This weekend was my first attempt at a trail running event. Back in June I was nursing a calf injury which prompted me to get some easy trail running in at
. I knew trail running would naturally force me to slow down and the trail at River Legacy Park was non technical with soft surface which would be easy on my injury. At the end of the week I found that I really enjoyed that change of pace so I decided to sign up for a trail run race. This past Saturday I found myself getting up earlier than I normally do for a triathlon event to make it over to the Cedar Ridge Preserve 36k Trail run. River Legacy Park
The event was hosted by Endurance Buzz Adventures. Dave the race director did an outstanding job putting on this event. I appreciate all the feed back and advice he gave me as I prepared for this race.
Packet pick up was at 4:45 a.m. Driving over to the event site my energy levels felt really low. I was hopping it was just nerves because now as not the time to get sick. I arrived just a few minutes late and thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a spot for my ice chest. As I pulled into the dark parking lot there I was relieved to see only a hand full of cars there. As I walked to the packet pick up area I felt like I was the only not wearing a head light.
The volunteers were up and surprisingly awake and full of energy. That helped get me going. I got my race bib and found a spot for my ice chest. I was happy to run into Mark and Roberto minutes before the race. Just knowing a couple people there helped me settle down mentally. Race time was 6:15 a.m. for the 36k. As we toed up to the line the sun was not completely up yet. I was content sitting a couple rows from the front. I knew we had a long way to go and the runners would thin out at some point.
I found myself fumbling with my Garmin seconds before the gun went off. The gun went off and so the trail run began. We were going to run 2 counter clock wise loops and 2 clock wise loops. My strategy for this race was to run a bit hard the first coupe loops. The sun wasn’t up and the hill climbing was going to be easier.
It took about 300 meters before I eased on to the front of the pack. There were maybe 5 guys who hung out with me as I started into a good little pace. I heard a couple of guys in casual conversation behind me talking about sever different trail running events. I had a few words with them asking if they were trail runners. Both of them said they were. I contemplated slowing down and letting them pass me so I could pacing off of them but, I decided to take a different approach.
I knew there was a 1k decline coming up early in the course so I was going to let gravity take me down at a solid pace. I was hopping they would drop off and at that point I would have the “Out of Site, Out of Mind” advantage. I was also going to push on every flat as I figured the experience trail runners were probably better hill climbers. As we hit that decline I heard them say to each other let him go. I was relieved and now it was on me to see if my endurance would hold up.
I was a little more than half way through the first loop when I took my mind off the trail and paid for it by stepping on a rock and twisting my left ankle. I was so upset at myself. Here I was on the first loop and already twisted my ankle. I talked myself out of discouragement and was able to push that aside. I told myself that you got your one twist over and done with and that was the only one for the day. It felt like forever but, I know it took a minute or two to feel comfortable again on my left foot.
Before I knew it the first loop was coming to a close and I was well ahead of my goal pace. As I stopped to grab a new hand held bottle and nutrition I was wondering where the other guys were. I had one more lap to do before I reversed my course. I would then be able to see how far back they were.
As I began loop two. I could finally feel my legs warm up. I knew that I had to push one more time because the last two loops were going to be difficult. Working my way through the second loop I began to see more of competitors along with several other non competitors. This wasn’t a closed course so not only did we have to be mindful of other racers we also had to be mindful of other non racers. Everyone I came across didn’t think twice to step aside and let me by. I really appreciated that as it made my race easier on me.
It didn’t take long before seeing the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place person. I figured they were only a couple minutes behind me. My left calf started to attempt to cramp on me as I make way through the third loop. I knew had to back of pushing up the hills. My goal was to not walk the hills but, I simply could not avoid it. I also started feeling my toes. I knew the declines would take a tool on my toe nails. The third lap felt real slow but, I pushed the best I could through it. I kept hearing voices and expected to see the other runners catch me while they were still in casual conversation.
Still in the lead I made it through the 3rd loop and was back to having no clue as to where the chase pack was. I was off and onto my final loop. About 2 into the last 9 k of the race there was a low lying tree branch about 3 inches thick. I had successfully ducked it the first three loops however I think fatigue got the best of me and I lost track of it on the forth loop. I was running at hit it with top of my head hard enough that it stopped me dead in my tracks. When I hit it I strained my left hamstring and cut my head. I was now bleeding. Not profusely but, enough that I could feel it on my head.
I had 7k left and I now felt like I was breaking down. There were two good climbs ahead and I hat to re-strategize if I was going to make it through the rest of the race without cramping. I decided that I was going to walk every hill to make sure I had my breath once I got up to the top. I would then push pace on the flat part of the course. There was only one climb which I would not walk and that was a 1k gradual incline. I didn’t care that I was moving at a 10 min per mile pace but, I was not going to stop and walk it.
As I approached the last water station I decided to stop and get some water. I only had less than 2 miles to go but, I wanted to cool down. I needed to pour some water on my head and I wanted some cold liquid for that last 2 miles. I figured I had less than 20 minutes to go before the finish line. I knew that the win was mine for the taking and it was on me to get it done. If someone came up on me now I would have to push limits to try and win the event.
As I made that final push I came upon another athlete who was also doing the 36k run. I’m glad he did not know I was the leader because he pushed me to get to the end. I could tell did not want me to pass him which was completely fine with me. I was happy to be able to feed off his energy till I reached the finish line area. I was happy that I did not have to push with anyone to the finish line. I felt so relieved once I crossed that finish line. I was ecstatic about the overall win and more so ecstatic about being injury free.
I walked away from that race with some minor injuries. My head and body will heal. I may loose a toe nail or two but, I’ll survive. I’m not sure that I would do another trail run as technical as this one again but, I may venture into another endurance run. For now I have my sights on a couple more triathlon events before the season is over.
Here are some quick stats from the race.
Avg Pace: 9:14 min/mi
Calories: 2,910 C
Elevation Change: 5,000 ft (Roughly - Garmin was not accurate)
Thank you for reading this blog entry. As always feel free to email me any questions or comments you may have.