Sunday, May 13, 2012

First Trail Race- Mrs.Smith's 5 mile run


I ventured into something new again today. A trail race...a 5 mile trail race! I found this online a few months ago, Mrs. Smith's 5 mile trail race, Mother's Day weekend and it's just for females. With my upcoming Spartan Race, (in 63 freaking days!!) I knew I needed to get some trail time in, and figured a race wouldn't hurt. I haven't been able to do a lot of trail running recently due to our financial situation. Gas is like liquid gold these days and unfortunately we live at least 7-10 miles or so to the closest trails. When we were black Friday shopping I was able to pick up some trail running shoes (a door buster at Kohl's woot,woot). I WAS able to get out a few times in them and trail running shoes definitely make a HUGE difference.

I only found out this morning that my friend Tina was also running the race. It's pretty cool that the last 2 races I've done, I've come across friends who are also running. Nice last minute pick me up to know that there WILL be someone else there I know. As soon as I got out of the car and started walking towards the bathrooms, (the first place I ALWAYS hit up before a race) Tina was waving at me.
Tina was also meeting some friends from her cross-fit gym (who talked her into running the race). We met up with them, took some pics, talked about what might lie ahead of us, and then made our way to the Start. 

After talking a little more with Tina and her cross-fit gals, we separated a little and I made my way towards the back. I started talking to 2 other women that I heard talking about "just finishing the race" and told them, I have 2 goals today, "1. not to be dead last and 2. If I am to be ok with it!" They agreed that sounded like a plan and explained to them about how I came in last at a recent 10K, but was ok, because I beat the time I had in my head. They brought up the whole saying, "hey your lapping everyone on their couches" and it IS something I do keep in mind these days. I know I'm a slower runner and the nice thing to do is start about where you think you might fall in line. In a trail race the route can get pretty tight in some areas, where there won't be room to pass, another reason I knew to stay towards the back. I wouldn't want to mess with someone else's time who is much faster than I am. We lined up and the race director made a few comments. This race was to benefit the Boys and Girls club of Lancaster. Some of the kids were there and had a big thank-you and then said their motto for everyone. The race director made a few comments and announced that they were giving away door prizes. He started calling out numbers.....number 32. WOW, that's me! Cool I won a door prize! I won a $15 gift certificate for a Road ID. Funny, because I was just telling John after my last race that I really need to look into getting one.

The race started out going through a small grassy area, up around the pool in the park and we made our way into the woods.

I was able to keep up with the pack for the first couple of miles. The trail took us out to a gravel road and I started making conversation with one of the women. She had seen me push up a hill a little earlier and had complimented me on it. I've come to love the hills. Especially "short" steep hills. I kick it into high gear and push through them. I told her, "well my thoughts are, I'd rather just take them harder and get it done and over with". We made small talk and I found out that she was actually from Ephrata too. By this point we had been on the gravel road for a little and the sun was beating down pretty hard. For whatever reason I felt REALLY dehydrated today. I'm talking I WOKE UP feeling dehydrated. I tried hydrating really well yesterday and it felt like it did NOTHING. I'm not one that likes to hold conversations when I run either. I have a really hard time of my biggest downfalls, guess that's what smoking for about 15 years will do to you. I've been told for the fact that I haven't even been running a year yet, and quit smoking about 2 1/2 years lungs are STILL getting conditioned and it might take a while. I told the woman I needed to slow down a little and she made her way on ahead. We got off the gravel road came to another grassy area, crossed over a road and made our way back into the woods again. I was still running with about 2-3 other women and keeping a good pace. I don't like to wear my MP3 player when I trail run. I like to have total concentration on my surroundings. This gave me time today to focus on my breathing. We just had a convo in the accountability group I'm in about what foot you land on during your exhale. Apparently research has shown it's better to land on your left foot as you exhale. I wanted to test this theory and whether or not it helped me today, it helped me to control my breathing and concentrate on something.

Pic of bridge from hiking with sis
Trail along the river

We hit a water stop, THANK GOD...I was needing some water BAD at this point. We had just climbed up a pretty steep hill and were headed for more woods. At this point we hit some pretty nasty hills. I tripped over a rock and ALMOST twisted my a WOW I was lucky moment. The girls I was running with did a quick check on me and I told them I was good. Down, down, down we went at this point about 2-2.5 miles in. Most people LOVE the downhills. I think the downhill is worse for me than pushing up the hills. With all my joint/back problems it can reallllly start to jolt me around and get things flared up. I've already been dealing with some sciatic issues over the past couple of weeks and I could feel it slowly starting to flare up. We came out of the woods and I realized where we were at this point. The Kiwanis area. We've gone letterboxing here before and my sis and I were hiking here a few months ago. I knew there was going to be a BIG hill coming up shortly. We went up through the covered bridge and ran along the river then came THE HILL.
The HILL, just one of MANY!

I had slowed down considerably at this point and the woman that was in front of me made her way well ahead and the one that was behind me had passed me and was just up ahead. I tried pushing through this hill the best I could, but definitely had to slow down and walk some of it. Up, up, up we went came out through a parking area and back into the woods again for the down part. At this point I was really starting to hurt. My back was flared up into my right buttock, down through my hip, down the back of my leg and around the side into my knee. I was starting to feel a little unsteady on my feet. I tried the mind over matter thing and at this point it was still working. I was at the mental part of my run where I just wanted to really slow down. This is where my mind starts to wander and I start having little arguments with myself. I tell myself and have little sayings or voices from other encouraging people playing in my head. "This is a's called a RUN, because you are supposed to RUN!"  "You got this...mind over matter, just suck it up and do it..embrace the suck!" "You are a warrior, you've come this far, don't back can do THIS!"  "You are near the back of the pack, don't let yourself come in last..keep pushing through". While the other "part" of my brain is going..."just slow down a little", "OMG my back is killing me!", " I can't do this..I hurt too much, I can't breathe, I just wanna stop!".

We got down to a really good part of the trail, a part I still knew from being on it before. It again goes along the river and is FLAT. No rocks, no roots, hard packed dirt and FLAT! I got back into a rhythm with my breathing and stride again and really started concentrating on that. I start hearing FAST footsteps coming up behind me...they'd reach me and slow down....then FAST again reach me and slow down. I was over as far as I could possibly be on the trail. I was thinking, "if you wanna pass me just pass". It got to a point where I realized this must just be how this woman runs. She finally did end up passing me and I was left thinking, "oh CRAP am I dead last again?". I turned around to see if I could spot anyone else behind me and there was NO ONE in sight. I kept heading down the trail and ended up seeing a group of 3 women ahead of me that were all walking. It appeared that the one woman had twisted her ankle. She was leaning on another one for support and kinda limping along. She was being taken care of or I would have stopped to see if she needed help. I passed asking, "did you over turn your ankle?" to which she responded "yeah". I think I said something along the lines of "oh no!" and kept on moving along. NOW, this is horrible of me to think, but in my mind I was thinking "Yes!! This means I'm NOT going to be dead last." LOL. Like I said, if no one would have been helping this woman I definitely would have stopped to help!

Came around a corner heading back towards the covered bridge again and I spot a photographer. I have NO idea how that pic is going to turn out! I think I might have been looking down just as he snapped the pic and my "fake" smile was off my face, not sure, should be up soon. I said thank-you as I passed by, went under the bridge and came to a very steep but short embankment to get back up to the bridge again. There were some men there directing me where to go and they said some encouraging words. I thanked them and went on through the bridge, came out the other side and some more men were there and again gave encouraging words, "Less than 2 miles to the end you're doing good!" to which I replied "Good, cuz I'm one HURTIN lady!". Back to the UP portion of the trail we had just came down a little bit prior...and it was UP!! I still had a few of the ladies in my sight at this point. I started off strong UP the hill, then had to completely STOP and catch my breath. Pushed it a little further until I reached the top and walked to recover. After that I was REALLY, REALLY hurting. Every other step felt like someone was stabbing me in the lower back and then radiated down my leg. I was really starting to get discouraged and angry at this point. It really upsets me that I've been running for almost a year now, without any big problems except some shin splints that I got over and NOW is when I start having problems!! NOW when I need to start training harder than ever...again Spartan race in 63 days!

Over the road again and up to the water station. The kids were great!! As soon as they saw someone coming they really started yelling and cheering us on. I could hear their shouts long before I reached them as they were cheering for other racers. As I reached the top of yet ANOTHER hill there they were water in hand yelling, "whooooooo way to go...way to keep it going strong...whoooooo". I thanked them for the water and stopped and took a small breather. I told them I needed to stop for a minute and I was going to take a few seconds to enjoy my water. They said some encouraging words and one of the women was one of the directors from the Boys and Girls club. She told me I deserve the short break and was telling me about how she looks up to the women running the race and her goal is to try to do it next year. The one lady standing with them told me, "well it's all down hill from here." I said, "well that's good and bad. I think I do worse with downhill. I have a lot of joint problems that are flaring and it really bothers me." She said, "oh your knees?" I said, "No, I actually have 2 slightly herniated discs in my back, spinal stenosis AND arthritis". The woman from the Boys and Girls club REALLY thanked me at that point and said, "wow you really inspire me then. If you can do it so can I...NO EXCUSES!" I agreed with her and started back on the trail thanking them all for the support. Down through the high grassy area again and at the bottom another man standing giving directions and words of encouragement and warning me to watch out for the low hanging branches as I made my way back into the woods again. There WAS another small hill and it was back out to the gravel road again. This is the point where I just really wanted to break. I told myself to focus on your breathing!! I was at the point where I was with my 10K where "running" was more of a limp like shuffle and every other stride let way to a "uggh" along with my breathing. I started running a mantra over and over and over and over again my mind along with my stride. Mind...over...matter. Mind...over....matter. Mind....over...matter. I tried to focus on that instead of my pain, stood up a little straighter and made up my mind up that from this point on I was going to try and run the whole time. No more walk breaks!! It got to a point where I just wanted to cry, but snapped myself out of that about as fast as it started. It was on the gravel road where the two women that were running with the injured one came up and passed me. I don't know if she told them to go on ahead and finished or if she dropped out at that point. OKAY 2 more people ahead of me..and the other one might have dropped. Am I last AGAIN? ugggh...ok so WHAT if you're knew it was a possibility and you WILL be OK with this.

I keep repeating my mantra over and over and realize I'm almost at the end!! I see the pool ahead of me and start off down the hill wincing in pain at every stride. I keep telling myself you're ALMOST there..just...keep....going. I come upon some ladies who are walking around and they start cheering for me tellling me, "you got're almost at the end." I see the photographer up ahead and pretty sure I am NOT smiling for that one! She and another man cheer me on..

.I see John up the embankment and I'm pretty sure he could tell I was hurting. He yells to me, "Come on honey, push through your almost there!" I PUSH..I mean realllly push up the last littttle embankment..after all it's the end...everyone is there and I DON'T want to be looking like I'm dying going up this last little hill, even if I feel that way! (yeah I kinda do look like I'm dying...BUT I pushed up the hill!)

 I get to the end and the ladies I had talked to in the beginning of the race are standing there cheering me on! "whoooooo you DID it!".  I went into this with no real idea of how I was going to do. I was looking at results from previous years and saw that the slowest times were usually around 1:20 something. With doing my 10K road in 1:21 I was shooting for 1:25 or less for this. I know that trail miles are always slower than road miles. My finish time was about 1:14! OKAY I was happy with that....and I came to find out that I WASN'T last!!

I definitely plan on doing this race again next year. It was really fun to do it with a big group of just women. John commented on the way home, "I don't know if it was just because it was all women today or what, but something was a LOT different about this race from all the others you've done. Everyone was SO encouraging. Everyone hung around and cheered EVERYONE, whether they knew them or not, across the finish line." I agreed with him, and even the men along the route were very encouraging. Most definitely a great first experience for a trail run!! There will be MORE! 

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