It took three weeks before I did another race post marathon. Honestly, I woke up on the day of this race with zero desire to do this race. I was tired, and felt pretty out of shape and not in the mood to race. I promised my friend, Leigh, I would do it with her. I talked previously about her traumatic accident last year and I wanted to support her. There was a five and ten mile option for the race. She wanted me to run it, but not with her. She likes to run alone and signed up for the five miler. Since I would have gone for about a 10 mile run that day anyway, I signed up for the 10.
Except the days before this race were a little crazy. We had some really crappy stuff happening at work with negotiating a new teacher contract. I ended up having a long, exhausting day on Friday that resulted in a migraine, lots of sushi and my couch. Saturday was my first ever pole competition, and it was a looong day (I left my house at 8am and didn’t get home until 11pm). I woke up on Sunday morning feeling quite rough. Mentally, I just didn’t feel like running a race. Both my mind and body were just not there.
I grabbed a coffee and perked up when I arrived at the race. I saw a bunch of local runners – some that I know, others that I was friends with on Facebook and never met before. Being around the running community and my friend, Leigh, made me happier about my decision to run. I was also excited to run the trails of Jacobsburg since I’d never run there before. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew this was a legitimate trail run – not the flat, cinder paths I run on frequently.
We lined up at the start and the race began promptly at 9am. The five and ten miler began together, so after the national anthem we were off. As usual, I shot out quickly to avoid the crowds. I like to do this on trail runs because if it becomes a single track situation, I don’t like being stuck behind people. Less than a mile into the run, the five miler went right and ten miler went to the left. As the course split and we settled into the 10 mile route, a woman surged past me. I didn’t follow her. I don’t know if I could have caught her, but I decided I just wanted to go for a 10 mile run in the woods. I found myself as second place female and just tried to get my footing. I haven’t been on any technical trails since last summer and I certainly didn’t want to turn an ankle now.
Miles 1-4 featured a lot of climbing. The whole race was really quite hilly:
The climbs were certainly not as steep as the game preserve (my usual local trail run of choice) The first mile began straight up a hill, and the climbs pretty much kept coming until mile four. By the second mile of the race, I was running completely alone. I was concerned because I don’t know this area at all, and there were lots of little trails and intersections. I had no idea where I was and I have a terrible sense of direction. I paused at several intersections to question where I was supposed to go.
I want to say this course was well marked and poorly marked all at the same time. I’m not quite sure how to describe it. There were many confusing intersections, and the race directors did a good job of having a lot of markings on the course. It would be impossible to mark everything, and they hit the main areas of confusion. The problem was, though they spray painted arrows and had little signs in most places I often had no idea exactly where the arrows or signs were pointing. Sometimes, there were several different trails merging in one area and it got confusing. Honestly, the organizers marked it the best that they could and I probably just second guessed myself since I have zero sense of direction.
I hit mile four and it was probably one of my favorite parts of the course. We finally got a long, gradual descent and the scenery was beautiful. Here in the Lehigh Valley, there are these purple and white wildflowers that bloom everywhere and they were lining this section of the course. It was so pretty. I didn’t feel awesome, but I felt like I was out for a Sunday morning run on some trails. I was happy to see that I was averaging about an eight minute mile, but I don’t really look at my watch much while trail racing. The numbers never mean too much to me in a trail race because every trail is so different – it’s tough to compare.
Miles 5-10 were pretty equal in terms of uphill and downhill. Some of the uphills were long and I could tell that I need to do focus on some hill training this summer. Much of the run had sections with huge roots, rocks, and just tough terrain. I stopped a few times to make sure I was going the right way. I was completely alone and saw no one else during these miles and I was concerned that I made a wrong turn. Occasionally there would be a water stop or a road crossing with a volunteer directing traffic, and that would reassure me that I was on course. I was happy to run the 10 miles, but I was tired and didn’t want to run much further.
My watch beeped to indicate I’d reached mile 10, but I knew I was nowhere near the finish. SHITTTTT. Am I lost? Did I miss a turn? The trail dumped me out onto a road, and there was no one there to cross us. Any time the trail hit a road during the course, there was a volunteer or a cop there to cross you so I didn’t think I should cross the road. I stopped and looked around to try to see something – an arrow, a sign, a person. After a few minutes (well, it felt like a few minutes – probably more like one minute) of looking down each of the trails at this intersection, I spotted people in the far distance. I had no idea if it was the right direction, so I just took off towards them. Thankfully, it was. I finally found the finish line and my Garmin measured 10.5 miles. I heard other people saying their watches told them the course was 10.8-11 miles, so I got lucky.
I ended up finishing in something like 1:24:30. I was the second overall female, and I won the 30-39 age group. They gave the first overall winners awards, and an award to the top finisher in each 10 year age group. The prizes were all different types of running “items” that you could choose from, and I chose an LED flashlight. Figured I had plenty of socks (the other option) and could use something like that to keep in my car. I think the first place female ran something like 1:16. I think if I’d been more into the race, felt a little better, and didn’t stop so often because I thought I was lost, I could have probably broken 1:20 but I’m not so sure about running a 1:16. If I were in better shape and not in the middle of recovering from Kentucky, perhaps a 1:16 on that course would have been possible. I actually looked up the winner on Athinks out of curiosity, and we have the same PR for the 10 mile distance in a road race (1:05) and similar 5K PRs.
I wasn’t upset that the course was long or I got a little turned around. I was really happy with this run in general because I was able to participate in a race during recovery and not race it. Part of this was due to the nature of the race. I find it very easy to sign up for a trail race and just go for a run rather than race it. It’s really hard to compare mile splits and data from trail race to trail race since they are all so different. Other than the fact that I was fatigued in general that morning, my legs felt decent. I thought this race was a good way to gauge how my recovery was going, and to run on some new trails. I would do this one again next year!
Do you enjoy trail racing?