(If one word sums up the experience, that is it. Blog over.)
I don't even know where to start with this race. I'm still in disbelief that I even ran this thing. It hasn't quite sunk in.
I signed up for this race after running 1-2 times at Highbanks (which, by the way, does not even compare to this course!). I was obsessed with running at Highbanks and wanted to experience what trail racing was really like. This race is only $25! You could pick between 5k, 10k, 20k, 40k, and 60k. When I registered, I opted for the 20k because of the assigned mileage I had on my training program. Long story short, I was peer pressured by Amanda to join her for 40k!
I tried not to think about 40k being so close to marathon distance (24.85 miles vs. 26.2 miles). I basically ran a marathon! It seriously baffles me. I knew going into it that my pace would have to be much slower. Not knowing the course and also being inexperienced in trail racing, I had no idea how fast to go out. I wanted to make it a point to only look at my watch to check mileage and go by feel for my pace. I took the very laid back approach and stopped at every water station to eat and drink something. There was also one bathroom break and a mid race break to tend to my wounds. The road racer in me was very bothered by this because I knew that the clock was ticking and that all of these stops would be included in my final time. I tried not to let myself care and I just rolled with it!
The start was a "ready, set, go" situation. I started at 7 a.m. with the 60kers since Amanda had originally planned that distance. We met a couple of girls at the start and talked about potentially running together. The first couple of miles were rolling hills on the road. I'm talking legit rolling hills...not what I used to think were rolling hills on Dublin Road! LOL. In the next mile there was a distance of about 0.75 miles that dropped about 370 feet (if I read Garmin correctly). The first loop, I tried to control my descent. This is where I lost Amanda and started running with Lauren (one of the girls we met). I am so thankful for Lauren. There is no way I could have kept up with Amanda for the entire 40k. I'm just glad I didn't have to do it alone. Anyway, this descent was no joke and it was apparent in the second loop how hard it really was to go downhill. Although I allowed myself to go faster the second lap, I could feel it like crazy in my legs.
After the insane downhill, we approached what was called "Steel Hill." Per Garmin, it was a half mile ascent of 300 feet. It was absolutely killer. The first lap, I jogged up part of it then walked up the rest. Lap two was all about walking! Even walking was hard! At that point, we were on the trail. I can recall a couple more significant uphills on the trail (not sure which miles). I just remember that the trail handed us every type of surface you can think of: grass, one muddy area that you could easily maneuver around, little rocks, big rocks, roots, etc. It was all there.
For me, things didn't get too crazy until we hit the 8th mile. There were more rocks and the ground was very uneven with a lot of holes. It was at this point that I tripped and fell. I think I stopped paying attention to where I was stepping because I needed to take a drink of water.
When I did that, my left foot hit a rock that was slightly elevated above the ground. I fell onto my right side. I have some trail rash on my lower leg, knee, and hip. My elbow was hurting so I assumed it was also trail rash. When I looked, it was bleeding like crazy! I also had blood on my finger. I couldn't tell how bad it was because of all of the blood, but there appeared to be chunks of skin hanging off of it. I rinsed it off in the bathroom to get some of the dirt off and decided I would wait until we finished the lap to get a medic to look at it.
The terrain that the trail had to offer us next kept my mind off of my fall. I'm not a trail runner but I believe they would say this section was "very technical." There were so many rocks, roots, holes, steep descents, etc. It was cray cray. Once we made it past that, we were back on the road for our final ascent. The grade of this uphill wouldn't seem horrible on a normal day. It was actually very tolerable. It just sucked that it was at the end. No one wants to end a race going uphill!
When we arrived to the lodge to start lap two, I stopped to get food and drink as well as see the EMT to bandage up my wound. I felt like it took forever but it was worth it. Again, the road runner in me was counting the minutes. It took so long that my Garmin actually auto saved my first lap so I didn't get my continuous time. The medics finally cleaned and bandaged my elbow. I did have two good sized chunks of skin hanging off. I felt like I earned my spot in the trail club!
Lap two was the same exact course but with some extra walking. Lauren and I chose to walk up hills that we were able to jog up during the first lap. We also took our time at the water stops. I accidentally left my gels at home so fueling was an issue for me during this race.
My official race time was:
(1st in age group, 3rd female, 18th overall)
Of course, it bugs me that I took minutes at the rest stops, bathrooms, with the medics, etc. but I was still happy with that for my first experience!
I hate being boastful but I was so freaking proud of us. Amanda and I stepped out of our comfort zones and did something we wouldn't typically do. I feel like you can't truly understand this course unless you actually run it. It is, by far, the most difficult course I have ever run. There is absolutely nothing in Columbus that compares to what I experienced today. I am so thankful for legs that can run, jump, perform agility moves and even trip over rocks. I just want to give a shout out to all of my cheerleaders who were thinking of me during this run (and "suck it" to the ones who wished me to hurt myself or get eaten by a mountain lion). I expect a speedy recovery since I didn't run all out. Now it's countdown to the Columbus Half!