Other than my marathon, the VHTRC Women's Trail HM was the most excited I've ever been for an event. There were a lot of firsts for me:
1. First trail race. Training for this was pretty much the first time I'd ever ran on trails
2. First lottery system entry
3. First women's only event
4. First time offerred a shot of tequila at an aid station
The entry system was kind of wacky, and I barely made it in after being on the wait list. My preparation was mostly on the trails of the Bull Run battlefield, with a little on the Appalachian Trail as well. I wasn't sure what to expect on the actual course, but the description made me think it would be pretty hilly and challenging. I had only 3 weeks to get cram my training in after my last century, so my plan was to shred my legs for a solid 2 weeks and then rest them for the 6 days leading up to the race. This involved some crazy situations like running a full 13 just three days after a century, a combined 20 miles on trails two days apart, and one Saturday of running 10 in Bull Run in the morning and hiking 6 on the AT in evening.
(Okay that last one was actually unintentional. But it was super beneficial.)
Anyway, I wasn't sure how this haphazard training method would come together, but on race day I was feeling pretty good! The course was through Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax. I had never been to Fountainhead before, but it was a great location.
After being directed to park on the side of the road, I picked up my number and got my shirt. It's an awesome long sleeved Patagonia technical shirt. I love getting decent shirts at races! Husband and I waited in line at the porta potties, and I must admit I was kind of intimadated by most of the people around me. The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club is more of an ultra marathon kind of club. All around me were super fit awesomely muscular women who have done 50 and 100 mile trail races. And then me- Hi, I like running. One time I did a marathon. Oh, you've done 100 miles? Over hills and on trails? I've hiked 100 miles on hills and trails. It took me 5 days. I was having serious leg muscle envy.
Anyway, because of my intimidation, I stuck to the back of the pack at the starting line. I reminded myself of the hints I had picked up from experienced trail runners: save you energy, walk up hills, ignore your watch, try not to break your leg on a root or a rock. GOT IT.
|my trusty fuelbelt|
|impossible to look good in running photos? sounds about right|
|a little better... maybe?|
Once I was back in the woods, I started seeing the occaisonal uber fit woman charging down the trail coming towards me. I realized the rest of the course would be an out and back, so I started counting runners that were crossing my path. I got to 70 at the turn around point, and then counted backward as I passed a few more women. At mile 11 I grabbed a swig of gatorade, delined a shot, (despite the chant "Tequila makes you run faster!") and went on my merry way to the finish. The last few climbs were challenging, but I still felt pretty good and was encouraged by the distant sounds of the finish festivities.
I cruised in at 2:17 and landed 62nd place out of 220. I definitely think I could have pushed myself more, but I was intentionally conservative because of my lack of experience.