Leave No Trace Half-marathon
My big race of the season, Dances with Dirt, is coming up this weekend. We've got five fabulous ladies for the team (well four plus me) and we have already assigned the legs. I'll be going first for the first time ever (this is my seventh DWD). Total mileage for the three legs is 13.85 miles.
Now, I've been running a lot (for me) lately, but it hasn't been often on trails let alone hills. My longest run this year was 12 miles and that was two weeks ago. So, when Bridget asked if I'd like to run the inaugural Leave No Trace trail half-marathon this weekend, I thought "why not?".
The race was being held on the private trails of a local boy scout camp, so I had no idea what to expect. For some reason I didn't get my normal pre-race nerves. I guess I was treating it as a training race with DWD just a week away which was probably the reason why. Plus, I had no idea what I was capable of doing.
The field for the race was pretty small with less than 80 participants. I worried (needlessly) about running alone. One guy (John) said good morning and told me he was going to run with me (after I declared that I was slow). I think he was kidding, but it turned out that we ran together the entire race. More on that later. The race director said the first loop was 4 miles and the second was 9. More on that later too.
The good thing about such a small race is it started right on time. At 7:30 AM, we took off and quickly settled into the right pace groups despite the single track trail. I fell in at the back of about 8 people. The trail was a nice mixture of hills, flat, gravel road, dirt trail, rooty trail, etc. The hills weren't easy, but they could have been much worse. By the time we ended the first loop, we had travelled 5 (not 4) miles according to my Garmin and John and I left the group we were travelling with behind.
John and I started up an easy conversation about biking and running. He loved to charge up the hills and at some point, I stopped being able to charge up them too. I told him to leave me behind, but he said he'd just wait at the top which he did. I earned that company by keeping him from going off-course twice. The course was exceptionally well-marked, but it is easy to get distracted and miss a turn. Luckily, my DWD experience kept my mind in the game.
We joked that we hoped the race director was just mistaken about the second loop being 9 miles since the first was 5. By the time we hit mile 11, I was starting to hurt especially in my feet. At mile 12, we passed a guy "with authority" and I told myself "just 1.1 more miles". At mile 13, the end was nowhere in sight. We realized that the RD was not wrong unfortunately. At 13.5 miles, we started up a switchback hill and I pleaded with John to leave me behind. I was just spent. He said "nope" and encouraged me to start running again. I already felt bad about slowing him down, so I kept running. He told me my brain was just rebelling because it had gotten me through the last mile once already.
I am very thankful for him, because when we hit the finish line, I was so proud of myself. It took me 2:34:32 to run the 14 miles, which was good for 54th out of 78 runner and 8th out of 17 females. Bridget did awesome finishing 4 minutes ahead of me, which was good for 5th female and 3rd in our age group!!
So, I guess I'm ready for DWD. I went the distance and I didn't feel too badly the next day other than a blood blister on the bottom of my foot which should heal by Saturday. Game on!