I also usually start the year with a reflection on the previous year and a look into the new year. One of my favorite things to do is to plan a year of running, more specifically races. Its been more difficult because of how much I have slowed down. I can't blame it all on age because there are some changes I could make in training and diet that would help me trim seconds, maybe even a minutes off of my pace in some events. I'm still hanging tough in the half marathons with four of the five half marathons last year under 2 hours. I ran 1:58, 1:56, 1:55, 1:56 and 2:02. Those times thrill me to no end. Likely, I will do more half marathons when I no longer enjoy the full distance.
So why unsteady? I titled this post Unsteady because I ran a trail run for the first time in years. It even been a couple of years since I've been on a single path trail, one with roots and small climbs where I needed to focus for much of the time. I ran the Lakeside Trail Race put on by Trivium at Bryan Park near Lake Townsend. Since I hadn't a great start to running in the new year and hadn't been on trails for some tine, I was a bit nervous and really didn't decide to go to the race until the morning of the race. The distance was 15 miles and I hadn't run more than a half marathon since Madison where I ran the marathon.
The race is small and friendly as it seemed a lot of people knew each other. It is one thing I regret in all my running years that I never got involved all that much in a running community. Yes, I'm a Marathon maniac, a 50-Stater and have met some friends through those communities but not a local running community. Anyway, the Lakeside race had an 8 mile race and a 15 mile race. There were only 51 finishers in the 15 mile and 113 in the 8 mile race. There is a cap of 200 runners. It is run on a series of trails on the Greensboro Watershed Trail System; Osprey, Peninsula and Blue Heron trails some of which, I believe, are part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
I am big on logistics for races. If I have to be more anxious about the logistics of getting to a race, parking, packet pick-up than the actual running of a race, I will likely not run the race. This is not the case with Lakeside. They stage it at the Bryan Park Soccer Complex with plenty of parking right next to packet pick-up and the start/finish line, have heated indoor bathrooms and no traffic issues. Its just a great all-around set-up.
All racers start at the same time. After a loop around the parking lot to spread runners out, we ventured onto the first trail. There was some slop on the initial entry to the trail downhill but really was no big deal, just had to remain steady. Once downhill the trail was in really good shape even after the snow/sleet storm from the week earlier. The temperature was perfect as well being in the 40's and cloudy skies. It helps to have cloudy skies for a trail run since the shadows on sunny days create mirages for where roots/rocks may or may not be.
I followed a pack of runners for the first 4 miles. Not knowing who was an 8 mile runner or a 15 mile runner, I just ran. We were running 10:45's on what is the most difficult part of the course. Without having run on trails for awhile, I was a bit unsteady but, like riding a bicycle, I got the feel of the uneven ground, traversing the roots, making myself broader like a running back trying to remain in balance. I stayed upright and really didn't have any trips. It was the most technical section with the most hills. We also would have to run this section back to the finish. At mile 4, the 8 milers turned around and ran back over the same section in reverse. It was then that I realized there were not many 15 mile runners. When I got to the 4 mile mark, I turned onto a road to cross to another trail. Frankly, I wasn't sure I was making the right turn because there was NOBODY as far as the eye could see in front of me and since it was a road I could see a good quarter mile. I did see a policeman so I figured I was going the right way. Then, a couple came up behind me and passed me when I stopped to pull my Zensah sleeves up over my knees. Back onto another trail. This was less technical but being a mountain bike trail had some serious humps. We were on this trail for the next 3.5 miles with beautiful views of the lake from the hardwood forest. Ironically, it was on this less technical trail that I tripped on a root and fell. Like I said earlier, trail running is about focus and I lost focus as I was turning off my GoPro. I went down pretty hard on my left arm/shoulder/knee. But I got up and kept moving while the pain wore off. I was then back to normal pace.
I followed the couple and another guy on this section of the course. Eventually, I lost sight of the couple but was still following the guy. We crossed another bridge between the lakes onto another trail. There was another aid station at mile 7.5 and I high-fived a little girl who was helping with her parents. I carried a water bottle since the aid stations were a bit spread out. I also had two cookies. Onto the next trail for another 3.5 miles that followed the perimeter of the lake, where in some places, you were right at the edge of the water. This was slightly more technical than the trail I had just run on but still not like the first 4 miles, which would be my last 4 miles. After the first 4 miles and when I didn't have other runners on my heels, I decided to try out my new GoPRO Hero Black. I had mixed results with it, primarily because of getting it turned on and off at the wrong times. I got some decent footage but not what I had hoped. I did trip a couple of more times but didn't fall.
I finally reached the last aid station which was the 4 mile turn-around for the 8 mile runners. I was still feeling pretty decent. I slowed but continued to run the entire time. At the aid station was a girl in a Unicorn outfit. Trail runs seem to be fun like this. The runners and volunteers are generally characters, in a good way of course. I knew the last 4 miles would be difficult on tired legs. There were more hills, it was more technical, stone steps, a small stream crossing, and the uphill that had the muck. But, I knew it was to the finish. I did trip and fall one more time. It wasn't as terrible as the first so I just got up and kept running. Also during the previous section, I passed the guy in front of me which was a good feeling. Of course, I later found out he was 67. If only I could be doing this when I am 67.
I got to the finish just as the awards were being given out. It said on their website that age groups would be given to the top 3. After I finished in 3:03, I stood around waiting for my age group. They gave the top 2 and I later found out that I was 3rd (our of 4) but I guess because they were already giving out awards and I had just crossed, they didn't get my time. Its just my luck.
As unsteady as I was, I really enjoyed my time on the trails and registered for their trail half marathon, Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot. There is something serene, relaxed and tough at the same time doing a trail race.
|Start of the Race|
|Down the Muck|