If you don’t use your trail skills, you lose them.
I learned this the painful way at Croft State Park Half Marathon this past Saturday. Now, let me first acknowledge that my “trail skills” are pretty bad at the best of times, but I had gotten fairly comfortable on more technical runs during the first half of this year. Fast forward through road marathon training, and I hadn’t stepped a race flat on a proper trail in months.
No big deal, I thought. My legs feel okay after the marathon, I thought. It’ll be fun, I thought.
Ok, so it was quite fun once I realized that racing was not in the cards for me and that I should just call it a semi-long run instead of a failed race attempt. Not only were my legs in no shape to go at race effort, but my ability to stay upright was nonexistent. Less than 5 minutes into the race, I took my first tumble. Approximately 4 falls later, I reached the river crossing (mile 8ish, I think?). I carefully eyed my best route across the chilly body of water and started hopping rocks. Hop, hop, hooohhshitSPLAT! Down onto the rock bed, landing on my right hip and knee. Up past my waist in the water. Did I mention it was cold? The upside to the frigid water was that my legs became numb and I was able to keep moving. I did a glorified jog that last several miles, but at least it was over.
I make it sound kind of terrible, but the Croft Half is actually an incredibly well organized trail race that offers substantial prize money, has tons of awesome volunteers, and is run through a beautiful state park. While my trail racing techniques could use a lot of work, the race itself is great.
*I’ll edit this to add pictures if I can find any. Thankfully I didn’t see any cameras around during my many tumbles.*
I did my best to sabotage myself in the last few weeks leading up to Spinx Marathon. I hated running; I didn’t want to run; I barely ran. Instead of focusing on race day and what needed to be done, I only focused on all the things I didn’t do perfectly. I very nearly didn’t race.
But, race day dawned, bright and beautiful. It was the perfect day for me (a bit too warm for some, but I do love the heat). Experience at the marathon and ultra took precedence and I was able to force my body into race mode. I chose to go out very conservative, managed to settle in with a great group, and slightly negative split my way to a 3:18:32. Good enough for a 2 minute PR. I’ll take it.
Of course I wish I’d been in the mindset to really go after the 3:15 or better. I know my body could have done it, but I just wasn’t strong enough mentally to do it. I’ll be better next time. I have a new game plan, new race goals, and an awareness of my faults and strengths at racing. I’ll be better next time.
In the almost two weeks since the marathon, I ran about 25 miles and am on pace for about 55ish for this week. I’ll race a trail half on Saturday and spend the next few weeks remembering why I love running. I love hill repeats, I love fartleks, I love slow meandering runs that take me through the best parts of my city. I love running, and heading into winter– my least favorite season, I’ll take all the love I can get.
Until Paris Mtn 20k (that is on Dec. 6th and I care how I race at that one)….
**Photos Courtesy of Pace Running Magazine’s Facebook page**