Oy vey. I know I said I was going to take it easy after the Cleveland Half Marathon, but I just get so caught up in summer races, especially small, local ones. I also like to get a little crazy and occasionally run two races in one weekend. After running the Fish Festival 5K on Saturday, I knew I wouldn’t have my best 13.1 showing on Sunday, but decided to just go out and try my best, and get a quality workout in. Afterall, how could I resist a 13.1 that was taking place 6 miles from my home, where the course consisted mostly of trails and bike path, and sure to have a small-town feel to it?
I woke up race morning, not really excited to race, but excited to just get out on the trails and run. I wanted to get a solid workout in, and not stress out about splits and qualifying times, etc. I wanted to get lost in thought, and just run while listening to my body, and adjusting my pace accordingly.
The race was slated to start at 7:00am, but we didn’t cross the start line until close to 7:15am. The race director found it necessary to wait for everyone who was in line for the restrooms to finish their business, and then proceeded to explain the race course in lengthy dialogue. At first I was annoyed, we were all standing around waiting to begin and were being eaten alive by all of the mosquitos that were in search of breakfast. But in the end I found it to be sort of endearing, just another quirk of the small-town races that I just love.
Eventually after some grumbling from the runners, the race finally began and we were off! The first portion of the course started in French Creek Park and wound its way through multiple trails. This part of the course was AWESOME.
After the first 5K, we shot out of the park onto the road, where we ran to eventually connect to Black River Reservation consisting of paved bike path and various wooden bridges. I felt solid to about mile 7, then I started to deteriorate. Multiple times in the race I thought I was going to end up looking at my breakfast for the second time that day. I was sweating bullets and definitely did not take in enough fluids during the race. I had my smaller 10 ounce hand-held full of gatorade, and there were water/gatorade stops about every 2-2.5 miles. I took gatorade at each stop, but it still wasn’t enough to make up for the lost fluids and electrolytes that were spewing from my pores. In case you didn’t know, I am a sweaty beast.
I struggled a bit until mile 10, then something lit a fire under my tush and I managed to pick-up the pace a bit, and finish the last 5K with some dignity. The final mile was completely on trails just like the start of the race, and I was all alone during that final stretch. Running in ‘no man’s land’ occurs quite a bit in the smaller races, and makes it tough to push myself any faster, because it feels like I’m not even racing, just out on a training run. Some days I like this, other days I don’t. Today was a day I needed this, whether I wanted it or not, I really needed to just have a good solid run and not fuss about a PR or all-out effort.
Prior to the race start I found fellow NEO Marathon Maniac Justin , and we shared race goals: his was to come under 2:00 and I said I would be happy with sub-1:40. I snuck across the finish line in 1:39:42 (7:36 pace), and I am happy with the finish, not my best, not my worst, but a solid effort on a hot and humid day. But enough about me, the big star of the day was definitely Justin who kicked the 2:00 mark to the curb with a speedy finish of 1:55:42!!!! Be sure to check out his awesome race recap!
It has been some time since I have run hard through non-paved trails. In high school my coach would take anyone on the team who wanted to get in a long run, to Mohican State Park on Sundays, so we could get a taste of trail running. Those were definitely some of my best high school running memories fho sho. In college we trained on mostly roads, and then in my post-grad life, the closest thing I got to trail running was on the paved metro-park bike trails. Not exactly roughing it.
There is something so organic about a good run through trails, protected from the sun by the shade of the various deciduous and coniferous varieties. The whole time I was running the race I couldn’t help but daydream about delving deeper into the world of trail running. After the race I even went so far as to send a facebook message to an old high school basketball teammate, who has taken a huge plunge into the world of ultras, (ahem, ever heard of Umstead ?)
begging suggesting that the next time I’m in her neck of the woods, she join me for a jaunt through my beloved Mohican State Park, where my love of trails began many moons ago…