wasn’t really in shape for that and hadn’t done enough speed training. I watched my pace but moved as fast as I could and tried to find a pace that I thought was sustainable.
After the first mile I saw Kim cheering for runners and told her that I was hurting already. She reminded me that it was supposed to hurt and I needed to hear that. I kept reminding myself to enjoy the pain and to keep pushing. Over and over in my head I said, “don’t quit.”
I came around the turn that had the water stop and decided not to waste time and distance moving very far away from it but to run through. I was in a group that was moving pretty fast and most people bypassed the water. It worked out for the most part…I only bumped arms with one person.
The middle section of the course doesn’t have any spectators and not many volunteers. I tried to enjoy the quiet and just keep moving forward. I was pushing myself and ended up only 6 seconds slower than my first mile. I knew the 3rd mile was going to be tough. I had been running fast and wasn’t sure if I could continue that pace. I also had to fight two hills.
When I got to the first hill I wanted so badly to walk but I was afraid that I would lose everything if I walked and I knew I didn’t have far to go so I just pushed through. I quickly reached the flat and then downhill section before the last hill. That last hill killed me but I didn’t think about walking because I was just so close to the finish. I looked at my time on the last hill and knew it wasn’t going to be PR but knew I could get a new course record and was running a great time compared to recent races. I continued to push.
On the last street when I could see the finish line I pushed as much as I could. The people cheering on the side of the road were a blur. I didn’t want to waste energy to look around and I was focused on just finishing strong. I heard Kim cheer but didn’t really process it until it was too late to wave.
I ran through the finish line and checked my time. I knew it was a new course record but wasn’t sure how much until I checked my data later – 35 seconds! I’m really happy with that. I guess training for long distances helped my short stuff too. Also, the weather was good. It was in the mid 60s and cloudy (spitting rain at times). Overall I’m thrilled with the race. I’m glad I dug deep and pushed hard. AND, I’m glad I didn’t quit.
Track Tuesdays are back! And I’m pretty excited about it. While I love the long runs on Saturdays I think the main reason I’m doing DTP again is for Track Tuesdays. I feel like I get the most coaching at the track and I’m always challenged by the workouts. I’m slowly learning how to not start too fast so that I can get through the entire workout without crashing and burning.
I’m really trying hard with the fueling right now. I still have time before I feel like I need to get serious about my training so I’m willing to try different things. On Tuesday, I had a spoonful of peanut butter and a cup of nuun about an hour and a half before track. This seemed to work well. Even when I picked up the pace I didn’t have any issues. I will try this a few more times but this might also work before long runs.
Overall my workout was great. I decided not to program my watch for specific paces and to just go out and see what I could do and how I felt…..and I felt good. I was happy with my paces and they were surprisingly consistent which is something I have struggled with in the past. I’m really looking forward to focusing on speed and getting a little bit faster this summer since I won’t be doing any insanely long runs.
Just because I have goals now doesn’t mean I have to be serious. That will come soon but for now I’m still running for fun. On Saturday morning my usual running buddies all had other things to do so I figured I would hit some trails on my own.
I was unexpectedly awoken at 4:25 am by an elbow to my back. I was not happy about this and I couldn’t go back to sleep. After trying for a while I decided to just leave the house early and hit the trails. I had a lot of plans for the day and knew getting my run done early would allow me to accomplish the most.
I decided to get a little race course practice at the park where the Spring Backyard Burn was. The fall series includes a race on the same course. I started where I normally park which added a little distance. Surprisingly I was mostly able to follow the course without the markers and the caution tape.
I tried to use the GoPro during my run but most of my photos turned out blurry. We think it was a result of the low light conditions in the trees and a longer exposure. I was moving when I took all of the photos.
The start from my parking location was downhill so I flew through the first three quarters of a mile and then picked up the race course after a stream crossing.
I made my way through some fun single track to the lake.
And then hit the big uphill. I practiced my power hiking. I headed back down and ran around most of the lake.
When I turned away from the lake I was a little nervous because I had only run those trails during the race. I managed to mostly stay on course. I took a few short wrong turns but decided within a few steps they were wrong so I didn’t waste much time or distance. I made my way to the finish line area for the course and instead of running downhill to only make a turn and have to run up the hill I stayed on the trail and took a small shortcut. When I got there I was convinced I had to turn right but when I did it seemed like the trail ended. So I turned left despite being very confused. Was there any extra piece of the fire road? 15 steps down the hill confirmed I should have turned right….it was fire road and I “knew” where I was ….why was I so confused?
Upon closer inspection I realized the trail did not end…a tree had fallen and was blocking the road. I climbed around it to confirm. Yup, I was right where I thought I was. I proceeded on while laughing at myself for being so confused and thinking the trail was gone.
I knew I had one more tricky section up ahead. There were two stream crossings… no big deal on those since there was hardly any water but there are multiple spots to cross and I had to make sure I hit the correct ones. I remembered telling my friend during the first lap of the race that I typically hit the furthest crossing and we were doing one sooner. That helped me remember where to cross. I had run that trail before the race but only in the downhill direction. The race is the uphill direction. I decided I better practice and did it again. While I was on that trail I decided that I might not want to run the loop again…I knew that would put me at 10 miles plus the 1.5 miles to get in and back out to my car. I also remembered that Kim said her race was on a paved trail nearby. I figured I could finish my loop and run out and be at about 6.5 miles. I would want to run further anyway so I could run on the horse trail next to the paved trail until I found the race. I checked the time and since I had started super early I realized the timing would probably work out.
I continued on until I made it back to the stream crossing where I had hopped on the course. I crossed back over and headed back to my car. Due to some slight shortcuts I came out of the trails at 6.3 miles and headed towards the horse trail. I had less than 20 minutes until the start of the race.
I had no idea where the course for the race actually was….and I was hoping that I had remembered the start time correctly. I knew I was east of the race and I knew I was about 1.5 miles east of our typical trail meeting spot. For some reason in my mind I thought the race might be east of there and I would run into it rather quickly. That was not the case. By the time I ran to that spot I knew the race had started….but I had no idea where it was. I did know that I had to run that 1.5 miles back to my car though. Since I had no idea what I was doing it might have been smart to turn around but I knew the race really couldn’t be much further away so I decided to proceed on over a bridge and then I figured I would run to one more bend and see if I could see signs of a race.
I finally saw a sign that said “Race Event in Progress.” Hooray! Of course I had no idea where on the course I was and if I would really be able to find Kim. I kept running until I found some volunteers. I asked for info and was told I was 15 minutes late but I could start. I laughed and said I had been running for 2 hours and didn’t feel 15 minutes late to anything. The showed me the finish line which was perfect. I knew based on the timing that I had not missed Kim. I was told the winner was expected in a few minutes. I decided to head down a little bit and not wait right at the finish line. I ended up finding the spot where runners turned onto the trail and there I found one of the DTP coaches. He told me that his wife was running the race and I had just missed her.
The timing was actually perfect ….as if I had planned it. I took a break and waited for Kim knowing that she had no idea I was there and I could surprise her. We were stopped at the 3 mile mark so I decided I could run her in. We cheered for the winner as she came by and then the other runners. There was someone announcing times at the 3 mile mark so I used that info to decide when to start really watching for Kim.
When I saw her come over the bridge I jumped out onto the trail. The look on her face made the extra running worth it! She was so happy. And decided to dig deep for a strong finish. I think she was trying to get me back for North Face! After standing there I wasn’t ready to run so fast but I ran and encouraged her to pass some people at the end. She told me she didn’t think she could but I ignored that and passed them so that she would too. Her finish was super strong and fast! I was so glad to be able to share that moment with her. I didn’t want to take away from Kim’s opportunity to enjoy the post race party so I quickly headed back to find my other friends who I knew were behind her. I got there just in time to run them in too.
I’m glad I decided to be spontaneous and find the race. It turned out to be a lot of fun. And I got the extra miles I was looking for. I ended up with 10.75 miles for the day which is funny because the idea to go to the race started with me not wanting to run 11.5 miles.
Right now this is what running is all about….trails and friends. The smiles from my friends made my day. And that’s how you turn an early elbow to the back into the perfect morning!
I love running when it’s cold. For me, winter running is normally enjoyable. I warm up quickly. Typically at half a mile I’m pushing my sleeves up and thinking about taking my gloves off. I love being outside but in the winter we spend much less time outside. My buddy and I still try to take a walk most days but there is no kayaking, no yard work, no dinners on the deck. If we find ourselves outside for extended periods it’s because we are shoveling snow. Some years we manage to get in a ski trip which gives me the outside time I crave.
Why am I talking about cold when this post is supposed to be about my summer and fall goals? Well, I don’t have the same love for summer running as I do for winter running. I really struggle with the heat. I still love running but I feel like I never adapt to the heat. I run slow and it’s more painful. In the summer, I spend so much time outside doing other activities that I do not have to get my outside time from running. This means I’m not as interested in running far during the summer. I’m happy to stick with 3-5 mile weekday afternoon runs instead of 6-10. I’m ok with long runs of 10-15 miles instead of 20. Or even less; 6-10 miles is fine too.
Training for North Face over the winter was very time consuming. It was fun and I loved it but I need a break. I need a mental break. I spent all winter trying to figure out how to get in my runs and coordinating the rest of my life. So what am I going to do?
Goal #1 – Have fun! Run and do all those other outdoor things that I like to do.
Goal #2 – Head back to DTP. One of the biggest reasons I want to go back to DTP is to support my friends. I could not have run an ultra without them. I want to support their goals and be there to cheer for them. I owe a lot of people a lot of miles. I want to run next to my friends and tell them how they are going to do epic things.
Goal #3 – Consistently get back to 4 days of running each week. I was doing 5 for North Face (soft of). I was doing 4 last summer. 5 is tough for me. 4 is very doable. Track Tuesdays will be starting again with DTP. Thursday is a standard running day. Long runs are Saturdays or Sundays. If I run both days I will likely take Mondays off. If I only run one weekend day I will run on Monday.
Goal #4 – Race Trails! My “big” race goal is to run the Fall Backyard Burn Series. 4 races…10 miles each. I think this is a good goal for me. The distance is doable. It’s long enough that I have to stay in shape but not so long that I have to kill myself and spend all of my time running. The spring backyard burn was a blast. The races are local and I won’t be overwhelmed by thousands of people. AND, I won’t spend all summer/fall thinking that only one day matters. I spent too much time focusing on April 9th that I had no idea what to do when it was over.
Possible Goal #5 – Race a good 10k. I want to do this but I’m not sure I want to focus on it too much. I don’t want to sit on the side of the road and cry after a race (again). If working towards a PR means I will be crushed if it doesn’t happen then maybe right now is not the right time. If I can get back in shape and feel like it’s achievable I will take a shot. What I don’t want is pressure. I felt pressure all winter to hit my distances. I don’t need to put that pressure on myself this summer. For me speed and heat don’t mix well. If I get back into DTP and feel like it can happen with only a little extra work and it not consuming my life I will go for it.
Will a half marathon find it’s way in this year? Maybe, likely on trails if it happens. Will a road 10 miler happen? Who knows, maybe. Will I score at least one point in the Fall Backyard Burn series? Will I ever run another ultra? Will I break down and run 26.2 sometime? Only time will tell.
After the Backyard Burn I was feeling and looking beat up. I’ve fallen before but most have been soft. This was hard. I tripped and landed on my knees and my hands. My left knee and right hand took the worst of it. They were both quite swollen.
In my mind I was going to run the =PR= Mother’s Day 4 Miler. I have run the race a few years in a row and it’s a fun race. It’s the only 4 mile race I have ever done. For some reason I had a feeling it was bad idea to sign up early so I kept procrastinating. And this turned out to be true – it would have been a bad idea. After the fall I was debating whether or not I would run. I took Monday off and ran on Tuesday. I cut the run short because my knee was still swollen and hurting. I figured I would wait a couple more days to decide about the race.
And then my nose started running. I guess if my legs couldn’t do it my nose wanted to. And then I just felt awful. Not sure if it was allergies, a cold, the flu, some other plague. I think it was my body begging for a break. It was hard decision but I never signed up for the race.
I had told Kim I would be there in some capacity. I decided to volunteer.
I got to the race early – around the time that packet pickup started. My friend is in charge of race organization so I let her know that I was there to work and she put me to work right away.
My first assignment was directing cars to the parking, people to the packet pickup, and providing information to anyone with questions. For the most part this went smoothly. When the parking lot started getting full and people started parking on the street it got a little tricky. I ended up directing traffic a little more than I had expected. People were pretty nice for the most part and I didn’t get hit by a car so I’ll consider that a win.
Right before the race I ran to the start line. I watched and clapped as everyone headed off for the race.
And then I got my next assignment.
I was sent to an intersection on the 1 mile course to direct the racers. Many of the 1 mile racers were children. I pointed everyone in the correct direction and cheered as they went by. My duties there ended after the last 1 mile racer came back past me so I headed back to the start/finish line to see what was needed next.
I missed the winners of the 4 miler but still saw some of the top finishers. They are fast!
My next assignment was to hand out carnations to the mothers as they finished. I jumped in and started giving each female racer a flower. Most were grateful. A few explained that they were not mothers. I have been in their shoes. It’s awkward. The volunteers have no way of knowing who is a mom. In the past I just told the volunteer that I was not a mother but asked if I could take the flower and give it to my mother.
The children who asked for flowers to give to their moms were the cutest. The women who pushed the strollers, double strollers, and triple strollers were the most grateful. Or maybe they were just grateful to have finished the race.
Whenever one of my friends finished I jump in front of the other volunteers so that I could be the one to give them a carnation.
Even though I wasn’t able to race I had fun. I know that when I race other volunteers work hard to make it happen so I like to do some volunteer time when I can. It took my mind off the tough decision I made to not waste a race entry when I wasn’t going to run my best.
In case you want to know what the course is like you can check out Kim’s Guide.
I still have not signed up for another race and I’m debating if I can make it to 4th of July without racing. That would be a long stretch for me but it might happen.
I’ll be volunteering at the next =PR= race and supporting those running their first 5k on Sunday so that will help satisfy my need to be at races.
Sunday May 1st, I ran my first race with EX2 Adventures. It was the final race in their Spring Backyard Burn Series. The race was at a local park. I did quite a bit of my North Face training in that park. Even though I’ve trained there, some of the trails on the race course were new to me.
The race had a 5 or 10 mile option. I decided to go with the 10 miler as I mentioned previously. I wanted to use my training and go with the longer option. My friend ran the 5 mile race and since the 10 mile was just two loops of the 5 I was able to run half of the race with her.
I woke up to rain…..plenty of rain and knew I was in for another wet day on the trails. Since I survived an ultra in the mud I figured I could handle less in some mud. The race director had run the trails on the Monday before and said they were in good shape. They checked them again when they marked them and sent an email on Saturday to say that the race was on unless there were thunderstorms and that the trails were wet but not too soft.
I arrived at the race site around 7:40 and headed to packet pickup. It was super organized and since not many people were there yet it took only a minute to get my bib and shirt. My friend arrived shortly after and picked up hers. We hung out in my car for a while before deciding to brave the rain and get ready for the 9 am start. There was a large pavilion at the packet pickup so we ended up there and talked to some other racers. Many others had done the rest of the races in the series. They all said EX2 racers were great. (Spoiler Alert – They were right!)
About 10 minutes before the start we were directed to the start line. The race was not chip timed. Since there were not many people there I really did not care. I doubt I lost much at the start line and it’s trail racing….who cares about 5 or 10 seconds? We lined up where we thought we belonged….middle but towards the back. The race director made some announcements about how the course was marked and then sent us on our way.
They were super smart when they arranged the course. There is a fire road (gravel) with a significant uphill that was right after the start. Starting in this location allowed runners to shake out into the proper spots. We walked the hill. We always walk this hill. It’s not worth running. The faster people bounded up the hill and we never saw them again.
My friend is currently running intervals so we did 4 min run/2 min walk. We settled into these intervals right after the first big hill. We then headed across a field and into the more fun single track trails. Some people were scared about the wet trails and walking down hills that I thought we easily could have been running. (On the second lap I easily ran them.)
Because trails often dictate walking at particular points we walked extra when required. Every once in a while we ran through a walk break if we had walked significantly during the running portion of our intervals.
When we hit a stream crossing we were stuck behind a line of runners trying to avoid getting wet. Given the puddles we had already seen on the course we decided to run right through. Neither of us is scared of wet shoes.
We proceeded on, changing off who was in the lead. My friend asked me to lead one of the most technical sections. It was fine though – I’ve run that section in training and knew what I was in for. We then made it to the lake. Instead of tightly following the lake we took some big uphills to go up and around the lake. We had to walk some significant portions. After that we were running closer to the lake when I spotted my buddy. I wasn’t expecting to see him out along the course but it wasn’t far from the start so he was able to easily walk over.
We finished the section around the lake and then headed off on some trails that were new to me. They were pretty fun single track trails. We wound our way through the woods. I knew my time with my friend was quickly coming to an end. She pushed hard at the end to get to the finish. I said goodbye because I knew she was headed home to get out of her wet clothes. Near the finish line was the worst section of mud. It was almost impossible to run. I used that spot for some refueling, cheered as my friend ran to the finish, and then headed down the hill back for my second loop.
As I headed up the fire road again I talked to another racer. I knew there were still 5 mile racers behind me but I wasn’t sure if we were the last two 10 mile racers. He said that he didn’t think so because they typically have someone following the last racer. I didn’t care too much about being last….but I guess I cared a little bit. I took a nice long break on the hill and then starting pushing again. I ended up passing the guy I had been talking to. We had caught up to another racer and I passed her too.
I was following behind another woman. Not close – but I made a point to keep my eye on her. I was convinced if I worked hard enough I could catch her. She kept her distance in front of me but I tried to keep watching. I didn’t hold back in the streams and I worked as hard as I could on the uphill sections but she was always just out of reach.
As I was coming down a hill in a more technical section I was bouncing side to side looking for the easiest portion of the trail to run on ….and then next thing I knew I was on the ground. I had fallen hard. I bounced up and tried to assess the damage. I had landed on both knees and hands. I brushed off as much as I could but my hands were covered in small gravel and mud. I was trying to assess if I was cut but couldn’t really see my hands. I could tell my knee was swelling and decided to press forward as quickly as I could before it got worse.
I found a large puddle and “washed” my hands in it. I still was covered in mud and gravel and decided to run to the next aid station to deal with it. When I got there I asked the volunteer to pour water on my hands so that I could see if I was bleeding. He generously poured the two cups he was holding on to my hands. I could finally see that I was not bleeding much. I continued running as I felt my knee swelling.
I never gave up on my hope to pass the woman in front of me. I still thought I could catch her. Finally at the hills near the lake I caught up to her and talked to her. I didn’t tell her that I was trying to beat her. We talked for a bit until she decided to run a section that I wanted to walk. Darn it! She was ahead of me again. At the aid station near the lake she stopped and I passed her. I was determined to keep her behind me after that.
My buddy had moved and was further around the lake. I yelled to him that I might not race again in a week and he immediately asked what was wrong. I explained that I had fallen. He asked if I needed anything …and I said “yes, to finish the race!”
I weaved my way through the single track again and kept just ahead of that woman. There was a man in front of me but I just could not catch him.
In the last few sections the sky really opened up and the rain came down in buckets. Somehow it seemed fitting. I only race in crappy weather I guess. The mud at the end was so slippery. I was sliding back and forth just trying to get to the last section which was on grass. I turned toward the finish line and ran as fast I could. I beat the woman and I knew I had passed 3 people in the second lap so I definitely wasn’t last. Turns out there were only a few others behind the people I had passed but who cares, someone has to be last. I figure in a race like this the slower people tend to also run the shorter distance. I’m willing to run longer even if it is slow.
I made my way down to the pavilion with the food and the awards. The food – wow! It was amazing. There was so much food….even for those of us at the back of the pack. I was really impressed with the selection and the amount. I couldn’t even think of taking one of everything….that would have been enough food for a week. I grabbed a slice of pizza and a cup of m&ms and a few other items.
As for the results….well working hard to pass that woman made a difference. I ended up beating 5 people (not including DNFs) and I ended up 20th in my age group…..which got me 1 point. And since I’m honest there were only 21 people. That woman was one. If I hadn’t beat her I would have been last in my age group and received no points. The point didn’t mean anything at all since I didn’t do the series. But I was still proud of working hard to run my best.
Also, I was NOT lapped by any 10 mile racers…..that was amazing to me. I kept waiting for them to pass me but it didn’t happen. I was able to run 5 miles faster than the winner ran the 10! I felt pretty good about this. I ran a significantly faster pace than North Face (more than 2 minutes/mile faster) which made me really happy.
Overall, despite the rain, mud, and falling, I had a blast. The race was low key but very well organized. The course markings were amazing. I easily get lost and get nervous on long stretches. There were plenty of markings and caution tape marked intersecting trails that we were not supposed to take. Even my buddy commented on the section around the lake. He asked how many arrows were really needed. I told him that runners like lots of confidence markers. There was no way I was getting lost on the course.
The other racers were supportive throughout the course and 2 of the 3 people I passed found me at the end to congratulate me on the the finish. The aid station volunteers and course marshals were really nice and supportive too. I didn’t take anything from the aid stations because I was carrying water but they offered it each time. There were 3 aid stations on the 5 mile loop which I passed twice and additional one near the start/finish which I passed while heading to the second loop. This is pretty amazing for a trail race. Typically they are spread out a lot more. One volunteer did tell me I was “almost there” as I was close to finishing the first lap. I’ll forgive her though because I think it was an honest mistake and she probably only noticed my friend’s bib. After I told her I had another lap I heard her say “…one 5 mile racer and one 10 mile racer.” I’m guessing she really didn’t mean to say that to me.
I didn’t stick around for the awards because I was so wet and just wanted to get home and change but I know they raffle off random items and everyone has a chance to win.
So after having so much fun I’ve decided that I want to attempt the Fall Backyard Burn Series. There are 4 races and I would like to aim to run the 10 mile race at all of them. I’m trying to figure out if I can make this work with my fall travel schedule. I had so much fun. The 10 mile distance felt very manageable and I think it would be a good fall goal for me. Maybe I’ll even find a way to earn a point or two in the series (if not many people show up.)