Each time I race, I learn a little something more.
“Your job is to run a good race, and then the results happen after that,” – Sean McCann, Ph.D., a senior sport psychologist for the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). Full article here.
This past weekend (1/12) I ran my first official trail race! (I say “official” because I have run the Salem Lake Trail races a few times, but that trail is very wide and smooth, so it doesn’t meet my definition of a trail run. For me, a trail run requires trail running shoes so you don’t slip, and Salem Lake can be run easily with normal road running shoes. There’s my full long-winded explanation! Ha)
Race: Lakeside Trail Race, 8 miles (also has a 15 mile option) in Browns Summit, NC—just outside of Greensboro city limits at Bryan Park.
Goal: Didn’t really have one, since it was my first trail race. In the words of Eliud Kipchoge (the GOAT, per ESPN) I wanted to run a beautiful race. Whenever I thought about pace goals, time goals, or age group goals, I started to put too much pressure on myself, which is never fun. I decided to forget all that and just have fun, and stay calm about it.
“Keeping calm allows you to think more clearly and being patient allows you to be prepared on how best to run a beautiful race,” explains the unflappable Eliud.”
Gear: I had a lot of gear! I don’t run lots of races in the winter, but thankfully I have been training thru the winter, so this wasn’t a big deal for me. I don’t like to overheat but still wanted to be prepared. I thanked all my “sponsors” in my IG post below:
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Ready for my first official trail race tomorrow 🥶 since it’s gonna be low-30’s with some wind, I’d like to thank all my “sponsors” (I don’t actually have sponsors but if any of u want me to rep you I’d be more than happy to!) @smartwool for the socks 🧦 pants 👖 undies, and gloves 🧤 @oiselle for the Flyte tank and Blackbird crop 💜 @thenorthface for the jacket and hat @icebreakernz for my Merino wool 1/4 zip (purchased in 2009 in Germany and still like new!) @altrarunning for the King MT trail running shoes 👟 @nakedrunningband for the fuel belt/race number holder and water bottle @nuunhydration for my electrolytes 💦 I’m a proud #nuunambassador @honeystinger for my mid-race fuel @burtsbees chapstick—essential on a cold day! Not pictured cuz it’s on my wrist: my @garminfitness watch ⌚️ . #gofarfeelgood #getoutside #flatrunner #bundledup #preparation #raceready #oisellevolée #oiselleteamnc #trailrunning #motherrunners #runningmom #momofboys #womensrunningcommunity #nuunlife #cantstopwontstop
I ended up shedding the North face jacket and just wore the Icebreaker ¼ zip, which was just right! I actually was a tad warmer than I needed to be, but wasn’t overly hot. I shed my Smartwool gloves about 1 mile into the race too. Lastly, I swapped the hat for my Oiselle reflective headband.
Worth mentioning—this was the first race I’ve used my Naked fuel band. I have run with it in training maybe 5 times, so I am used to how it feels—and it feels amazing, BTW. It stays in place and holds everything I need very easily. I will do a full review in a separate blog post (#goals!)
Gut: Somehow I haven’t had issues in recent months, so maybe I’m back on track? (*knocks on wood!*) I really enjoyed the later race start (10 AM) so I cooked pancakes for the fam at 7 AM. I ended up eating 2 pancakes with syrup and 1 fried egg, half a banana, and drank about 2/3 of my coffee with cream, and about 16 oz of Nuun fruit punch electrolytes between 7 and 10 AM. I also had half a HoneyStinger gel about 20-30 minutes before the race start, then every 2 miles during the race (at miles 2, 4 and 6). I washed the gel down with more Nuun electrolytes. I only had a brief period in the race around miles 5-6 where my tummy didn’t feel great, and I think it was because I ran so hard for the first half that the exertion caused a slight tummy ache. When I slowed down a bit, it went away, yay!
Weather: Thankfully the big ice storm held off til later that night! Race morning was mid-30’s and cloudy with a very slight wind. As I did my half mile warm-up around the soccer fields, I decided it would probably be fine to go without the jacket, since there was no threat of snow/rain. I do not like to be overly warm, so this was a good call. I only felt cold prior to the warm-up, then after the race ended, but during I felt great!
Pre-Race: I noticed a familiar face and found out my IG friend C was running! I had met up with her at the Fayetteville Spartan in 2017. She and her friend (not running) drove in from out of town, so we chatted before the race. I went back to the car to prepare, ran my half mile, then to the bathroom one final time. C and I talked pace, races, life and decided to start together.
Race—first half: The first 0.7 miles of the race were through the parking lots of the park, to get to the trailhead of Townsend trail. I chatted casually with C and didn’t worry about my positioning, figuring there would be plenty of time on the train to pass people if needed. Once we hit the trail, the chatter died down, and we found ourselves in a long line of runners frolicking through the woods on a single track trail. I soon realized the group pushed the pace faster than I would do solo, but I went with it, as the only way to truly slow down would be to step aside, off the trail, for a moment and let people pass. And I didn’t want to do that =) so I kept pushing. I knew C was right behind me and it made me feel good knowing that I had a friend out there, and felt like she had my back. I leapt like a gazelle over roots and rocks, sped around turns and up hills, dodged branches, and schlepped through a few muddy spots.
The first half went by quickly, with the only issue worth mentioning: the little creek crossing. The water was maybe 6 inches deep, but the group in front of me stopped. Like dead stopped. This irritated me a little, so I went around and passed them, only to get passed back a few minutes later. Oh well… it’s called momentum! Who comes to a dead stop for a little creek? LOL
The turnaround was a tad confusing for me, in my state of high exertion and fuzzy brain. The volunteers were handing out water, which I didn’t need, so I asked them “Do I just turn around here?” There was a sign, but no cone or anything so I wasn’t sure. They said yes, so I came to a dead stop (oops) and turned around. The turnaround was a little clearing, where my friend M and I had parked to run the course last weekend, so I knew exactly where I was (for me, a comforting feeling to know I’m not lost in the middle of the woods!)
Second half: I like out and back courses (typically—this one was a bit tough though) because you can see your friends/family/fellow runners at least once during the race. I saw C was nearly right behind me, maybe 20 seconds back, and we high fived. I was feeling GREAT at this moment.
I fiddled with my HoneyStinger and my squishy flask at a point where there weren’t too many runners coming at me. Sharing the trail became challenging as it was narrow in some spots, not quite wide enough for our two-way traffic. Thankfully some folks stepped aside completely, and I sometimes ran off to the side, so we made it work. I dropped my flask (another oops—it wasn’t in the pocket properly and by the time I realized, it had already fallen out) and a nice lady picked it up for me. I made it a point to say “Good job” to everyone I saw.
During mile 5 I could feel myself tiring, and my pace slowing significantly (it actually wasn’t that bad, about 15-20 seconds per mile slower from mile 3 to 7). The group thinned out so much that I found myself alone, the runners ahead of me waaaay ahead, and the runners behind me so far behind I couldn’t see them through the trees. I realized that following other runners was helping my pace a lot, so I tried to catch the folks in front of me. That pesky little river crossing allowed me to catch them, but once again, they came to a dead stop, trying to figure out the best way to cross the tiny creek. Me, in my stubborn glory, attempted to go around, but instead lost my balance and my left foot plunged into the icy cold creek. Thankfully, a nice runner helped me get steady and pulled me up the little bank on the other side. I sheepishly muttered something like “I lost my momentum there! Thanks (for the help)” but really I meant, I am feeling silly for not just stopping and waiting my turn and if I had, I’d still have a dry left foot!
But it didn’t really bother me. I was already sweating, so I hardly noticed the wet foot, plus my Smartwool socks dry quickly and the Altra King MT shoes do too. The group went on ahead—they were way too speedy for me—and I got passed by a few runners. Normally that would bother me, but on that day, my focus was a beautiful race. And so far, I was accomplishing my beautiful race! I started to have some low moments during mile 6, and gave myself some of the best pep talks I’ve ever done: Just keep pushing. Never give up. You’ve got this. You ran this trail last weekend and it took far longer. You’ve trained for this and you are fit. You are fierce. Keep going. Almost there! The lake views also helped:
I came up on a fluorescent-hatted runner dude. I drafted behind him for awhile (a mile maybe?) and we chatted a bit. I was happy to not be running alone again. It’s amazing what one other person out there can do for morale!
We came to a big hill and he stepped aside, so I took the lead. I didn’t really want to be in the lead, but I could tell he was fading, and I had more energy than he did at that point. I couldn’t see runners in front of me at all, so I had no one to try to catch. I enjoyed the scenery, and knew we were close. Once we reached the clearing at the edge of the park, I figured we had about a mile left. I tried to set a pace that was pushing hard, but not too hard. At this point, I didn’t care about time or place, I just wanted to finish and not feel completely drained.
I reached the pavement portion… less than ¾ of a mile to go! I could see the finish line and hear the music and the announcer. Hat guy was behind me maybe 20-30 seconds, and a lady coming after him, so I picked it up as much as my trail shoes on pavement, exhausted legs, and heaving lungs would let me. I saw the photographer and gave a big grin:
I heard the announcer call my name. Yesssss! I’ve done it! First trail race complete!
I hit the stop button on my watch, put my hands on my knees for a moment, and caught my breath. DANG that was awesome! I walked over to the food/drink tent to grab a Gatorade. I saw C’s friend near the finish line, and went over to her. We saw C coming and cheered her in! She wasn’t far behind me, but in the woods it was hard to see anyone further back than a minute, due to all the trees, hills, and curves in the trail. C was in good spirits, so we went to check the results on the laptop in the tent.
Results: I was shocked and delighted to see I’d won our age group (30-39, since this was a smaller race). C came in second! We were both pumped! Even if I hadn’t placed, I felt so great about my first trail race as I gave it an honest effort, enjoyed myself, learned a bit about trail racing, and enjoyed catching up with C.
Time was 1:17:21 and I came in 1st of 11 age group, 9th of 40 women, and 20th of 75 runners total. 2019 is off to a great start!
Riding an excellent runner’s high, I grabbed some snacks (donut holes! Oranges & bananas!) and chicken broth, and went to the car to chill for a bit before the awards ceremony at noon. I peeled off my sweaty shirt and replaced it with the Lakeside trail race sweatshirt, then my jacket. I put my hat on too, as all the sweat was making me feel cold.
The awards ceremony was quick, with little fanfare (just the way I like it!), and I got my very cool mug for first place. C & I got a few pics, and away we went! Hubby was at home with all the littles, and I wanted to get home to them. (thank you, Javi! You are seriously the best, and so supportive!)
Recommend: For sure. I loved the trail (and views!), smaller group of runners, well-organized, easy access to parking and real bathrooms, aid station fully stocked, nice awards, free race photos, and comfy sweatshirt. If you like single track trails with lake views, race swag, and running in the cold, this race is perfect. I really can’t think of any con’s, other than the bit of trail congestion due to the out-and-back nature of the course. Maybe next year I will consider the 15 miler, just for kicks? We’ll see =)
Strava data here.
Next up? Going to continue the trail running fun by signing up for the WTF Half Marathon in February, part of the Trivium Race Series. I’m really excited about it!
I’d love to know: What’s on deck for you this spring??