Sunday, September 18, 2011

Trail running

I guess I haven't written much about running lately... Okay, not as much as I usually do, so this one is sparked from my race this past weekend, and also reading the Runner's World trail edition.  It's all about running, so if you don't want to read about that, you've been pre-warned!

First thing's first... The story of my race this weekend! So this weekend there was a lovely trail race a few hours from where I am.  It was a trail half marathon, which I had never done before.  I've done four trail ten-milers... well, technically three because I did one of them twice (freshman and senior years while at West Point).  One of them was in the snow in February :)  Well, those last few miles were the most brutal part of the race.  This was my sixth half marathon, and I didn't really train for it... I just looked for races, saw this one, and thought it would be neat to do.  Well, doing it on trails was a whoollle other monster from doing a road half.  As a matter of fact, I ran this one a full ten minutes slower than my last half marathon.  The race started on the road, and I think I started off a bit too fast.  I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was running a 7:30 minute pace.  I had been running so many shorter distances that I kind of took off the way I would NOT normally do on a longer distance race.  I was feeling okay until I hit the hills.  Ooohhh the hills.  Not the hills that were on the road... those were okay.  No, it was on the trails where the steep hills hit where I started feeling it, but I kept powering up anyways.  Again... I hadn't done a trail race this far before, and the last time I ran 13 miles on a trail at all, it wasn't as hilly as this!  Not at all!  Around mile six or so there was a water stop, so I stopped, had a Gu energy gel and some water, and kept going.  Stopping for that water and gu was a terrible idea because my legs felt kind of like lead starting up again.  I realized I certainly did not eat enough that morning.  Some people can't eat before they run.  I HAVE to eat before I run.  I can't eat a full meal immediately before RACING, but I can certainly eat more than half an English muffin for a half marathon.  I started feeling a little better until the10th or so mile.  I didn't think I was going to be able to finish a few times.  I felt kinda sick to my stomach.. just awful.  BUT, I thought about the finish line the entire time, and I eventually finished in 1:56:10 (I think the seconds are right).  Yep, slow!  But, to put it in perspective, I got first in my age group, which I'd never done before!  Overall against all men and women, I was 28th.  I think I was about 5th out of all the women, but I'm not sure.  The woman who won overall was only two minutes faster than my last road half marathon, to give you more perspective on the difficulty of the course!  So note for future trail races that are a bit longer:  do more HILLS!  Long hills, not the short sprints we do in the morning.  And also eat more before the race.  AND... don't start so fast!

Now that I'm done with talking about the race, I'll talk about my love of trail running.  For those of you who don't know, trail running is really what got me into liking running and doing it for fun.  Maybe not just trails, but running in remote places in general.  I like using running as a way to get away from everything... I don't really like running in neighborhoods or busy areas (much to my mother's dismay).  As long as I can remember, I've chosen trails when given the opportunity.  Now, I must admit, while racing, all I could think was "why?? Why am I doing this to myself?  This is killing me, I don't need to do this!  Maybe I can sprain my ankle and be done."  Of course, I didn't really want that to happen, and the first thing I do after a race is start looking for other races.  Call it insanity, or call it an addiction, I don't know!  But I keep coming back for more!  Tonight I was reading the (FREE!) Runner's World Trail Edition that was available after the race and that's actually what gave me the idea to blog.  Sadly I can't remember everything I wanted to say because my mother called.  Oh well.  I think it was just pertaining to what I said :)

  I'm not quite sure what it is about trail running, or running in general, that keeps me coming back for more.  There are so many days when I ask myself why I do it.  Why do I take time out of a Saturday to go run for a couple of hours?  It's not as if I HAVE to do these things.  Most of the time, I'm not even training for a particular race... I still want to do a marathon, but I don't have a particular one in mind because I have no idea if I'll be deploying or not, or what my general schedule will look like in the next few months, so I'm just trying to build my endurance.  As I've mentioned in past blogs, I'm not a super fast runner.  I can max my run time on the Army Physical Fitness Test, and I can place in the top three for my age group in most races, so I'm faster than your average runner who started as an adult (as in, never ran high school/college level track),  but I know people who can outrun me in shorter distances no problem.   This is actually my first time winning first in my age group on a race!  Though I was a bit far off from first overall :)   Despite how much I was hurting on that race, I guess I wasn't hurting as bad as some people, because I was able to keep pushing, and I think that's where my strength lies.  I may not be able to take off sprinting, but I can maintain a pace for a long time, and I'm not one to stop.  I definitely felt like stopping on this race, and I definitely felt sick to my stomach several times, but I didn't stop (well, okay, I did stop for water and Gu).    I remember the first time I placed in a race was in Germany on the Konigstuhl, which was 5.5 miles up a mountain (I know I've talked about this before).  I had no idea I placed anywhere... It was only my second race ever (first being the US Army Europe ten-miler), and I just walked away not expecting any type of award.  It wasn't until someone said they saw my name in one of the newspapers over there as placing third that I had any idea I had placed.   Oh, and in case anyone was wondering, that was also a trail race :)  Anyway, I'm working on getting faster in general... Trying to push myself to do more speed work - as much as I prefer long, slow runs where I push myself to keep going, I do need to work on some more speed :)

So, I guess I kind of got off track from what I was originally going to talk about... trail running.  So to try to salvage that a little bit, there is a certain appeal to it that doesn't exist in other types of running.  I think it's a combo of the beauty of the trails with the extra challenge.  You HAVE to slow down when you're trail running - unless you want to sprain something, of course.  During races, you have to focus on not only trying to maintain speed while going up and down hills, but also focus on your footing.  When I say you have to slow down, I don't mean it gets easier.  No, it's much harder to run slow on some of those hills than fast on the road (as I re-discovered this weekend).  During a regular run, you DO get to slow down and enjoy the scenery.  There were so many times this weekend I wanted to walk and look at the scenery.  It was SO pretty.  The state park where it took place was BEAUTIFUL.  I wish I could go out there again... Sadly, it was 3.5 hours away :(

Alas, I should get some sleep.  I'm debating waking up and running tomorrow morning.... I think it will end up being an afternoon run though :)  A very slow recovery run... assuming I'm still as sore as I was today!  Good night everyone!