Ever go into a weekend not excited about your long run, but stumble into something better? That was me this past weekend.
My plan was to hit a casual 14 on Sunday morning on a route I wasn’t terribly excited about, but also a route that destroyed me last time I ran it. That all changed on Thursday.
At the PRO Thursday workout, PRO teammate Emily mentioned that she, and PRO teammate Katherine, were thinking about running a 30k trail race on Saturday. If you know me, you know this instantly piqued my interest. And just like that I had verbally committed to 30k of trails on Saturday.
The forecast continued to change, and we ended up with a picture perfect morning upon arrival at the Scuppernong (not a typo) trail head. Was it warm and humid? Yup. But a mild morning in the middle of the woods? Sign me up.
Emily and I chatted for a bit before the start, as for both of us this would be our longest run (by a lot) since our spring marathons. Once Katherine rolled in, we got ready and walked over to the start line.
The 50k had already started at 7am, and we were set to run at 8. The course was a 10k loop that we would run 3 times, and alternate direction each time. Simple enough. Our plan was to run together the first two loops and try to hover around a 10 minute pace, and then for the third loop run based on how we each felt.
After the first mile, the clockwise loop was almost entirely flat/down and the first four miles entirely (mostly) on double track. Very runnable, and a far cry from my last long trail race (Killington). We ran along a little quicker than we probably should have (low 9s) but the first few miles clicked by with good conversation.
Around mile 4, we hopped onto the Ice Age Trail to take us back to the start/finish. If you know me, you know I love me some technical downhill single track, because if I have any strength as a trail runner (outside of mental stubbornness) it’s that. Bombing down the single track led Emily and Katherine to say I was a “Trail Ninja” with my “Spider Legs.”
After a majestic single track run through some pine trees, we arrived back at the start/finish and the aid station. I moseyed in a couple minutes before Emily and Katherine, and took my time getting some fuel (Holla for pickles!!). And just like that, we were back out onto loop 2.
It was becoming apparent, when we could see the sky, that it would rain on us. Sure enough, right after we hopped off the Ice Age trail, the skies opened up into an absolute downpour.
Trails in pouring rain? I was loving it. After being drenched in sweat after the first loop, the rain didn’t make a huge difference. You can almost pinpoint in my splits when the rain started because I inadvertently dropped some low 8s, leaving Emily and Katherine behind.
I finished loop 2 feeling absolutely amazing. Grabbed more fuel (not enough since I didn’t carry any for the race) and got back onto loop 3.
Almost instantly I felt out of the groove I had just been in. While I (badly) needed fuel, stopping really ruined my momentum going back out. The fact that the first mile of the clockwise loop was uphill didn’t help.
Loop 3 was a bit of a trudge, with an extended stop at the unmanned water station around 15.5. Mentally, I knew I just needed to get to the single track, and I’d roll to the finish. Loop 3 also saw the return of the sun, and a spike in both temps and humidity. And as you can imagine, the trails were a bit tougher to run after our downpour.
Upon reaching the single track, mentally I knew the finish was right there (read: 1.5 miles away). But the last stretch didn’t go quite as smoothly. The rain, along with 3 races going over it, had turned the beautiful single track into a mud pit. I remain convinced that if you could’ve kept your balance, you could slide right down the hills.
This resulted in some slower miles, as the trail became a game of two steps forward, one step sliding back. At this point, my legs were reminding me I had only done one double digit run since Illinois, but the finish was in sight.
The course was a bit long, resulting in a solid 19 mile day. I got my medal, grabbed my beer, and waiting for Katherine and Emily. They each came in a few minutes after me, which meant all of us notched top 10 finishes. Not too shabby for all of us deciding to do the race the week of.
For me, this was a good starting point for Marquette training. This was probably also the easiest trail race (in terms of the course) I’ll do all summer; meaning my plan would be to hopefully continue to run this pace at future races. If I can hit 10s at Hotter N’ Hell in July (18 mile race) I would be ecstatic.