Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Trail Series 5K Race Report

The Winter Trail Series 5K on January 24th was my second trail race. I was considerably less nervous about this one than I was about my first, before which I scoured the internet for accounts of people's trail experiences and examples of finishing times. This time I wasn't very worked up about it - just excited to finally be racing again. There aren't many races held during the winter, and I hadn't run in a race since my 10K in September, so this was a great opportunity.

On race morning, I woke up tired but excited. The support staff came with me, and we drove about an hour to the park where the race was held. I registered and warmed up, trying to tell myself that my legs felt like lead only because I was wearing so may layers, and that once I took off the heavy warm-ups, I'd feel light and fast.

I stretched and just got to the starting line in time. I stayed toward the back as we headed through the parking lot and on a dirt road around a little pond. After we rounded the far end of the pond, we veered off the road onto the trail. This is where it really began! The pack thinned out to a line of runners strung out along the steep, wooded hillside. Ahead of me, I could see the string weaving along the thin ledge of the trail before rounding a corner out of sight. At this point, I was most conscious of keeping my easy pace and possibly holding up the runners behind me. I kept as far to the right of the narrow path as I could whenever I heard someone approaching me from behind. At that point I wasn't vying for position with anyone and wanted to let them pass if they needed to. Some did, and I imagine that it took a good deal of extra energy for them to get a burst of speed to pass while at the same time stepping half off the trail. I kept up my pace as well as I could as the line wove around ahead.

Sometimes, when driving through the ridges and valleys that make up the landscape of my hometown, I look around at how a stream has cut a path into the mountainside, like this picture:
and think that I would love to run in the woods alongside it. For this race, I was running in those woods. The trail crossed streams and ran along ledges and zig-zagged from one side of a hill to another before reaching the top and climbing upward again.

The path was about a foot wide and covered with rocks, tree roots, and leaves. I focused a lot on the ground right in front of me and finding the best footing. When I felt that I was getting used to the footing, I looked at the feet of the person in front of me and just followed. Sometimes I looked at how he jumped over a log and tried to do it myself more gracefully or with less energy. I tried to imitate movements but with more spring and lightness. It was fun, but I truly was very tired. I had started off feeling exhausted, and when the trail climbed unforgivingly uphill, with nothing but more hills after every turn, I slowed to a walk and let people pass me as I hiked up the path.

As soon as the trail leaveled out, I began running again. It wasn't long after that that it began to descend, and we entered the downhill half of the course. I almost took a tumble headlong down the hill a few times here, but being tired was no longer much of an issue. Gravity got me going, and I just had to place my feet. I found myself getting into focus and not noticing anything but my footfall and the ground ahead.

When the trail emptied us out onto another dirt road, we all knew that the finish was near. A few people behind me surged ahead on the blissfully flat ground with powerful kicks, and I increased my speed as well. When I could see the chute, I started to sprint and passed the people I had been running behind for most of the race. The support staff cheered me on, and I gave him a thumbs up before crossing the finish line with a time of 37:24.

My main reflection about this race is that it was a challenging but fun course, and I would love to run there again when it's sunny or when the trees are green or when I could stop and enjoy the scenery more. It was a challenging course, but I also think I could perform much better there when in better shape and health. I hadn't been feeling myself for a few days before the race. On the Thursday beforehand, I actually cut short a 2-mile run on the treadmill by half. I was just too tired and had no motivation. I didn't run again before the race hoping to rest up and be ready for it. Unfortunately, I wasn't. Seeing as I came down with a cold this week, I suspect that the whole time my body was trying to fight off the cold.

This race was the first in a series of three races. The next is a week from today, and the third is a month after that, both with a 5M or 10M option. I think that I'd like to do the third one. By March I hope to be in better training, and it will be the same day that my cousin is racing the Disney Princess 5K. I ran my first trail race with her in North Carolina and it would be neat to know that we're both running at the same time, even if several states away.

I just have to kick this cold so I can get back out on the road and trail!

1 comment:

chris mcpeake said...

Congrats on a great race