You know that feeling you get after a race, where all the adrenaline is coursing through your veins, and despite having just pushed your body to its limits, you are WIDE awake the rest of the day? Yeah, that’s me. Only it’s the next day, and I STILL have it!! I finished this night race a little before 9 p.m. and didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 a.m. Then my body and/or mind thought it would be a good idea to wake up at 6:55 a.m.
Not at all what I had in mind for a busy Sunday. I hope I make it past 9 p.m.
Sunday’s are typically my day to sleep in; to catch up on all the sleep I didn’t get during the week. But no, no, not this Sunday.
It’s true, I have a TON to get done in the next 4 days before we head out of town, but come on… less than 4.5 hours of sleep?? Yet here I am, typing away on my race recap. Seems the best thing to do with my time since Mr. Zucchini Runner is blissfully asleep.
After chatting a little with our friends Kristin and Evan, (Kristin is also known as Cook and Run with Kristin) we took an obligatory pre-race photo and then one final restroom stop before lining up for the race!
I positioned myself up front, foolishly thinking I could avoid some of the dust from the trails. HA WRONG! I’m still kinda new to this whole trail racing thing, ok? 🙂 This is race #4 on trails for me, so I guess I should know by now there is no avoiding the dust. Oh well, more on the dusty trails later…
All I could see in front of me was dudes, lots of tall dudes. It appeared I was the only female that far up in the starting chute.
When they started the race, I immediately had to pass a couple guys to keep my comfy race starting pace going. I wasn’t in this race for a leisurely night stroll like my leg 2 of Ragnar Trail… I was in this race to finish in the top 10 women, maybe even top 5 if I was lucky. In my limited number of trail races, I have at least learned one thing — that positioning matters! Don’t start at the back, or you will expend a lot of energy trying to pass other runners. And you never know when it will become single track and therefore more difficult to pass a slower runner. On the road races, you have a wide open area to gradually pass, but on a trail, you better kick it up fast and pass with some speed – and then make sure you can keep that pace!
I trained for the past 4 weeks at the trails of South Mountain in anticipation of the below elevation gain. I actually did FAR more elevation gains than I needed, but I think it paid off for the most part last night.
I kept clipping along for almost the whole climb, until my pace was so slow, I decided it would be more beneficial to hike a bit, catch my breath and take a few drinks of water! You can clearly see where that happened in the timing profile below. 🙂
I started back up again when I felt my heart rate recovering a bit. Unfortunately things got worse, before they got better. I got what I like to call “hot stomach”; something I commonly get during warm weather races, followed by cramps in my abdomen, and then I also felt my feet dragging. Sure signs I was pushing myself too much, and needed to reel it in. I kept it slower and eventually stopped to walk very briefly again and get a good mouth full of water, swish it around and swallow. I was completely hydrated heading into this race, but mouth breathing, on dusty trails, when it’s 93 degrees and 3% humidity – yeah. Dry cotton mouth.
It was during this point where I had a decision to make, give up on my top 10 female goal or stay strong and push through. I chose the latter. I’ve given up before, and I always regret it. I’ve never regretted pushing through. Plus, I was starting to catch back up to the guy who passed me when I was walking. Then I heard what sounded like a mountain biker sliding down the trail behind me on a downhill. Was I just having flashbacks to running National Trail on South Mountain, where I’m constantly battling with the mountain bikers? Or maybe a runner fell? Either way, the trail was getting technical so looking back would have required stopping and I hadn’t heard any cries for help, so I kept pushing. By the time I caught the runner in front of me, I realized it was another runner coming up behind me. The guy in front moved to the side to let us both pass. After running for a few hundred feet, I asked if the guy behind me needed to pass — his words were music to my ears; “No, I’ve been chasing you down for about a mile!” That was a great boost! All hope was not lost. We kept plugging along, and I was so relieved to have someone pushing me along and it felt good knowing I was helping him keep pace too.
Just as I was getting into the zone and feeling more in control, my mind started racing as two female runners passed us. Judging by my female head count, I was now the 4th. I was already giving it all I had and still had 2+ miles to go. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch them. I could tell they weren’t pushing as hard as I was, yet they were passing me with ease. Ah well I told myself, don’t unravel now, the race isn’t over yet!
The rest of the course was on a nice downhill — which I was very grateful for — what I was NOT grateful for was all the DUST! During this race I learned that downhills produce the most dust, because of the way our feet land; it definitely stirs it up more! The closest runner was YARDS ahead of me, yet there was dust like they were 10 feet in front of me! I almost turned my headlamp off, because there was so much obstructing my vision, but the moon wasn’t quite up yet.
Suck it up and keep pushing.
As we were nearing the finish, David (as I found out later) took off ahead of me to finish his race strong. I was waiting for the last .7 miles to pick up the pace and maybe catch the gals who passed me… or at least one of them. 🙂 Then suddenly, the final turn to the finish was right THERE (disadvantage of night running, you can only see about 10 feet in front of you). I picked it up immediately and my dusty-filled, contact-lense-filled-eyes thought I saw a female runner within my range! I pushed harder, and harder trying to close the gap! As I got closer, I thought nope, that’s a guy… and then blurred through the finish line seconds behind that person.
Suddenly I was completely SPENT and acutely aware of how hard I had been pushing. I don’t remember much other than trying to catch my breath and get a drink of water. But I did know I finished WAY faster than what I had projected and therefore Mr. Zucchini Runner had missed my finish. 🙁 While I wasn’t aware of the people around me at the finish, I was listening for his tell tale yell, and didn’t hear it. I texted him “done” once I had my wits back, and realized he was nowhere nearby. On the drive up I told him I would probably finish in a little over an hour. Clearly, I overestimated the difficulty of this trail!
My final finishing time according to my Garmin – I ALMOST forgot to stop it. My official time was 53:25.
I ended up finishing 6th female – which is baffling to me. I must have had two gals pass me when I was in my rough patch and not realized it. And until 30 minutes ago I assumed there were women in front of me that I didn’t see at the starting line. But someone posted a video, and I saw that I was runner #19, first female. Ah well, if I would have known I was 6th the whole time, I probably wouldn’t have pushed so much towards the finish. I will never regret giving 100% at a race.
Looking at my splits, I was a both discouraged and encouraged! I really wasn’t watching my split pace AT ALL when I was out there; I was running purely by feel. Plus, it’s just safer that way. 😉 But stopping to walk REALLY added a chunk of time to my overall pace. The second place female finished in 51:13; that means the 3rd place position was within reach! This just gives me more motivation to keep training and pushing to get better on trails. I really enjoy trail running. It’s a new challenge for me to take it more seriously and run to race, versus just run to finish without a cactus in my eye or something.
And I MAY have found a solution for that pesky dust issue! A gaiter!! I’ve been wanting to get one for months since I saw fellow vegan runner/blogger Heidi (Banana Buzzbomb) posted a pic of hers on Instagram. I wanted to get the Columbia one she told me about, but Aravaipa Running had a merchandise table set up at the race and they had them on sale for a great price! Since I was already having another post trail run sneeze attack, I jumped on the opportunity.
Then this morning when I was half asleep I realized there was a multitude of ways to wear this thing!
So, half asleep and sleep deprived, I had some fun – hope you get some laughs too! 😉
What’s your favorite look? I know mine!
But no, seriously… you will probably see me like this at the next group run or race. hahaha I even did the Neti Pot last night, and I’m still stuffy and gross today. 🙁
If you are local, or just live within a few hours of Phoenix, you should definitely check out any of the upcoming Aravaipa Running races. They throw a SOLID event, with awesome gear and after race snacks.
The course was clearly marked, and there ALWAYS seems to be a challenging climb thrown into the mix whether it’s an Aravaipa hosted Wednesday Group Run or one of their races. They help to push you past what you think you can do and yet with a low key, very accepting vibe to all paces and styles. 🙂 Plus, check out this sweet race tank!! My favorite yet 🙂
Love this back artwork, so clever. 🙂
Have you done any Aravaipa races or group runs? Do you enjoy trail running? Please share below, I’d love to hear from you!
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