Today’s race was not pretty, on my part. Those not so pretty parts taught me a lot.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to run fast today, especially since it took me a day or so longer to recover from the marathon than the previous two. I also had no idea how I would perform on a half marathon entirely on trails.
After checking the weather I knew I wouldn’t need long sleeves or gloves even though it was below 40 at the start. That was one of few smart decisions I made in today’s race.
With the sound of a starting gun we were off. I knew I was starting off too fast but I didn’t want to end up at the back of the pack. It’s my competitive nature coming out. I wasn’t content to just finish. I wanted to have a good showing. That first mile was the only mile under 10.
Finally everyone started settling in. I truly loved this portion of the race. I felt great. I thought I was running great. (I had slowed down a little.) The weather was gorgeous, just like the scenery.
When I took my second walk break at mile 6 I texted (or thought I did) Mom to tell her that my time would probably be closer to 2:30 than 2:00. (That was overly optimistic thinking there.) I had been running close to a group of three, two guys and a girl. The girl was behind me and one of the guys kept dropping back to check on her before running ahead again.
We got to a fork in the trails and even though my gut told me to follow the pink ribbons the organizers put out on the trails specifically, I followed the other guy who said he was sure that it was the other way.
Well, he was wrong. I had a sinking feeling that we’d taken the wrong turn when I didn’t see any more Croft Half Marathon signs or pink ribbons. Sure enough, a half mile later he came running back telling his friend to turn around. She was not happy. I was glad it was only a half mile.
We turned around and headed back. Sure enough, a few feet after we turned on the other path there was a Croft Half Marathon sign tacked to a tree. Definitely should have trusted my instincts on that one.
At that point I was still okay. I wasn’t feeling the distance yet. That didn’t come until right around 15k, my previous trail PDR. Coincidentally, we had a creek crossing, a real one, right at that point too.
This is where things started to fall apart mentally and then physically.
Since I have no coordination, I ended up splashing my foot completely into the water and ending up with 1.5 completely soaked shoes and socks. (My left foot escaped total submersion.) That was the turning point. I was so not happy that I had five miles left to run and that I had to run them with squishy shoes. Since I was running without music I could hear every squish.
I was tired too. It was such a struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other, especially on the hills. They definitely didn’t compare to anything on Paris Mountain but by that point I didn’t care.
2 or 3 miles after that my left IT band started getting really angry with me. I’ve never had any problems with it but then again, I’ve never run a half marathon 7 days after a marathon. I was so ready to be done, especially since I was fighting the mental battle of thinking about the extra mile I “got” to run.
Somehow I made it and before I expected it, I could see the finish. I’m not sure how the accidental mile detour combined to the course yielded a distance of 13.55 but I didn’t care. I was done, frustrated, but done.
The only thing that I didn’t care for in this race was how the finish was organized. I know I was one of the slowest ones (which kills me!) but I couldn’t find anything after the race. Somehow I didn’t get one of the glasses. It’s okay because I wouldn’t use it anyway. Then I noticed that the only water was out of big dispensers that were almost empty. Not cool. I will admit though that I was very frustrated with my own performance at the time and probably seeing everything through those lenses.
I learned a lot today, the most significant of which is, trail running is a whole different ball of wax. It kicked my butt today but I can’t wait to get out there and return the favor.
Before I go (I know, a lot of words) here are some great things about the race:
1. Well Marked Course!
It was my own fault that I got turned around. This had to be one of the best marked trail courses I’ve seen, although I haven’t seen that many. 🙂
2. Beautiful Location
Croft State Park is absolutely beautiful and a great place for trail running (if you can overlook the horses’ contribution to the trails.)
3. Fantastic Volunteers
All of them were amazing, friendly and encouraging.
If I were in the area next year I would definitely consider running this race again!
Up next? Turkey Bowl 5k next Saturday