With trail running! :) The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club held their Women's Half Marathon Trail Run this past Saturday and I got my first taste of trail running. It will certainly not be my last! It was run entirely on the trails of Fountainhead Regional Park in Virginia, with 206 starters and 194 finishers. I honestly had no idea what to expect, other than a challenge. An acquaintance of mine said it was a tough course for my first trail race, so I was trying to be prepared for whatever was thrown at me. The race organizers told us at the start to expect to run at least 2-3 minutes slower per mile than you would on the roads. I knew that was going to be the case but my ego was not going to take that news very lightly. Before sending us off the men in the VHTRC gathered in front of the start line to serenade us with "Happy Trails To You" to rousing applause. It made everyone smile and I know I relaxed a bit more because of it. I honestly don't think I was nervous about this race. I was really excited and very curious. A full array of pictures can be found here, but I'll include a few from the professional photographer as well.
I ran with a disposable camera for most of the race, hoping to capture the beauty of the trails as well as their difficulty. After a solid week of rain I was concerned about the conditions but it overall the course was in great shape. A huge thank you to the race organizers for monitoring the course all week and cleaning up felled trees as needed. There were definitely some wet and muddy spots but that just made it more fun. I think I would have been disappointed if there weren't some opportunities to get a little dirty. Despite knowing that I wasn't going to have a finish time comparable to my other half marathons, I bolted at the start and learned the error of my ways during the first 2-3 miles. Holy moly there were hills, hills, and then more hills. I was definitely feeling the burn but I was also exhilarated and feeling like I was on this grand adventure.
I was very relieved to have finished the "Do Loop" portion of the course but there was still a lot left in front of me. There were several aid stations along the course that had the basics as well as cookies, chips, twizzlers, jelly beans and so much more. At one point Elvis himself was there and kindly refilled the bottles on my belt. Once I felt like I settled in to the race, I took my time. I stopped at aid stations. I talked to the other runners. I snapped a few pictures along the way. It was hard to accept that I wasn't going to be a great trail runner out of the gate but I think I did my best to meet the challenge and have fun along the way. It was important that I not "race" this because it was my first time on the terrain as well as a substitute training run for the marathon. The last 3 miles felt hard in a good way. I had picked up my pace as best I could and was finally starting to pass a few of the many people that had passed me along the way. I had a fair idea of where the finish line was so I knew when I could make a last push. The crowd support was great and my brother-in-law was there to cheer me on.
If you must know my finishing time, you are welcome to check out the race website. I'm stinging a bit about it but I can't wait to come back next year and beat it. Once marathon training is over I'd like to devote more time to running on trails. I know I'd actually have to make an effort to get to them, as opposed to just running from my front door, but it will be worth it. Judging by the soreness I felt yesterday, it definitely works different parts of your legs than the roads do. My ankles in particular were feeling a little banged up. I'm actually a little surprised that I didn't fall down although at one point I came pretty close. Between all the roots and rocks, there were ample opportunities. I just kept my eyes on the ground right in front of me and pushed forward.
I am super proud of my sister, my partner in the race experience. It was her first half ever, and her first race longer than a 10k. She did amazing and whether she wants to admit it or not, there are other halfs in her future. A big thanks to my brother-in-law, Andy, for being our personal race photographer and cheerleader, it was greatly appreciated. I see a lot of race reports in my reader that I need to catch up on. It looks like this was quite the racing weekend! Back to training as usual this week, with a 20 miler waiting for me on Saturday. Eek! I'm hoping this week is a good one, it certainly has potential. At the very least, I'm quite looking forward to tomorrow. Be safe, run well, and take care of each other!