Yesterday I raced a trail half marathon and although I have ran much longer distances up to 37 miles, this race was the most technical course I have ever done. When I crossed that finish line, I felt absolutely amazing to have not only finished, but to have very thankfully finished unharmed, others sadly where not able to. I think its safe to say that many of us underestimated the difficulty level of this course, I know I sure did. I am so pleased that it gave me such a wonderful new experience and excellent training for the future so I can go on to do more technical adventures. The course was 85-90% very technical in my opinion, it was the hardest by far I have ever been on. I have limited experience running trail and never trail that had these huge roots, rocks, mud, narrow single track, tall grass, branches in face and everywhere, it was a mix of various terrain with only very limited breaks of relatively flat wider trails. Also, I got off the race course twice due to both having never been there and not knowing the mountain and not sure if the course was marked as well as I would have liked because I know I definitely wasn’t going fast enough to have not seen a trail marker for the race course. The fist time I got off course, I found myself completely off any type of trail, in a very wooded steep hilly section and my clue was that I went into spider webs. I knew that couldn’t be good because there were runners far ahead of me that would have already ran into them if I was going the right way, but the course markings seemed to send me that way so I don’t know.
I quickly and thankfully got back on the trail shortly after that. Then several miles later, when my legs were starting to seize up and didn’t want to lift up high anymore to run over all the technical roots and rocks, I tripped on a large root and quickly and thankfully did an air brake to stop myself from falling. I could hear the root break a little as I tripped on it. Then shortly after that my new friend passed me on a downhill, usually a strong point for me is the downhill, but yesterday within a few miles of the end of the race my legs did not want to work anymore and I slowly descended the hill. That is when at the bottom of the hill, my new friend, Jessica, announced we were lost and neither of us knew how we could have missed a turn, so maybe a marking ribbon on a branch, that is how they marked the course, came off. We did see several marking ribbons just lying on the ground in various spots along the course that had been broken off so we had no idea where they were to begin with and therefore are lucky we didn’t get lost more before that point. Thankfully, my new friend that I had made while running the race, was local and knew how to get us back on the race course. We ran many parts of it together, either I was in front of her or she was in front of me throughout many of the miles. It was nice we had each other as there wasn’t too many people in the race to begin with and then after a while it was just us as people spread out in their various paces.
In the beginning of the race I had the honor and pleasure to run the first several miles with a friend of mine, Ken, who has been very inspirational to me. He is amazing. He just hiked bushwhacked for 3 days, ate berries, during that time had only 3 hours sleep, yet was here at this race only a day later to race the trail full marathon. It was absolutely amazing to run with him. I felt amazing. I felt like a kid. It was great. I felt light on my feet. I felt powerful. I felt like this is the most fun and yet most dangerous thing I have ever done. The first several miles may have been some of the most technical, therefore, I believe that may have been why we were able to run together at that time since he is much faster than I am. Also, the trail in the beginning was very narrow and people could not pass, it was single file and very technical, I walked a lot of the very technical parts throughout the course, so it was not entirely a running event for me but believe me I earned it as my heart rate was high most of the race and I was heavy breathing many times during the race, not something I usually do nearly as much as I did yesterday.
It is also important to mention that I had my period yesterday and for me that means the loss of a lot of blood and with it a loss of lots of my strength and ability. I knew my period was going to come to like clockwork like it always does. Even though I’ll be 50 in less than 2 months, I still get my period every month like clockwork although many women my age have already started or even finished menopause, it hasn’t even started for me at all. Even though I knew I would have a lot less strength for this race, I still signed up because according to the course description of being mostly flat, I thought it would be a good race for me in my condition at the time. The race had approx. 1000 feet of elevation gain over the 13.11 miles my Garmin said that I ran. The very technical nature of this course made my heart pump so high that it stayed mainly in the red almost the entire race.
Another important point to mention was that I became severely dehydrated even though I started out feeling fully hydrated and good, I believe it was because of the intense physical demands of the technical nature of the course that demanded so much more hydration for my muscles. Even though I like carrying my own hydration pack and usually don’t use the aid stations, by mile 7ish I did drink lots of water at that aid station to the tune of 6 full cups of water! I then went back out on the trail to continue the race and as I tried to run I could feel more than anything, at first mile or so, was all the water sloshing around in my stomach. I knew I was dehydrated because of some physical symptoms. First, my Garmin watch, which I never have a problem with the fit or feel, it is great and feels like I am wearing nothing yet tells me so much helpful information, I love it, but yesterday it got really tight around my wrist and left a mark and I had to adjust the strap larger to fit my enlarged wrist. My swollen wrist was a first clue of dehydration, but I could also tell I was dehydrated in other clues of my body, such as the way my muscles were not able to work as well as they should have as the miles went on, like they did the first several miles much more easily even though the terrain was tough, my muscles were handling it, only with a much higher heart rate but the muscles were hanging in there in the beginning miles. I also lost the ability to pee at all, I felt like I needed to pee, found a spot in the woods, tried to pee but nothing came out at all. It wasn’t until several hours after the race I was finally and thankfully able to pee. Along the same lines, I sure am glad that I was able to go to the bathroom on the long drive up right before we made it to the park at a rest stop. I never pooped so much in my life at that rest stop and so thankful I did not have to poop out on that trail, which has happened to me in other races, but nothing like this. It would not have been good. I don’t think I ever pooped so much in one occurrence in my life. 3 times the bowl filled up. Another sign that my fitness is likely growing, as this has happened in the past but never to this extent. Mind you that I had already pooped twice at home that morning! Just mentioning these things as I know as a lifetime learner myself, I find it interesting and enlightening to learn all the different aspects sometimes esp. those less talked about are sometimes the most useful. I now pack some wipes or tp with me ever since my first incident of trail racing duty calls a few months back.
Before the race was fun chatting with friends, Ken and Chris, who I always enjoy chatting with and seeing during races. Then during the race I saw my friend Ian, with his great big smile greeting me as he ran towards me likely in his 2nd loop because he was racing further than me, he raced the 50k. It is always the very best feeling to see and race with my friends and see their smiling faces and we cheer each other on saying looking good and they always do too. Many people, the ones mentioned here, are more experienced than me and I love learning from them and find them to be very inspirational. There is always something new to learn and yesterday I learned lots as usual thank God.
I definitely grew as an athlete yesterday in so many ways. It sure is an amazing feeling to conquer new challenges. Life is made to live. Live as much as possible and try new experiences. You will never regret it, but you may regret putting things off till someday because many times some day never comes. Don’t wait to live your life, do what you can now. I know I did my very best yesterday. I know others can do much more than me and that is inspiring to me. There are others that I hope to inspire knowing that I wasn’t always able to do any of this and was not a runner, I was in fact a 100 pounds heavier couch potato. Anyone can do what they put their mind to. We all must remember that we are all on our own journey. It takes different amount of time for each of us to do similar goals and that’s okay. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, because there is no one in the world like you exactly and you need to enjoy your own journey. Make sure you enjoy your own company. Make sure you enjoy every little accomplishment and struggle because it makes you who you are and you are amazing. There is no one in the world exactly like you.