Day One: Wild Thang 9 mile Trail Race.
Hard to imagine, but I had kind of forgotten about trail running. I dabbled in some trails a couple summers ago, but stopped because of the suffocating heat underneath a canopy of trees. Seriously. Trail running in the middle of July in Middle Tennessee? Not a great idea. Sure, you're shaded, but there is zero breeze and 500% humidity. There is also the notion of convenience. Sadly, when I step outside my door, there are no trails. Only miles and miles of concrete sidewalk. The effort that it takes to actually DRIVE somewhere to run, is usually saved for once every couple of weeks for group training runs.
But just like the passage of time erases the flaws of ex boyfriends and makes you wonder what they are up to these days as does it erase the memories of almost dying of heat exhaustion and make you wonder... could I get into this trail running thing? (Also, I had to hear about how Vandy-Montana was checking out some of the trails this spring while I was pounding away in the streets. Jealous? Yes).
Enter the 9 mile Trail Run that is apart of the Grand Prix for the Nashville Striders. Under perfect conditions, this trail is not that technical. It's mostly flat and while it does have a lot tree roots and rocks, it's not like you are having to boulder around steep, jagged rocks. It's a good "beginner" trail race. In otherwords: No fancy-dancy trail shoes required.
The first thing you need to know about this race is that it rained over 3.5 inches on Friday. (Thwarting my plans to take off work on Friday and play golf. Well... I did take off work, I just didn't get to play golf. Grrrr). This would make for very interesting trail conditions.
We get to the park fairly early-ish (enough time to park the car at the finish and walk back to the start. Good call, on Vandy-Montana's part) and check-in. We both look at the short-ish list of pre-registered runners and get our bib numbers and just happen to notice that neither of our Age Group Nemeses (sp?) were signed up. Awesome. We got our bibs and Vandy-Montana's is an official looking bib... name of the race, etc on it. My bib? Just my number. Yeah. That's shitty (especially since I'm the one that sent in our registrations).
It was a small field, which I love. I love, love, love small races. There is just so much more comaraderie with the runners, it's laid back and just generally a much more pleasant running experience for me with a small race. The race director warned us about the trail conditions. She said that it was wet and there were some parts where the nearby lake had flooded the trail, so there was some standing water along the course.
Umm... yeah, that's the understatement of the year. I had planned accordingly, and wore old shoes, and brought towels and clean clothes. I was determined to enjoy the trail and it's mud and water. The guy running in front of me for the first couple of miles, must not have had that same mentality, because he was dodging puddles and mud left and right. I followed suit for the first half mile or so, but then I said... screw it, I'm wearing old shoes for a reason and splished splashed my way through the trail. It was awesome.
There were parts of the trail where you had to go through knee-deep water. There was mud inches thick. My eyes were glued to the trail, constantly watching out for tree roots and rocks. The concentration involved with trail running is intense on it's own. But when you're stepping into muddy puddles unsure of what lies beneath waiting to twist your ankle, the intensity gets cranked up a few extra notches.
I couldn't stop smiling throughout the race, I was having so much fun! Vandy-Montana and I even were able to successfully execute a fist-bump when we saw each other on the out-and-back loop. It was the most fun race I've ever ran. And, honestly... I'm not quite as sure how much I would have liked it if the trail had been dry.
After the race, there was a cook-out with hamburgers and hot dogs and they announced the winners. My time wasn't great. I barely eeked out sub 10:00/mile finish. But, I didn't really care, this wasn't the type of race that you look for a PR time. Even the fact that Vandy-Montana and I's nemeses (again, I have no idea as to the plural spelling of nemesis) ended up being 'day of" registers, didn't wreck the day.
I don't think I could ever exclusively run trails (again, the convenience factor is big), but I forgot how much more of a full body workout trail running is. I mean, my achilles was definitely getting a hard workout on Saturday. And while this trail was flat... it was still a workout on the legs, too. This race definitely piqued my interest in trails more and I think it will do me good to venture out and try them a couple times a month.
I think I'm even ready to sign up for a trail half marathon in a couple of weeks...
Incidentally, Vandy-Montana and I did take pictures of our legs, but they weren't all that muddy. Everytime you got splattered in some mud, there was a nice big puddle up the trail a bit that would rinse you off.
My socks? They were a different story...