This past Saturday I crossed another first off of my running "bucket list". This year has been wrought with many accomplishments as well as many set-backs for me, running wise. I have shared with you my journey toward a 100 mile month, my joy in finally becoming a marathoner, and my heartache in being "benched" due to an ever common injury suffered by runners - a bum IT Band. The road to recovery hasn't been easy. In fact, it has been much harder than learning to run in the first place. I mean, after all, I had to start over and that is NEVER an easy feat regardless of what it is you are starting over from. But, that is a story for another time. (Aren't they all?!?)
I decided a couple of months ago the best way to not revert back to a coach potato was to sign up for as many races as I could - within financial reason of course. Well, in the beginning, I ran a couple of 5Ks. While I never reached, equaled, nor beat any previous PR I did prove to myself that I can most certainly complete a race. And since, there are times, as most of us runners are apt to share, when reason must be thrown out the window, I signed up for a half marathon. This only after finally getting back to the 10 mile mark 2 weeks before the race!!! But, hey, why not I'd doubled the distance not quite 4 months prior! I did not set a PR in that race, but again I proved that I could do it. And while riding this racing high, so-to-speak, I went right on ahead and signed up for 3 more half marathons to be completed in the 5 weeks following that one, which brings me to my first!
I ran an all trail half marathon. ALL TRAILS! Ok, ok, some of you are probably wondering the significance of this. Or not. Here's the thing, while I have ran a snippit of a trail from time to time at my favorite state park over the past year and a half, I have not ever ran that far on just trails. In fact, I haven't ran all trails in a race, or for more than 2.5 miles, since high school cross country. (Nearly 20 years ago!!! BTW, now is not the time for you to bust out your epic math skills. Just saying.) What on earth possessed me to think this was going to be easy (yeah, not exactly what I was thinking, but I have momentary lapses in reason) to run??? So a few things started off this adventure:
1) I had black bean pasta with red sauce for dinner the night before - what am I, a rookie? No detail needed here.
2) I woke up on time, but in my haste to get out the door, failed to grab my Garmin and by the time it was remembered I was already a half hour down the interstate and turning around was not an option. Plus my reasoning was that people have ran for centuries without the aid of technology telling them how epic they were (or weren't).
3) I drove nearly 2 hours to the race without pre-registering and hoping beyond hope they still had open registration. Yeah, sometimes you just have to take those risks.
4) As the mass amounts of runners started pulling in I began to question my sanity (alright, it was questioned prior to that), I mean these people looked like they trained with Forrest Gump for Heaven's sake. Me, I have had my NordicTrac!
5) Start line or bust I realized it was just a race and sometimes you just have to do it for the fun of it. :)
2 hours 20 minutes and 19 seconds later LET ME TELL YOU....
1) 13.1 miles is still 13.1 miles
2) 13.1 miles on trails is equivalent to 5,367,837.9 miles on the open road
3) mile 6.5 is great place to stop and de-burr (after all, there is nothing quite like the feeling of your legs being velcroed to themselves with each stride)
4) Do not have a fear of scary movies or any suspense movie that Hollywood can throw at you - there are several miles of running in solitude through the forest and around a corn field...children of the corn anyone???
5) Hills. That is all.
6) Make that small mountains with a 99% incline followed by another and another and another. Now, that is all.
8) Sand. Seriously? Sand in the middle of a nature preserve? Why not? After all it was only about 1.5 miles of the course!!!!
9) Path-less trails. No, really. When the race admin states at the beginning of the race that the trails are well marked and you will not have any issues with knowing where to go - DO NOT BELIEVE HIM!
10) Thank other random runners, who upon reaching up to you and the other confused runners, have a map on them of the course and proceed to direct you. (Saviors these people were!)
11) Kindly notify the runners behind you of a couple logs blocking the path only to miss the well disguised tree root and perform an academy award winning James Bond style tuck and roll. (Bruises materialize later.)
12) Begin passing the good runners as they are finishing the route and you realize there are still at least 3 miles to go. (Confirmation that yes, perhaps, they are Forrest Gump trainees.)
13) Standing water where there should be a path. And mud.
14) 1 foot wide path with steep hill on one side and ravine on the other. Opt for carefully planned long speed walking strides. (One can never be too careful.)
15) Realize that your legs are nothing more than ten ton anchors attached to your torso and that running is not the sport for you. Seriously, why do people do this for fun?!
16) Get out of the "uncharted territory" and run on an actual paved path. Don't forget to praise Jesus for modern inventions, but by this time pray also for the strength to pick up your tired legs for a while longer.
17) Take a walk/run approach for the next 3/4-ish miles, then berate yourself for your weakness and inability to overcome the pain mentally to tough out the last bit of the course.
18) Come up to the last bend that finally has a well worded sign (as in "turn right to finish line") and feel a sense of accomplishment.
19) Think to yourself - How long was I out there? Did I pass Hansel and Gretal? I swear I saw a cottage made of candy.
20) Run with all you have (which at this point closely resembles a turtle trudging through peanut butter) to the finish line and celebrate another finished half marathon.
Yet, despite all of this, I still ended up with a time I wasn't overly ashamed of and a 3rd place in my age group finisher medal. I'm calling it a win and even though, two days later, I feel like I did after running the full in May I cannot wait to do it again next year.
Now I have 12 days until my next half which is, thankfully, all open road, but also aptly named "The Haunted Hilly." I know. Hills...I better have one nice looking tush after this race season...HA!!!