The last two races I ran were very scenic. On August 3rd I ran the Cheatin’ Woodchuck Chase for the third year in a row, and I ran a HUGE course PR of 31:38! This is 5 mile down hill race on a gravel road. The following week, August 10th, I ran the Pyro Trail Race for the second time. Even though the Pyro Race was the same course, the course was very different than last year. This is a 13k (8 mile) trail race. I did not run a course PR, I ran 1:24:25 and fell extremely hard on my hip at mile two.
The morning of the Cheatin’ Woodchuck Chase I wanted to leave extra early to make sure I got there on time. Last year I left late and I don’t ever make the same mistake twice. At 7AM a friend met me at my house so we could ride to the race together. We were making great time until we got stuck in stand still traffic just a few miles from where the race was. In mid July part of this particular road collapsed and it was still under repair. My friend got out of the car to ask the person holding the stop sign how long we would be sitting there without moving. They told her it would be twenty minutes. Twenty more minutes would make us super late for the race. I was starting to get stressed and worried. I really really really wanted to run the race. When we finally did get the race it seemed like most people had been stuck in traffic. The race ended up starting late. I don’t remember what time the race actually started but I know it was later than it was supposed to start.
When the race started I just ran. I wasn’t thinking about much. I was mostly trying to remember what my time was last year—I hadn’t looked it up recently enough to actually remember. After about a mile and a half I passed the one guy that I could actually see ahead of me and then I ran alone the remainder of the race. I looked at my watch a few times but for the most part I didn’t have a lot of thoughts during this race. At mile four I remember thinking that I was tired and then suddenly the race was over. I was really focused and really bored the whole entire time.
One week later I ran the Pyro Trail race, a 13k adventure through the forest at 9,000 feet. We had a snowy, wet winter where I live this year and we also had winter in the spring and winter at the end of June. Winter made the trails erode and the trees fall down. The summer rain storms made the course wet and muddy too. Even though it was the same course the course was completely different. As the race director was explaining the course conditions it was evident that I wouldn’t be able to run a PR.
The first mile of the race is a gradual down hill. A group of men took off and I was immediately running alone. I didn’t see anyone around me but I did see a large black animal out of the corner of my eye. I was SURE it was a bear and started to reach for the pepper spray in my pack, and then I realized it was a cow. A moment later a girl and a guy came up behind me out of nowhere. They were running super fast on the muddy trail and I was certain that I somehow got off course because I had been running alone fearing that I’d become bear food. I even said, “Am I going the right way?” The girl said, “yes” and I kept running until I found myself laying on the ground right before a mile long hill with my hip throbbing and blood on my butt. Both runners leapt over me and ran up the hill. I sprung back up as quickly as I could and started climbing the hill. I’ve run a lot of hills in my life but this is by far my least favorite hill. I could see the girl who passed me the entire time. The guy had vanished off into the distance but I kept the girl in my sight. I was in pain, I knew I wasn’t going to run a PR, and I was miserable running up that hill. My new goal became to catch the girl ahead of me and win the race. I don’t like winning to be my goal but I was lacking motivation and competitive spirit. If I hadn’t switched my mindset to winning the race, I would have just wandered around in the forest in pain mistaking cows for bears and listing all of the reasons why trail running is not my favorite.
By the time we approached the top of the hill I was close enough to the other girl that I could have reached out and touched her pack. At the very top of the hill we were side by side. She asked if I was okay. I told her I was and after about a minute I pulled ahead and picked up the pace enough to create a gap. This was a gradual downhill section of the race and I was extremely thankful. My shoes were wet and muddy, my hip hurt, and my hydration pack was making me claustrophobic. Miles four, five, and six were stressful. I was nervous I would fall again. I had a few other close calls and a few ankle rolls. I spent those miles focusing on my footing and ducking under trees and stepping over trees. There was a stream crossing at one point. Volunteers were giving instructions on which rocks to step on but my feet were already wet so I just plowed through the stream. Toward the end of the race we were running on a trail lined with barbed wire. Had the volunteer not warned me to watch out for the barbed wire I would have probably needed a tetanus shot. I glanced over and noticed how close to it I was. I quickly ran away and headed back to the field and up a small hill to approach the finish line. I was so excited to see the finish line!
After the race I realized that my neon shoes weren’t as bright as they used to be and my hip was really sore. I was also thrilled to find HUGE peanut butter cookies at the finish!