Trail Running is Hard

Let me just say that a 17 mile trail run is NOT the same as a 17 mile road run. I knew it was a little more challenging, but…WOW.

I headed out to Bastrop State Park with Skud and three other people who are also doing Sunmart. She and I are the certified “Sunmart Virgins” and profess to only be doing this race because they have great cookies! Neither one of us really do any real trail running on a regular basis, which became very obvious when we tried to compare ourselves and hang with these hardcore trail runners. Did I mention that one of the people was 3rd overall female last year?

The trail is an 8.5 mile loop with hill climbs and a challenging mixture of rocks, tree roots and gorgeous pine trees in every direction. It’s impossible to deny the utter beauty of being on this trail. From the first loop, Amy and I fell slightly behind and were definitely content bringing up the rear. I was trying to be aggressive and hang with the others at first, but after three miles, I knew it wouldn’t last if I actually wanted to complete two loops. My legs were pretty sore from my bike ride on Sunday so I was definitely using mind over matter to ignore the “lead legs.” By mile five, I was starting to feel pretty weak and slightly dehydrated. I didn’t carry any water or nutrition with me, knowing that we were taking a break after the first loop. I should’ve known that 8.5 miles is a long way to go with no water! I couldn’t wait to be finished with that first loop knowing that Gatorade, Gu and 1/2 a turkey sandwich were waiting for me. I was relieved to hear that we were all feeling a little “challenged” by this run.

The second loop started well and it was great to get a lift and nutrition boost. The other three had started and were out of sight at this point. Amy and I hung close together to make sure that neither of us wandered off trail. We did ok, except for one brief moment where we lost our way. I’m sure we looked silly, but we eventually found the right path again and managed to forge ahead. Once again, the four mile point proved to be the start of the energy depletion. Amy was really struggling so I continued to hang back to make sure were were always in sight of each other. Instead of thinking about the pain and exhaustion, I began a mantra of, “Thank You Legs” over and over again. It really lifted me through a couple of hill climbs.

By the last two miles, I was really in need of some water again and couldn’t wait to finish. I was finishing strong, but definitely a little humbled by the entire experience. I gotta admit, I’m very nervous now about Sunmart knowing that I struggled through 17 miles. Um hello…the race is 32 miles. Big difference…

A couple of lessons from today’s run:

1.) Taper before the race and don’t run on tired legs
2.) Eat more before the run begins
3.) Take advantage of every rest stop–eat and drink generously
4.) Wear thick socks to avoid blistering
5.) Never go 8.5 miles without water!
6.) Remember that you are human

Wow…if the trail is, in fact, 8.5 miles like it says–here were my splits for the two loops:

Loop 1: 8:49 pace 1hr 15 min
Loop 2: 9:10 pace 1hr 18 min

Not bad at all!!

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