Sunday, April 29, 2012

Trail Half Marathon Report

Running Fit Starting Line

I had a great day at the Running Fit Trail Half Marathon on Saturday!  My time was slow compared to a road run (of course), but I ran harder than I thought I could through the entire race, so I am very happy.

24th in Age Group, 94th Overall Women, 413/839 Overall Race
2:19:07 Total Time, 10:37 Mile Pace

The hubby and I before the race.  I'm ready to run!

I made it to the state park at 7:30am - just in time to wait in the long packet pickup line and then the even longer porta-potty line.  I emerged from the john just in time for the race start.

The race began at 8:00am in waves based on expected pace.  It was a fun, informal start in which the announcer sort of made up pace groups on the fly.  I started with the 9:23 to 9:48 group, which felt perfect.  I passed some people, I got passed by others.  As our group crossed the starting line, the announcer said, "Here go the 9:23 to 9:48 pacers.  Of course, we all know that pace doesn't mean anything on the trail."  Every runner around me laughed and said, "So true!  So true!" 

Starting my watch

The first 2 miles were fast and chaotic as the group worked to spread out.  Everyone was polite and in good spirits.  That's one of the things I love about trail runners.  A good attitude seems to be the norm.  At around 2 miles, I latched on to a girl in black shorts with green trim.  She was running a speed that pushed me but was sustainable.  The perfect pacer! 

The half marathon followed the pink loop

Constant elevation change!  More hills than I ever run in Grand Rapids!

The trail was beautiful and in great condition.  It was damp and well packed, rocky and rooty.  I love the feeling of flying down hills, bouncing off the sides of ramped up dirt and trying not to twist an ankle on a missed root.  There were also more aid stations than I expected in the race.  I didn't really need them - I carried my own bottles - but the staff support and supplies were great.

Around 5 miles, I sucked down a vanilla gel.  I was feeling tired but thought that I could keep up the strong pace that I was running.  I got a little boost of confidence when at about 6.5 miles, I passed the girl with the black and green shorts going up a hill, and she couldn't stick with me.  I kept saying to myself, "I am strong.  I am tough.  I am doing this."

At around mile 7, I grabbed onto the heels of a guy in a blue shirt and a girl in a blue, plaid running skirt.  They were running together and having a great time.  I had seen the girl take a hard fall a couple miles back, but she was OK and running tough.  Then at about 8.5 miles, I tripped on a root and thought for sure that I was going down myself.  I had that slow-motion experience where I saw myself heading for a tree with an 8 inch line of snot propelled out of my nose ahead of me by the inertia that it maintained as my body suddenly stopped.  Fortunately, I caught myself before the tree and I became aquainted, wiped the flying snot from my face, and regained my stride.  The guys right behind me were so nice, making sure I was OK.

The couple in blue was fast, so I had to kick to catch back up to them.  I worked hard to hold on to them every time they sped up to make a pass, but I did it.  Just after mile 9, they stopped at an aid station, and I kept going.  I saw them again after the race, but they never passed me again.

After the aid station, the trail crossed a road at which a volunteer was stopping traffic.  As I approached, he said, "Hurry!"  I turned my legs as fast as I could, which wasn't much, and replied, "This is all the hurry I've got!"  That made the volunteer laugh.

At mile 10, I was feeling the effects of the hard pace.  I thought about eating another gel, but I didn't feel like messing with it.  I wanted to just focus on the run, and I knew I could keep my energy up for 3 more miles.  Shortly thereafter, I got a little boost from someone who had fed their truck's stereo system through an amp blasting Metallica down the trail.  That put a smile on my face!  Nothing like a little metal to make you feel like a badass.

Through the final miles, I kept saying, "I'm strong.  I'm tough.  I'm doing this."  The mile markers seemed to pass too slowly as I pushed for the finish.  At the same time, I was sad that my time in the woods with all these trail compatriots would soon be over.  I thought about all of the time and work I put into training for the race, and the event itself seemed to go by too fast.  It was both anti-climactic and satisfying.

At mile 12, I started to hear the crowds cheering at the finish line.  I kept pushing on.  Then I suddenly broke out of the trees and the finish line banner was a tenth of a mile ahead.  My mom and the hubby were right there cheering and taking pictures.  They are the best!

Out of the woods, pushing to the finish line

I turned on the last burst of speed that I could muster and wheeled my legs down the shore of the lake toward the finish line.  Yes!  I did it!  I finished.  I had kept a stronger pace than I thought I could throughout the race, and it had felt wonderful.  My time was 2:19:07 - a 10:37 mile pace.  Not too bad.  I was very happy with my run.

I walked back toward where Mom and the hubby had been cheering and grabbed a banana and a giant muffin from the fuel tent.  I wore my finisher's medal around my neck.  I put my jacket back on as my sweaty body quickly cooled in the 35 degree F air, and we all walked slowly back to the car - my support squad letting my blistered feet set the pace.

It was a great race.  I love the trails and the half marathon distance.  I definitely need to do a race like this again!  Thanks, Running Fit, for putting on such a great trail weekend!

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