I had the great privilege of winning an entry into The North Face Endurance Challenge Series, DC and ran the Half Marathon distance on Sunday.
A few things to note - I've never run an all trail half mary. Just 3 weeks ago I ran the Harpers Ferry Half which was 40 or so % trail and HILLY as heck. And then I spent the week before at the beach eating too much and having fun.
Short version race report:
I had so much stinkin' fun that I can't wait to do it again.
Long winded version goes like this:
I emailed a friend who ran the 50K on Saturday and she confirmed the trails were a sloppy mess. I'm a noob to trail running, but I was pretty sure that meant I shouldn't wear white unless I was ok tossing it in the trash when I finished.
The weather was perfect. Chilly, slight breeze, clear skies. You really couldn't have asked for a prettier morning or location.
I found a couple of people from my running club and chatted with them a bit. And before we knew it Wave 1 was ready to go. They started the 3 waves in 3 minute increments so at 8:06, I was on my way!
The finish chute was a mud pit so we got our feet wet and muddy right off the bat. The fact that so many of us [me included!] tried to run around it is laughable considering what we were in for.
We were on a paved then gravel road for nearly 2 miles. Then it narrowed a little more giving the crowd some time to thin out. But so much of the course was single track and the mud so bad in some areas that nearly 600 runners was just too many. Trying to keep from falling while avoiding oncoming runners was tough and it's a miracle no one was hurt.
I latched onto a group of 3 guys who were running a nice pace and were good at picking out the least muddy path through/around mud pits and streams. I lost them at one of the aid stations and started running with 2 women who were training for a 50K in a few weeks. We dropped one of them around mile 9, and I asked the other if she minded if I stayed with her since I tend to go too fast and then fall apart. She didn't mind at all but then she had stop with a shin issue around mile 10 1/2 so I was on my own from there to the finish.
I was able to finish strong, partly because some guy thought he was going to outkick me. Not today, baby!
So let's talk mud.
We got to run across little streams and some bigger ones. My legs are short, and I can’t jump so I just slogged through them. One of the bigger streams had steep banks and the mud was as slick as ice. I opted to sit and just slide into the water and then claw my way up the other bank.
There was just one section of hills and the mud there was also like ice. We were each looking for tree roots or rocks to step on for some sort of traction while walking up. There were runners who were afraid to go down because it was so slippery. I opted for short, quick steps, oh and prayer, to make it down. Seemed to work.
Miles 6ish through 9ish were like running through thick oatmeal. I was surprised I didn’t lose a shoe and remembered the kids’ cross country coach telling me about meets when they had to tape their shoes onto their feet.
We were all sliding and nearly falling. I had some close calls but managed to stay on my feet. Others looked like they had rolled around in the mud and were covered from head to toe.
Running through that kind of mud is wearing on your legs. So much effort in just lifting your feet, never mind keeping your balance and dodging other runners.
In spite of all that, I felt GREAT. I would even say amazing! Yes, I was tired and sweaty, but I felt like I could have gone on for quite a while more.
That's probably because I went much slower and had to walk portions because I couldn’t pass. But I was thrilled with how I did in light of the conditions.
~It was a fun, well organized race.
~The volunteers were all really nice.
~The aid stations were well stocked and full of cheering, enthusiastic volunteers.
~The course was well marked and would have been ah-maz-ing sans the mud.
~I discovered I really like Espresso Love Gu. I thought I grabbed a blackberry one. Happy accident!
~Trail running is fun, and trail runners are nice folks.
First off, I want to make it clear that I am incredibly grateful that I won an entry and that they let me run the half in spite of it being sold out. I see my "minuses" as [hopefully] constructive feedback rather criticism.
~An out and back with that many people for that short a distance on a single track just isn’t good.
~They ran out of women’s small and medium shirts. The Sunday races had been sold out for weeks. Each of us had to note a shirt size when we registered. There is no reason in the world, zombie apocalypse aside, why they shouldn’t have had the correct shirt size for everyone.
~The ‘festival’ was ok. It didn’t seem very festive to me. Just tents with vendors and lots of runners milling about. Nothing bad but it seemed funny to call it a Festival.
~For same day packet pick up, we got our shirts after the race. We then had to stand in line if we wanted the race design screen printed on our shirt. It seemed like we could have noted whether or not we wanted our shirt printed when we registered online. The line moved quickly so it wasn’t a huge deal. Just not very efficient.
Given the opportunity, I'm not sure I'd run it again mostly because it seemed like an awful lot of runners and the trails looked like they were in rough shape after all that pounding.
But I do see myself running A LOT more trails in smaller groups or races.
Fun, Fun and MORE Fun!