Race: Northern Trails 10 Miler, on March 10th. First scheduled for trails I’m not familiar with, and starting at Northern High School, this race was changed to Bur-Mil Park, due to some trail closures. Better for me, as I was already familiar with running Owls Roost and Nat Greene trails! Worth mentioning, 2 days prior to the race, I met one of my trail running heroes, Hillary Allen, aka @hillygoat_climbs, at the International Women’s Day event at work. I even got my picture with her… I was nervous, and totally fan-girling!
Gear: I didn’t do a flat runner post (more on this in a min) which means I didn’t really have my stuff organized. It was going to be chilly, so I ended up wearing my North Face base layer, Oiselle tank and bra, Altra pants, Smartwool socks, and Altra King MT trail running shoes. Plus my Garmin, Naked fuel belt, Huma chia seed gels x 2, and Nuun hydration 2 x 8 oz flasks.
Gut: Well…. I should start by saying I took a wonderful overnight trip to Raleigh with my hubby, sans kids. We were long overdue for some time away. We celebrated by having delicious Tapas at Vidrio on Friday night. THEN we had a yummy breakfast at Jimmy V’s (just like in 2016 after Rock ‘N’ Roll Raleigh!). Then a little shopping, followed by a fabulous lunch at Pressed by Spanglish (Puerto Rican food!) YUM! Basically we ate our way through the weekend. I wasn’t thinking about the race at all, just enjoying myself and living in the moment.
So… I tried to “carb up” later in the day on Saturday, as well as hydrate, but in hindsight… I just ate too many rich (non-bland) foods, and probably didn’t drink enough water/electrolytes. So my tummy did not feel good on race morning, but I still ate my usual 1 egg and 2 toast (1 with honey, 1 with a little butter). As soon as I arrived at the race, I had to get in line for the Porta Potties, so I already had an inkling of what was coming ☹ Noooooooo!
Weather: My Garmin says it was 39* and rainy. We were expecting it to warm up to the 50’s but it didn’t. So glad I wore the base layer, because I almost didn’t! I probably could have worn my headband and gloves too. Sigh… hindsight.
Pre-Race: After standing in a VERY long line to use the bathroom, I just stood around waiting. I didn’t see anyone I knew, so I was a bit lonely. I was also not in a good place mentally because of a convo I had with a friend about kids, and a tiff I had with J before leaving the house. I was SUPER tired from *%(#$)~ daylight savings time beginning, so I had even less sleep. I didn’t bother doing a warm-up jog, I just did my usual lunges/toy soldier/leg kicks. I didn’t bring my Naked flask (which isn’t rigid) but my Nathan bottles, and one of them had leaked all over my front (kinda looked like I peed myself!) So I was wet and kinda cold. Basically a perfect storm for a $hitty race. I turned in my sweatshirt and the leaky bottle at the bag drop area, opting to just bring one 8 oz bottle with me. And it was the one with water, not Nuun.
Race: I started out closer to the front, trying to learn my lesson from last time. Getting on the trail at the beginning is a little game of “hurry up! Now wait for others in front of you…” but that’s just how it is with single-track trails. So I felt OK at the beginning, but quickly realized I was irritable AF. All these people around me chatting, and I grew annoyed with everything they were saying.
I trucked along at a decent pace, behind a guy wearing purple and teal (2 of my fave colors!) and just told myself to stay with him and his girlfriend. We had turned onto Shadyside trail, and it was easier running (not so technical or hilly), also gorgeous. I was doing fine until about mile 3, and then, slowly, knew it was not gonna be a good day. I had to pull over to pee. I lost the people I was running with, and tried to find new people, but my body had lost its momentum, and I felt sluggish. We crossed over Lake Brandt, and headed onto Nat Greene trail.
Soon, the dreaded GI distress came on, first with a dull ache, then flared up with a strong need to go poop in the woods. The funny thing about running in the woods before spring is… there’s not much cover! So I slowed down to a walk and just tried to find a place to go—a tree or something to hide behind! Finally, I did. And yay for me, I had actually packed toilet paper! I told myself, this could be a turning point, maybe I will feel so much better and be OK after this??? I had hopes… but they were quickly dashed. My body felt awful, I had no energy, and I knew I was going to be walking for a ways. I was 5 miles in at this point. I told myself, look, it’s fine, maybe you will feel better soon? I had a Huma gel to see if that would help with energy (nope). I walked, got passed by lots and lots of people, and walked some more. Time goes by especially slow when you’re walking during a race!
Finally, I came to the road, where there’s a dam over Lake Brandt, 6 miles into the race. I shuffled a little here because I was too embarrassed to be seen walking during a race. I got back on the trail (Piedmont Trail, which was a muddy mess from recent rain) and knew I’d need to go to the bathroom again, soon! I attempted to run again, but it was pure awfulness. Finally, I pulled over around mile 7, and went again. Out of toilet paper, and pretty much out of motivation, I told myself, just keep moving forward. I had to give myself lots and lots of positive self talk, because a big part of me wanted to quit. Heck, I wanted to quit when I saw the volunteers at the aid station at mile 6. I wanted to tell them, please call someone for me and take me back, I feel so awful! But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I did not want a “DNF”—I wanted the medal, the experience, and to write this race report about a complete race, however awful the race may be.
I thought of my hubby and boys, my stepdaughter going through Basic Training right now, and her daughter (age 2) who will undoubtedly look up to both of us as her female role models. I thought of runner friends, friends, and others who are going through hard times. I alternated between “Never give up!” and “One foot in front of the other!” and “You can do hard things!” I was trying really, really hard to stay positive and get it done. Every time I tried to run—shuffle—my body said NOPE, absolutely not. And so I walked. I got passed. A few people slowed down to check on me and encourage me, and those people were my angels. I thought of the other times this has happened (Raleigh 2015, Spartan 2017 coming to top of mind), and told myself, hey you got through those, you can get through this!
I thought of Deena Kastor’s book, how she says you can always change your attitude to a positive one, and learn from bad experiences (excellent article on this here).
What could I learn from this? I knew I could still be strong, even walking, and that preparation is key. I didn’t take my prep seriously for this race, and it came back to bite me. I can’t expect great performances every time I line up for a race, but I CAN control the things that are controllable—what I eat and drink, how much rest I get, my attitude, my race gear. My pity party in my mind quieted… I aimed to find something good, something enjoyable.
I shivered in the cold, off and on. The wind would pick up, and I wasn’t moving fast enough to stay warm. I tried to put my hands in my sleeves. I wished for my jacket. Preparation… next time, you must prepare better!
Two geese went honking/flying by, and my mom loves geese, so I thought of her. There was a good sign!! I pretended those 2 geese were Mom & Dad, cheering me on. Basically, I did everything I could to will my body in a forward direction, towards the finish. Those last 3 miles felt like a freakin’ eternity though! Mile 8 took me almost 20 minutes. I wasn’t concerned about time, of course by this point it really didn’t matter… only finishing mattered. So many people passed me, I began to think I was in last place. That thought first saddened me, then amused me. How funny would it be to say I came in DFL (Dead F*&^%$# Last)?? Part of being slow isn’t the slowness so much as I know I am capable of doing so well—just look at the last race! So when my body doesn’t cooperate, it’s just that much more frustrating. I trucked along thinking I was last, then someone would come up from behind me and prove me wrong.
I found a few more bright spots—really gorgeous green areas, beautiful homes whose backyards border the trail. I forged on. The race felt endless.
FINALLY I could hear the announcer at the finish line. I soon realized that it was across the lake, and I still had about 1.5 miles to go! I could see the greenway up ahead, but it was like a mirage—in view, but didn’t seem to get closer, no matter how many steps I took. I told myself I’d run once I got onto the greenway, so I began a slow and painful shuffle with about ¾ mile to go. I caught a few people, and at last… after 10 miles, 2 hours and 23 minutes of running (of which nearly 2 hours were painful), 3 bathroom stops, and way too many miles of pity partying… I finished.
The irony was that the awards ceremony was going on, and I listened for my age group, while I sat in the Porta John for yet another bathroom break. When I heard the times, I knew I could have placed, so it made it that much more of a disappointment. I know it’s just a race, and I know it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but I LOVE to have a good race. It feels so good for my confidence and it fuels my competitive spirit. To compete to the best of my body’s ability… that is the feeling I seek. I know I’m not a pro or elite or even a Top 3 local race kind of runner, but I love knowing that I am good at running and the effort is worth all the hours I put into training.
Results: Shocked to see I wasn’t last! 2:22:47, 8th of 13. Average pace of 14:17. Ooof.
Recommend: YES. I loved the course, despite being miserable for most of it. The trails are gorgeous, and this was well-organized. The medal is also awesome!
T-shirt = fun too. It probably goes without saying, but take the preparation seriously.. and then you can have a lovely race!
Garmin data: For what it’s worth…