Wooohooo! It’s time to start delivering on some of my promised race reports/actual reviews of stuff.
As part of our training for the GO half marathon in April, I decided it would be a good idea to run the quivering quads trail half marathon this past weekend. In reality, I got an email (probably mistakenly) allowing me to register early, since the race fills up quickly, and I just went for it (after making sure Caroline could sign up too). My theory was that we’d need a good long run at that point (about a month away from the race) and it’d be a nice change of pace running on trails instead of roads. As the day of the race crept up on us, I started to realize what an understatement “training run” would be as applied to this race. In 2013, there was some crazy weather and the run turned into sloshing through 13 miles of serious mud and waist-high (!!) creek crossings. Preparing for the worst, I freaked out the week leading up to the race, stalking as many people as possible for pictures, results, reports, and elevation maps of the course.
Race day found me picking up Caroline around 7AM for the drive out to cuivre river. Navigating the latest highway 40 shutdown (why is it ALWAYS closed somewhere?? Didn’t they just re-do that section anyway??), we made it to the parking area around 8:15. As we were waiting for the shuttle to the start, I ran into my friend and river-to-river teammate, Mike! It was fun to have another friendly face, knowing that we were all going to suffer through this together.
It was also a little colder that expected – Caroline forgot a coat. Luckily, I was wearing my super fuzzy sweatshirt, which I gave to her after a quick warmup (I couldn’t just give her the sweatshirt before sweating in it, it’s in the name, duh). I was in the 9:09 wave, while she’d have to wait until 9:45 to even start the race.
The course consisted of a half mile out-and-back section (for a total of 1 mile covered), then a ~11 mile loop, followed by another out-and-back to make the final 13.1 mile distance. When we got the official go, I tried to just focus on keeping my pace down (I have a tendency to blast out of the gates, then regret it later. Start fast, stay fast! But not really… I wasn’t looking forward to crushing my legs, particularly with an adventure race scheduled for next weekend and the desire to still be healthy for the rest of the season). I think we took the first mile in about 7:35, pretty fast for a trail run, I thought. I was aiming for keeping my pace in the 8’s, with the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t be able to maintain that the entire time.
For the first few miles, I met and hung out with a new friend Gerry, who was kind enough to send a picture of us taken around the 1 mile point (notice how happy he looks, and how done I look… now remember this is after only 1 of 13 miles).
Still, we had a great chat and hangout. We started picking off some racers on the singletrack section, but in an attempt to “run my race” and not start out too fast, I just let him go. It’s definitely a transition back to cross-country mentality and knowing what my body is capable of, and trying to play to my strengths.
The first aid station came after 4 miles, which was long enough for me to realize it was going to be a hard race. I haven’t done much trail running… and the terrain was tricky. Leaves covered up little rocks and divots, so I rolled my ankles here and there, and tried to focus on keeping my balance. You can’t finish a race if you can’t walk! I drank some water at the aid station and felt immediately better. It’s amazing what a little water can do! I decided then that I would stop at every aid station and pound both a water and a gatorade.
Eating and drinking are things I don’t usually like to do when I exercise. Afterwards, sure. But I think this year is going to be a good time to learn how to tolerate calories and water, since I plan to do more endurance events. I had brought 2 hammer gels along the way, planning to eat them at mile 5 (or ~45 min) and mile 10 (or ~1:30), hoping to have enough energy to keep going strong until the end. I stuck mostly to that plan, and along with the aid stations felt pretty decent the entire race (decent being a relative term… mainly relative to the incline I was currently running).
I felt great on the downhills and about the first mile after every aid station, and kinda felt like I was going to die on some of the uphills. I always have my mental commentary running, and it was generally telling me to be conservative on the downhills and when I was feeling good – it still took a good chunk of effort to keep my footing and to be careful jumping the roots and logs. I started hearing I was the second woman going through the last few aid stations, which was super motivating. I kept myself in check by only allowing myself to put in the extra “chase” effort going uphill (which turned into not-much-extra effort). I walked some hills, allowing my little leggos to recover and recruit different muscles so that at the top of the hill I could start pounding away again. It seemed to work reasonably well!
This story is going long. So, here’s a picture of some random people coming around the last turn.
– I twisted my ankle HARD at like mile 8. It sucked. I yelled curse words. I stopped for a while, wondering if I’d be able to run on it… then realized I play through injuries all the time in ultimate. Not necessarily a good thing, but I intended to finish the race, and finish I did! Only some minor swelling and bruising showed up the last few days, so it all worked out. I wanted a few rest days anyway.
– the last out-and-back was awesome. In a soul-crushing, where is the end of this freakin’ thing sort of way. But also because I could see the racers in front of me, and (after the turn-around) behind me. Everyone was super nice and supportive – even when I definitely looked like a sweaty mess, and they were at the very end of their own race, I got a lot of smiles and nods and ‘nice job!’ cheers. I forget sometimes about the running community since I do so many other things – people are just pretty great. I’m looking forward to making more friends who are also just stoked to be outside pushing themselves on a great trail on an awesome day 🙂
– I wound up finishing just under 2 hours (1:59:55… cutting it close), which was good enough for 2nd in the women’s division! Definitely a big accomplishment. I sometimes (wait, always) feel kinda silly tooting my own horn, like writing this blog to begin with or telling you how I did. But, I did put in some work, and it shows! And I hope that’s enough to get you stoked to get out there and do whatever you do longer and harder and make it hurt and recognize that putting in the time actually gets you somewhere (dirty jokes aside…hehe).
– My friend Mike is super fast and only beat me by about 20 seconds (funny enough, there was nobody in-between us in the results…sooo close). I know he’s “out of shape” (wait, that’s my line), and now has some fuel to his fire to get training, but I’m also excited to know we’ve got a race on our hands (nah, I’m not competitive at all, can’t you tell?). It’s gonna be fun 😀
Finally, I know this is always the LAST thing that people talk about, but… HUGE HUGE THANKS to everyone who volunteered, and to all the great racers to came back to cheer on their friends and strangers and are just a cool bunch of people. If you were at an aid station, asking as we ran in if we wanted water or gatorade, THANK YOU!! Seriously. I wouldn’t have made it. Thanks to fleet feet for putting on a pretty sweet race (with freakin awesome finisher medals…
Finally, thanks to Caroline for humoring me and signing up for this race with me… and running like a champ. And also suffering some ankle carnage but not before dominating some trail. Cryptic inside jokes: USA! Complete Package! You rock friend 🙂
Up next: bonk hard chill adventure race with Justin. Hope the ankle and legs are ready to do it again this weekend!!