Archive for October, 2014

“Holee crap, that was hard!”

This was my whole assessment of this race when I posted my finish on Facebook. Or at least, that was all I could mutter from the surrealism of race-recovery.

The Powder Keg 5k Trail Run was the next race up after Midsummer Night’s. It was on August 23rd, and ventured around the grounds of the Historic Kings Mansion in Deerfield Township. It’s also part of the Dirt Days series put on by the Running Spot each year. Having missed an opportunity to preview the course with some of my RWB friends, this was the first time I’d ever been there. Packet pick up was quick and easy. There was plenty of space to stretch and move, find my friends. The grounds were nice and I kept looking to the building and the barns thinking what a nice event space that would be, though it needs a little restoration in my opinion.

In 2 races, my opening observations are that (1) trail races are generally less expensive – MNT cost me $12, I think and this one was $10 w/o a tshirt and $20 with – and that (2) trail races are just way more mellow.  Starting times seem to have an ‘ish’ after them. We’ll start 9-ish. There’s a bit of courtesy extended based on how many people are still coming in to park and do packet pick up.  Distances have a “might be more” to them since you can’t measure exact finish distance on trails.  Powder Keg’s course description for distance included “Race is listed as a 5K. However, actual will probably be at least 3.5 miles.”  And mostly, which is part of the keeping the cost down I’m sure, they use gun time instead of chip timing. In a pavement race, that irritates the crud out of me, but for trails, the run really is more about how YOU FEEL about your run than what the clock says – at least for me. I’m digging it on the trails!

The run started a little bit cross-country before taking to a path that started off as asphalt, then that treacherous deep-rutted thing that asphalt does when water breaks it down, and then after that I think it turned to dirt. Compared with the narrow, single-file trail of MNT, this trail was nice and wide and winding. There were a few moments I’d pass on given the option – a right turn that drops about 4ft without much warning, a wide concrete pillar that makeshifts as a bridge except that it doesn’t have any railings, and that 12-14ft climb of a steep grass hill that is so steep you are literally climbing using hands as well as feet – but those are more due to my novice level in trail running than the obstacles themselves. Things just caught me by surprise a little, is all.

Among the other things on route were the stairs. OH MY GOD – THE STAIRS!  There is no running them. Steep, wooden and they feel like they’re going up the side of a mountain. Did I mention steep?  STEEP STEEP stairs. No passing. No running. Steep.

When the run was over I felt like I had been rode hard for sure! This 5k-ish course left me a little more exhausted than the 5-mile-ish MNT.

I also felt accomplished, hungry and ready for a nap.

Y’all, if MNT opened up the door for trail running in my lift, Powder Keg sealed the deal on a new love in my life. A trail runner is born.

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It was A Midsummer Night’s Trail Run that started it all. Like I said, I’ve been cramming an entire racing season into the past few weeks, so when I started to write about this I would have sworn to you that this event was in July. It seems so many runs ago, but NOPE, MNT was on August 12th. Just 8 weeks.

A 5-mile trail run through Mt. Airy, the run is sponsored by RCGC, which makes a point near and dear to my heart of keeping run fees CHEAP and swag minimal. I remembered having my eye on this one in 2013, mainly because I liked the name of it, but I hadn’t done any trail running at all other than the trail at my office and I didn’t know anyone else going.  Basically, I talked myself out of it.

Since I’ve been training with Team RWB though, there’s definitely been a shift in my thinking about my training – and even better for me, there’s a trail running contingent in the group. When I saw the run event for 2014, I realized I would KNOW people AND after months of listening to my knee groan, FINALLY I’d gone a few consecutive runs with no flare ups on my knee. Now mind you, those runs were paved, and only 3-4 miles max, so I wasn’t exactly ready for this one. I also know that Mt. Airy is not wimpy trailing. Eric and I spend part of every Summer hiking the trails with the dogs. There are a LOT of elevation changes in Mt. Airy, that’s why it’s MOUNT Airy and not INCREDIBLY FLAT Airy.

So knowing I wasn’t fully ready to race it, I set the intention for myself of not worrying about it. Just get it done. Monitor the knee. Enjoy myself. So long as I started the line and crossed the finish, my Eagles would be there waiting for me when I crossed. Also, Maine decided to meet me there and run along too. Since my injury, I haven’t been able to run with her as much as we did before, so having her meet up was a nice bonus. I can never pass up on a chance to connect with my BFFs.

I had no problems parking, getting there about 20-mins before the start. Packet pick-up was race day, organized, quick and easy. (Am I the only one whose heart swoons over an uncomplicated packet pickup?) My car was close enough to walk my little swag back right back to it and get back to saying hello to my RWB peeps. I saw Maine getting out of her car. The event was that uncluttered – all of this was very easy – and there was plenty of space to stretch and socialize.

Then the race began.

The first mile was the getting used to it – trail running. I set myself at the back to start, so as we streamed into the trail, there were 2 girls ahead of me, 1 almost directly behind and another a little further back. I knew we were towards the end of the line but there were still another few runners a little further back than that. The trail was a single-file trail, no running 2-or-3 wide. As soon as I spied a broader spot, I stepped off right and let the girl right behind me pass. We’d been chatting but I could tell she was itching to speed it up and I didn’t want anyone breathing down my neck.

First mile split was around the 15-min mark. I can walk faster than that. Except that I hadn’t done any walking at all.

This, my friends, is the weird voodoo of trail running. You can be running the entire time, but the pace that you have to slow to when navigating tree roots and rock beds to keep from busting your ass, makes it seem like it would be quicker if you just walked it. Except in the same breath, you know that isn’t true. If you were walking, you’d still have to slow down your walk to navigate obstacles. Slowing down your slow. But your mind does this thing where it starts to compare your WALKING ON PAVEMENT times against your trail RUNNING times, and you realize you’d PR if you were walking. But then you look around, kinda laugh, and decide you don’t care. This is trail running.

After the first mile, I was mostly by myself for the next three. In a pavement race, that would be utterly depressing to me, but watching the greenery go by – Mt. Airy is forest, so trees, shrubs, rocks are most of your view – I still felt like I was flying. Plus, you have to concentrate on what you’re doing in the moment of trail running. You get lost in your head comparing this and that, you fall down and go boom. Fact. If the first split on my Garmin at 15+ mins gave me food for thought, my next split was just about 17 minutes. There’d been a lot more rock bed to navigate and I’d taken a pause to keep from getting hit by the same mountain biker twice.  But somewhere in miles 2 and 3, I went from being cautious to feeling really happy about what I was doing. Mile 3 brought me back down into the 15-min range, and as the run opened up into the ONLY point where it broadens into meadow for a split second, there was the water stop.  The gentleman running it asked “Are you Cynthia?”  Yes.  “Your friend is a little ahead of you, she said for me to keep an eye out for you.”  Awww.

I wish I could tell you more about the trail, which trail names turned on to which and this one was this way and that cool thing about that one. I can’t. When I’m focusing, distance starts to blur into swatches of greenery. Plus, I have the sense of direction of a dryer sock. The one that never reappears when you’ve finished folding everything and are left with one unmatched sock. Yeah. I’m the lost sock.

Mile 4 the path started undulating more aggressively, but the track itself was wider and smoother, less rocks. 13+ on the mile 4 split and right about mile 3.5, one of the runners behind me came into view again. Sometimes just over a block’s length behind me. and sometimes much closer, I decided I would not be passed. I was fighting the good fight for my run, slow as it was and I wasn’t going to give up to someone behind me this late into it. I made concerted effort to keep my time up and navigate obstacles more aggressively.

Finally, the vegetation started to clear and I could hear people – UP THE HILL. Bless the hearts of up hill finishes everywhere – my, my, don’t they make us stronger.  As I crossed the line, Maine was right there with a high-five. Some of the RWBers I don’t know yet were there, but the ones I did know came back to the finish as soon as they saw me. Apparently there were snacks up at the pavilion! Seeing as how I mainly run so I can eat what I want, knowing there were snacks made me happy too. When someone tells me it’s a “no frills” run, I don’t expect snacks. Snacks are frilly. AWESOMELY frilly!

Maine & I wandered up, got some GOOD sandwiches and chips. Included in the swag was a cute pint glass, but I didn’t really want a beer. Just lots of water.  Y’all, trail running is HARD! I mean, regular running is hard for me too, but trail running is HARD!! That run really took a lot out of me! In the best way possible though – I was exhausted but I felt AMAZING. Happy. Content.  It was a completely different thing than I normally feel when I’m racing pavement.  I knew there were only a few runners left behind me to finish, but I honestly could have cared less. We stayed to listen to the awards, and I ended up winning a tote bag as a door prize.

A five-miler might have been a little aggressive for a first trail run choice, and the soreness of my hips and abs the next day let me know that was fact, but I’m glad I chose to try it.

This is on my ‘must-do’ list for next season.

LATE ADD-ON: That runner that I promised I wouldn’t let pass me – when I dug in deep and committed to really working the course, ended up checking in 4-minutes behind me. Amazing what you can do when you decide to try! (Phhhht.)

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Since I don’t usually run with my phone or camera, picture is another one from the Northern Cali tour this Summer, taken by Eric. Yup, that’s my butt.

Hello friends!  I still contend that there are few things in this life more luxuriously relaxing than a weekend morning with some quiet and a cup of coffee! It’s about 8:45 as I’m starting this and I’ve been awake about an hour, feet tucked under a blanket on the couch and coffee mug in hand. It’s a form of meditation. And then I started thinking about the day, more about the days of other people than myself really. The Queen Bee 13.1 is this morning, with a large group of my RWB crew crossing that start line.  The Bourbon Chase 200-mile relay started yesterday morning and I know 3 different crews of runners from all walks of life in that adventure – an RWB crew, a group from my old training group, and some of my Lexington friends from Run the Bluegrass – actually they’re Louisville friends but I met them in Lexington…so does that make them Louisville friends or Lexington friends? Hmmm.

Finally, there’s my friend Allison, who in just over an hour, will be challenging Kona – the Ironman World Championships. Holeeee crap!

What am I doing this morning? Um, dog walking, at some point. Ha! I had a pretty aggressive chiropractic adjustment on C1 Wednesday which demands a few days of taking it easy til the stiffness fades away. Going to try a full on run either later today with the other dog or first thing tomorrow.

It’s gotten a little dusty in here, so I’m planning to clean that up – mainly because I have a short flurry of Race Recaps to update with a few other events tossed in.  After not being able to race, or even run at all for most of the Spring and early Summer, I noticed that the knee issues were finally starting to fade and it’s almost as if I’ve been trying to cram an entire year’s worth of races into this Fall.  On top of which, I started trail running – not on well-manicured gravel trail at my office, but on actual trails – with rocks and ruts and grass spears jutting up to stab your ankles. I LOVE IT! It’s like all of the best parts of running for me without the pounding of pavement echoing through my bones. So there will be a few posts coming up in the next few days to bring things up to speed, shake the dust off.

After I finish my coffee. 🙂