Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Can Now Say I Am A Trail Runner

I just finished my first 10-mile trail run and it was exhausting AND exciting at the same time. I will definitely do this again (and again and again)! The Ultra Trail Run at Holiday Valley was a very technical and challenging course. Last night it poured buckets of rain so the course was so muddy that it was difficult to truly get any good footing on the trails. This was also the first time that I ran a course so rocky that it was tough to maintain balance and not slip on the wet, uneven rocks. With that said, I still rocked it and finished!

Before the race began, the race director made an announcement that this race was not for new trail runners (uh oh). He said that he wanted to be very clear that the course was intended for intermediate to advanced trail runners and that if you had any doubts whether you belonged to this group, then it would be best to not start the race. I looked at Megan and really wondered if I made the right decision to enter this race...or maybe I should take the race director's advice and run back to my car. Well, I'm two things - a redhead and stubborn. I started the course. And I finished the course.

The first 1.5 miles was a brutal hill. I actually had a brief hesitation that maybe a DQ might not be so bad afterall. Forget that...bring on the pain. We entered the Allegheny State Forest from Holiday Valley Ski Resort and spent most of the mileage in the State Forest. The trail was mostly single track with a lot of "rolling hills" (whoever coined that term should be shot!). Many sections were no wider than my hips and I'll be surprised if the poison ivy fairy doesn't visit me. One of the difficulties about my running level is that I am a back of the pack trail runner and spend a lot of time by myself. On the other hand, it was wonderful just listening to the trees swaying, birds moving, rain drops falling and basically just listening to nature. Even though the course was rough, I found myself enjoying each minute.

I may not have tipped the PR meter, but I didn't come in last in my first long distance trail run. I will keep at this and work on improving my time, balance and general consistency with mileage. I loved the comraderie of trail runners. Wow! Even though I finished a half hour or hour after many, I was surprised how many people I heard applauding as I finished. The loudest was Megan, who I always look for! Afterwards, when I realized my calves were not going to disown me afterall, I sat down and had the tastiest Coors Light from a can. I was surprised how many runners had brought coolers and lawn chairs and were just making an afternoon of their run...pretty cool vibe, to say the least.

The promoters of this race also had a great sense of humor, as evidenced by the sign I'm standing next to.

Me and Meg before the race.

The thrill of the finish line.

It was a good Sunday.

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